Top 16 Kids' Movies Based on Books for Ages 6-12

You Can Use Movies As a Learning Opportunity

Whether you read the book and then see the movie or vice versa, seeing a story come to life in a movie can help motivate kids to read. Or, movies can be a fun reward for reading accomplishments.

Here is a list of recent movies that are excellent adaptations of renowned books for elementary school-aged kids. Since kids' preferences and reading levels vary, some kids may also enjoy the movie/books for young children, or they may be ready for some on the list for tweens. Even if your child isn't able to read chapter books quite yet, some of these are great for parents to read aloud to younger children as well.

Based on the classic book The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty is a fanciful adventure with beautiful animation and a lovely soundtrack. The movie comes from Studio Ghibli and is distributed by Disney. The gentle pacing of the movie leads viewers through the multifaceted story, allowing them to take in the beautiful scenery along the way. Small children may grow restless due to the slower pace and lack of gimmicky animation tricks, but for kids about ages 6 and up, the movie is a fabulous way to contrast the slow, artistic film with other movies they have seen.

Based on the unique novel by Brian Selznick, Hugo follows the story of an orphan boy who, continuing a project he started with his late father, discovers a historical mystery that changes his life and the lives of his new friends forever. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won five.

It was cited by more than 150 critics as one of the top ten films of the year. Some moments of peril and an intense dream sequence may be frightening for young children.

Based on the children's chapter book by Richard and Florence Atwater, Mr. Popper's Penguins stars Jim Carrey in a live-action comedy full of boisterous fun. When Mr. Popper inherits six penguins, his life turns upside down, but in the end, he realizes that it's actually been put right side up. The movie is quite a bit different from the book, which gives kids a great opportunity to compare and contrast the stories. Parents should know that the movie contains some rude humor and mild language.

Based on the popular children's chapter books by Megan McDonald, the Judy Moody movie is a hilarious every day adventure for kids about ages 6-12. The Judy Moody book series includes many chapter books about the life and adventures of the rambunctious, free-spirited girl, so kids can get hooked on them and have a year's worth of reading material or more. For boys who may not be as keen on reading a book about a girl character, there is also the spin-off series about Stink, Judy's younger brother.

Based on the Award-winning book by E.B. White, Charlotte's Web brings the inspiring and articulate story to life. The movie conveys a simple moral about friendship and loyalty that may bring a tear to the eye. While the film does deal with some heavy topics, it also points out the small miracles in life, and the profound way in which love and commitment can make a difference. Of course, there is also the cartoon version of Charlotte's Web that is a little lighter and well-loved by kids as well. Even if kids aren't at able to read the book on their own, this is an excellent chapter book to read aloud and celebrate by watching one or both of the movies.

Based on Meet Kit, from the wildly popular American Girl book series, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl is about a young girl pursuing her dream of becoming a journalist. But the story is more than that: it is also a story about surviving during the Great Depression. In addition to entertaining kids, this heart-warming tale will tug at their heart strings and educate them a bit about a distant time in American history.

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Nim's Island (2008)

Nim's Island
Photo © Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

After losing her mother at sea, Nim and her father Jack found a remote island and settled there to live together. Alone, away from all civilization, daddy and daughter live off the land and study nature, but when her father gets lost at sea, Nim relies on her friendship with author Alex Rover to help her get through. The movie is based on the wonderful novel by Australian author Wendy Orr.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is truly one of the most entertaining books you can read with your kids. The book is an excellent read aloud for younger children as well. There are two versions of the movie; the newer one features Johnny Depp, but some parents may find this movie to be too dark and weird for young kids, so there is always the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie, starring Gene Wilder.

Based on the book by Lois Duncan, Hotel for Dogs is a real winner with kids, both because of the dogs and the because of the "kids save the day" plot. When their new guardians forbid 16-year-old Andi and her brother Bruce from getting a pet, they have to find a new home for their dog, Friday. Having learned to be resourceful from their time in foster care, the kids use their street smarts and talents to turn an abandoned hotel into the ultimate doggy destination for Friday and his friends.

Numerous Nancy Drew books are available, including the classic mystery series and new, updated series. These books are perfect for kids, especially girls, who are ready to dive into their first mysteries. Suspense and intrigue abound, but the stories are geared toward readers about the ages of 9-12. The movie, starring Emma Roberts, is an updated Nancy Drew story with a Nance who is fun, preppy, sweet, and comfortable in her own skin. (Rated PG, ages 8+)

Based on the book Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo, the movie tells the story of 10-year-old Opal, who finally finds a friend in a dog she names Winn-Dixie, after the supermarket where she found him. Winn-Dixie leads Opal into may adventures that remind us how interesting everyday life can be for a child and her dog. Kate DiCamillo is also the author of the eloquent book that was the basis of an animated movie for kids, The Tale of Despereaux.

Based on the truly classic book by Thomas Rockwell, How to Eat Fried Worms brings to life that fateful story about a boy named Billy who made a bet with a bully. The disgusting prospect of eating worms is one thing that makes kids really dig this book, and kids can almost always relate to a good bully-defeating story. Get ready to be grossed out if you plan on reading and watching this one with your kids.

Previous to making the movie Arthur and the Invisibles, director/screenwriter Luc Besson wrote a book called Arthur and the Minimoys. His inspiration for the book came from texts that a woman named Céline Garcia had written about a boy who enters a world of elves. Also inspiring to Luc were the magical illustrations of the boy and the elves by Céline's husband, Patrice Garcia. Three other book volumes followed: Arthur and the Forbidden City, Maltazard’s Revenge and Arthur and the War of the Two Worlds. Written in collaboration with Céline Garcia, the film script is based on the first two volumes of the saga.

The Grace family—Jared, his twin brother Simon, sister Mallory and their mom—have moved into Uncle Spiderwick's old house and are beginning a new chapter in their lives. Strange occurrences lead the children to discover Uncle Spiderwick's work and the magical, unseen creatures that surround the home.

The books in the Spiderwick Chronicles series are recommended for the 9-12 year-old range, but it is a fun series for parents to read to kids ages 6-8 as well. The books do contain some scary parts, so you may want to read one of them first to get an idea of the wording and imagery.

Based on the first three books in the adventurous Lemony Snicket's book series, Lemony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate Events tells the story of the misadventures of the three Baudelaire orphans—14-year-old Violet (The Inventor), her younger brother Klaus (The Reader) and baby sister, Sunny (The Biter). After the mysterious deaths of their parents in a fire, the three kids are sent to live with their "closest relative," the scary Count Olaf. The story, narrated by Snicket, retells the adventures of the kids in trying to escape the crazy Count and find their places in the world.

During WWII four child refugees—Lucy, Susan, Edmond, and Peter Pevensie— tearfully leave their mother to go and live in the massive old manor of an elderly professor. While playing a game of hide-and-seek, Lucy hides in an old wardrobe and stumbles through the fur coats into a snowy enchanted kingdom where they eventually rule as kings and queens.

Based on the timeless Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is only the first installment. The second and third movies in the series are also available on DVD (rated PG, for epic battle action and violence).