Decoding media and film texts

2nd March 2007 at 00:00
It is marvellous that free educational film resources are being offered to children by Film Education ("Moving images that spring from the page," TESS, February 16).

However, it is narrow-minded to frame such activities as complementary or supplementary to the written text. Even if films were mirror images of the written narrative, they would never be an uncomplicated unbiased view of the original work.

The film Charlotte's Web, for instance, emphasises some parts of E B White's text more than others. This emphasis delivers one message of importance and adds value to one reading of the text. It is not the only understanding, just one interpretation.

Film, alongside other media (games, TV, DVD, internet, adverts and so on), should be understood as narratives in their own right. As such, it is important that children are given the skills to read (or decode) these media in the same way as they are given the skills to read a written text.

Evidence suggests that new media is often much more engaging than the simplicity of a book. Children, on average, spend 15 hours or more with TV, gaming, or on the internet per week. How many children match this in reading a written text?

In Charlotte's Web, one such literacy skill would be the notion of fiction and non-fiction within the cinematic text - a skill important in the decoding of adverts, gaming and film.

Film and media texts are convincing, constructed, often interactive narratives that require intellectual tools to decode them. Could film and media literacy perform a societal role in reducing copycat incidences, or deconstructing media power and control?

I suggest that the 19th century saw similar arguments over the necessity for elementary reading and writing skills, to the ones I am making about film and media literacy.

Louise Glen-Lee

Muirpark Drive, Shieldhill, Falkirk

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