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Once Upon a Mouse: How Cartoons Can Spark a Lifelong Love of Reading (Really!)

3musketeers(feat)How can Mickey and Minnie, Donald Duck, Goofy and their pals inspire your child to one day pick up classic novels by Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas and others? Check out this story.

We know a certain girl. She happens to be one of our daughters here at Disney Dads. As her dad tells the story, 10 years ago, his daughter was 4 and completely obsessed with adaptations of classic books starring Mickey, Minnie and gang: “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” “The Three Musketeers,” “The Prince and the Pauper,” “Mickey and the Beanstalk,” among others. He’s not even sure how it all started — one of the VHS tapes was undoubtedly given to his daughter as a gift or borrowed from the library. However it happened, those Mickey Mouse movies became her favorite movies. As any kid that age would do, she watched them over and over and over again, and over and over and over some more until even her dad had them memorized.

MickeyBobCratchitFast-forward eight years or so to when our protagonist was about 12, and hadn’t watched those Mickey Mouse movies in years. One night, her dad decided to read “A Christmas Carol,” the original novella by Charles Dickens, aloud to her as a bedtime story. The interesting thing was, everything in the book felt familiar to her; she already knew the story, and had some vague recollection of the version with Mickey and Donald and the gang. She was amazed to find out that the Mickey Mouse tale she’d loved so long ago was based on a story written over 150 years ago by a distinguished author whose name she had seen on the spines of very intimidating, leather-bound books. Once the connection was made she realized, “Hey! If these stories are cute and fun enough for Mickey Mouse, then maybe they’re not so intimidating after all. Read on, Dad!”

After finishing the Dickens book, it was on to Mark Twain’s “The Prince and the Pauper,” and again, she already knew the basic plot and characters. That’s when something magical happened, one of those amazing moments parents live for when everything seems to click: She loved “The Prince and the Pauper” so much that a few days later, when her dad bought her a copy of “Tom Sawyer,” she read it on her own, voraciously, cover to cover. After that? Well, she just kept on reading and the list of books she’s read would fill a big, intimidating leather-bound tome of its own.

Mickey-Prince:PauperWe can’t promise that the Mickey Mouse versions of classic literary tales will have the same affect on every kid, but our Disney Dad’s story certainly illustrates how something that at first seems wacky and crazy — like casting Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit in a movie — can ultimately get these worthwhile stories into the consciousnesses of the kids who watch them. Using Mickey Mouse and his friends to bring stories to life isn’t any different, in a sense, than grown-ups wanting to see their favorite actors time and time again — familiar faces playing out new and exciting tales, adventures and romances.

Mickey Mouse and gang become storytellers who make these works of literature familiar, comfortable, charming and accessible to minds still too young to read the original books. One day, your kid might just end up trading the Mickey Mouse versions for the real things — the literary treasures they’re based on.

You can find “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” “Mickey, Donald and Goofy in The Three Musketeers,” “The Prince and the Pauper,” and “Mickey and the Beanstalk” at the Disney Store.

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