Star Wars, Imagination, And The Gateway To Literacy

This past week marked the return of one of the most beloved works of science fiction of all time to the big screen — Star Wars. The last installment of the series hit the silver screen a decade ago in 2005, and nearly four decades since the first episode blew the doors off cinemas in 1977. This enormous span of time between fans’ opportunities to get a glimpse of what life was like “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” has kept fans searching for answers to their many questions about the universe of Star Wars.

After the first Star Wars film, which was later subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope, fans craved more from their new heroes and the universe they inhabited — more operatic intrigue with Han Solo, the Jedi Order, Luke Skywalker, Sith Lords, and the Galactic Empire. Above all, fans wanted another glimpse into the future they now believed was possible for themselves and for generations here on Planet Earth.

Fortunately, the hunger was sated immediately, as is often the case with works of science fiction on the screen, by a quick trip to their local bookstore. In fact, the first appearance of Star Wars in book form pre-dates the release of A New Hope, having been published six months earlier in 1976.

In the 38 years since A New Hope, there have been well over 100 books set in the Star Wars universe, with a time span of more than 1000 years before the events of A New Hope to more than a century later. If you include the many comic books series that have been published over the same period that time frame expands to over 5000 years before Episode IV! Among the vast world that is Star Wars literature there are supremely well written and engrossing novels, like Heir To The Empire by Hugo Award winning Author Timothy Zahn, books so bad they were cancelled by George Lucas himself (Star Wars: Imperial Commando if you are curious), comic books, books for “young readers,” and even an alphabet book.

All in all, the Star Wars book series has been wildly successful. The series, along with the omnipresent toys, an extensive list of video games, DVDs, and other aspects of the truly remarkable merchandising efforts over the years — have turned Star Wars into a franchise worth over 30 billion dollars. In fact, The Economist this week issues a full brief into how storytelling at Disney, now the owner of Lucas Films, has made the company incredibly profitable.

It is safe to say that many thousands of people the world over have been reading these stories throughout the entirety of their childhood and adult lives! We at Read Notebooks can’t think of another series with the same consistent omnipresent reach over the years. If there is one, please let us know!

Often, adults and children alike, are not as motivated to read, to jump into the universe created on the page, as we ought to be. For some of us it takes the motivation of having watched a big screen franchise phenomenon like Star Wars, or, more recently, small screen series adaptations like Outlander and Game Of Thrones — of being brought to the edge of our seat visually, and stimulating our imagination to such a degree that we are desperate for more — to convince us to take the dive into books, and even more so epic book sagas.

This isn’t a bad thing. Reading for reading’s sake is wonderful, as is being a voracious reader independent of a motivation like the universe of Star Wars. But if it takes a Star Wars, Star Trek, or a Game Of Thrones to get people to open a book, or book saga, then we consider those series to be doing a great service to the literary world. Some might look down upon the Star Wars book world as one of pulpy, populist cash-grabs, but our bet is that even after a reader exhausts their interest in Star Wars books they will continue to look to printed pages for similar inspiration, imagination, and adventure. When they do, we know, the books they go on to read will take them to places they’ve never been before.

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This blog post was written for, and first appeared on, www.ReadNotebooks.com. Read Notebooks is a social good company that operates on a “one-for-one” model similar to that of TOMS and Warby Parker. For every notebook they sell Read Notebooks hand delivers a storybook to a child that does not have access to quality books. There are many ways you can support Read Notebooks. First, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and share Read Notebooks with your family and friends. You can also join us at one of our upcoming Read Ups, where we read aloud to children and deliver the donated books. If you are interested in joining a future Read Up, please email info@readnotebooks.com.

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