There’s been massive hype around the Disney movie adaption of Madeleine L’Engle’s young-adult novel A Wrinkle in Time, out in theaters this month.
For one thing, the 1962 sci-fi epic of a young girl on an otherworldly journey to find her missing father, which has long been a beloved classroom staple for middle schoolers, is finally brought to life on the big screen. For another, the movie carries the stamp of director Ava DuVernay, the first African-American woman (and the fourth woman ever) to solely direct a movie with a $100 million-plus budget, according to TIME.
While some critics have given the movie mixed reviews, others argue they’re missing the point. As film critic Aramide A. Tinubu writes for NBC News, “Wrinkle” is for young audiences, especially girls of color, who need to see more representations of themselves on screen. In addition to a diverse cast—including stars Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which, Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who, and 14-year-old Storm Reid as the science-loving Meg Murry—DuVernay has earned widespread acclaim for her depictions of powerful black girlhood and the complexities of growing up.
These are among the reasons educators across the country see “Wrinkle” as a movie students can’t miss—and many are taking steps to make sure they don’t miss it.
One Indianapolis teacher raised money so her 7th grade students, who are reading the novel in class, could go see the movie. So did another in Texas. Celebrities, including actress and singer Zendaya and actress Gabrielle Union, as well as nonprofit organizations like Project L.E.A.D., have held fundraising campaigns or hosted private screenings for thousands of students around the country. Author Roxane Gay bought out two theaters in Los Angeles and posted on Twitter that the tickets were “first come, first serve.”
Back in Oakland with @Zendaya where she took 200 kids from Roses In Concrete Community School and Fruitvale Elementary School to see A Wrinkle In Time.
Z, your generosity explodes from such a beautiful and compassionate place in your heart. I am so proud to call you my friend. pic.twitter.com/1YP4bqPpoe
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) March 18, 2018
Color of Change, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy group, has teamed up with AMC Theatres to give low-income students free tickets through their Give a Child the Universe initiative. Students, too, are making their own waves of generosity. One 14-year-old from Florida, Taylor Richardson, raised more than $100,000 to send thousands of girls to the film, according to NPR.
She did so because “representation matters,” she said, in an interview with Good Morning America. “I wanted all girls, especially girls of color, to know they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up and also can struggle and have flaws and still be successful in life.”
Even DuVernay hosted a screening in her hometown. She has also helped launch a $5 million program to fund Hollywood internships for 150 young people starting this summer, with the goal of increasing diversity in all aspects of filmmaking.
I asked @Disney if the first public screening of #WrinkleinTime could be in my hometown of Compton. They created a theater experience with fab sound + picture quality out of a community center since there are no movie theaters in Compton. I thank them. And these kids do too. pic.twitter.com/grzHoRJAHX
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) March 2, 2018
While some districts have questioned the practice of using movies for reading instruction, fearing it takes away from the development of critical reading skills, curricula based on popular theater releases can give teachers creative ways to draw students into literature and new avenues for discussing a book’s themes.
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) March 16, 2018
When u read your fav book as a child to your class & they love it as much as u did... then u must see the movie together! And the fact that they liked the book better warms my teacher ❤️. Huge thx to @whitleyhaas for helping me on this faux field trip!. #wrinkleintime #teamfmes pic.twitter.com/rijcd5ILaK
— Katie Harris (@HarrisK4th) March 11, 2018
I moved to this country at the age of 9. My teacher, Ms. Braitwaite helped me along the way to speak and comprehend English. #WrinkleInTime was one of the first chapter books I read and loved. Seeing the film last night, brought back many memories from my childhood. Thanks! @ava
— Sandra #RepresentationMatters (@geekchic9) March 9, 2018
RCA students have been studying the novel @WrinkleInTime! ELA teacher @MrsPamIAm used the discussion format of a Harkness circle to analyze figurative & literal interpretations. For more lesson plans, visit https://t.co/g10XJqTOVE & @Scholastic!#ronclarkacademy #wrinkleintime pic.twitter.com/IziSfsIlbk
— Ron Clark Academy (@ronclarkacademy) February 27, 2018
Teachers who do take their students to the film will find no shortage of resources to work elements of “Wrinkle” into classroom lessons. Disney teamed up with Scholastic to create interdisciplinary lessons and activities for 4th to 8th grade classrooms. The curriculum touches on STEM, the arts, and research skills, as well as themes of peer pressure, bullying, loss, and self-esteem.
Other resources for educators, including study guides and worksheets, are available on Madeleine L’Engle’s website. The author passed away in 2007.
“Black Panther,” another blockbuster movie released this month by Marvel Studios, also has resources for the classroom. The film is the company’s first to have a predominantly black cast, and a Chicago middle school teacher wrote a curriculm that ties in themes of Afrofuturism, cultural representation, and colonialism. As of this week, “Black Panther” is the 14th highest-grossing movie of all time, after hitting the $1.18 billion mark in box-office sales.
“I do imagine, to be a brown-skinned girl of any race throughout the world, looking up on that screen and seeing Storm, I think that is a capital A, capital W, E, some, AWESOME, experience,” Oprah Winfrey told the New York Times about “Wrinkle.” “I think this is going to be a wondrous marvel of an experience for girls that in the future they will just take for granted.”
Teachers, how are you using “A Wrinkle in Time” in your classrooms?
Photo credit: Oprah Winfrey, left, and Storm Reid in a scene from the movie “A Wrinkle In Time.” Atsushi Nishijima/Disney via AP
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.