June 20, 2024

Why I’m Taking My Fourth Grader to See ‘The Hunger Games’


Lauren Barack, a regular contributor to the Digital Shift, writes this time as a mother 

Why am I taking my nine-year-old to see The Hunger Games tomorrow? Yes, I’ve read the books. And I’ve read the reviews. But rarely have I had a chance to show my daughter a female hero like Katniss.

She doesn’t need protecting like Bella. She isn’t just smart like Hermione. And quite honestly, she’s far more defined than Percy Jackson’s Annabeth. Here is a female teen who’s physically powerful and mentally sharp, enduring a rite of passage that’s fiction (the reaping) and one that’s eternal: discovering who you are. Katniss walks the two with a sense of self-possession I could only wish for my child.

Why don’t I just let my daughter read the books? For starters, she’s not interested. This despite her room, in fact, our entire home, lined with bookcases brimming with tempting titles. No surprise—she’s a voracious reader. The Hunger Games hasn’t caught her attention yet, but will soon enough. So why don’t I wait on the movie?

I don’t want to wait. Like all mothers, I was once a little girl who hungered for role models to emulate. There was Wonder Woman and Madonna (do I need to be sexy?), Jane Fonda (do I need to be strong and sexy?) and Gloria Steinem (do I need to be intellectual and sexy?). I come from a generation that, in many respects, seeks approval of what makes us female.

But now I’m a mother of a young girl who has yet to even know what ‘sexy’ means. She runs. She reads. She plays freeze tag with boys. She works fractions, writes fiction, and is discovering what makes her happy. She knows she’s a girl, but the idea of what that will mean—or what she decides that will mean —is still far away in the future. As she searches for role models, I’d like her to add Katniss.

Visual imagery is a powerful tool. As readers, we create a mental picture of what the words weave on the page. As writers, that’s our goal. Some may see a movie as a cheat sheet for a book—a story whittled down, interpreted for us through a subjective lens—perhaps some of us imagined Harry Potter a bit taller or Percy’s hair shorter. Maybe we pictured Katniss not as pretty. Still, films can open up another dimension to a story, a way to experience it differently.

For my daughter, numerous movies have led her to books: Matilda, Black Beauty, Because of Winn-Dixie, Charlotte’s Web and yes, Harry Potter. I expect The Hunger Games will lead her to Suzanne Collins’s books as well (I have them ready, stacked on her shelves.) But what I really hope for is that the movie opens up another perspective on how to model herself as a girl—as a strong, thoughtful, self-reliant creature who may not have all the answers, but will never stop fighting to find them.


Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.


  1. I love this – not only because I like your reasons for wanting her to see the movie, but because I admire thoughtful parenting so very much, and it’s not all that common in our world. I’ve heard so many knee-jerk reactions to The Hunger Games (“Too violent for kids!” “Of course he/she is going – the whole class is going!”) and truly appreciate this perspective, that a parent and child can decide together, thoughtfully, what’s best for that particular child when it comes to any movie or book. My own daughter is 10 and refuses to ever see a movie before she reads the book – she’s a tender-hearted kid and knows enough about The Hunger Games to feel not quite ready for it yet, even though she’s intrigued and loves a good story. I suspect she’ll come looking for it soon, when she’s ready, and I’ll enjoy it all over again with her when the time comes.

  2. Arika Dickens says:

    As an elementary librarian and mother to a 4 year old daughter, this article surprises me. Barack writes that her daughter hasn’t picked up the books, despite being an avid reader. Could it be that her daughter knows that she isn’t ready for the books? And if she is looking for a strong, female literary role model…well, there are plenty. Jane Peck in Boston Jane (Holm), Esperanza in Esperanza Rising (Ryan), and Paris in Road to Paris (Grimes) are a few of my favorites. They are plucky, determined, and show perseverance in the worst of situations – as does Katniss. I have read the books and look forward to seeing the movie with a group of teachers who have also read (and enjoyed) the books.

  3. I understand that being a fan-girl, the desire to see the movie at its premiere is great. However, Jennifer Lawrence did confirm in a BBC interview that their is graphic violence in the film, albeit in quick scenes. It is essential to the story to show that violence so the audience understands why the character could create an uprising. Perhaps seeing the film with an adult friend at the premiere would be best, just to see how violent the film is beforehand. A 9 year old may not be able to handle it, especially if she has no interest in the film or books to begin with. It’s like the Potter films – toward the end of the story, the content was a little too much for elementary school students.

  4. Kudos, Lauren, on a fine essay. Take your knocks here with pride.
    I recall my own girlhood when my mother handed me a copy of Maxine Kingston’s, The Woman Warrior (another take on the strong female). I was way too young for it and was distinctly aware of this at the time. I also remember thinking that she gave it to me for a reason and thought I was mature enough to handle it. Although I didn’t “get” the book on that first reading, the entire arc of that experience is a significant one to me. As Kate says, what really resonates here is thoughtful parenting. I hope you and Harper enjoy your experience together, as you so clearly have with other wonderful books.

  5. Excellent article, totally agree. Katniss deserves to be a cult following hero.