What you get from reading is about what you put into reading. Reading, when its done passionately and enthusiastically, is not passive. The reader takes in the words, the concepts presented, and makes them his own, wraps them into his own ideas. This melding of two minds produces concepts and ideas that didn't exist before, not in the reader, and not in the book.
There's no better education and no better entertainment than that which is produced in your own mind, by you, for your own purposes.
That's why I'm heartened by the phenomenon of Harry Potter. In one day of sales, it has grossed almost double that of the two top movies' entire weekend. It has earned over $100 million in it's first day.
I didn't start out reading philosphy, history, or sophisticated and meaningful novels. I started out reading the likes of Dr. Seuss and Curious George. As I got better at it, I moved on to things such as Encyclopedia Brown, then Jules Verne and Sherlock Holmes. I almost got kicked out of class in 5th grade for reading The Exorcist instead of listening to whatever tripe my government school teacher was prattling on about.
None of this is highbrow material, but it got me to where I am now. It challenged me at the level I then needed to be challenged. It engaged me and kept me turning the pages and seeking out more when the pages ran out.
I have no opinion of the quality of the Harry Potter series. I've heard its good - not just "entertaining", but good in a deeper sense - but I don't know that first hand.
It doesn't matter.
It's getting kids to flock to the bookstore and fall in love with reading. It's doing it at an age - pre-teen, they say - that might be the last chance for some of these kids to develop a love of reading, if the damn schools haven't drilled it out of them already.
For that, I'm glad, whatever the content of the books actually are. If they're tripe, or worse, then so be it, but these kids, some of them at least, will forever be part of the world of reading. They will learn what challenges them, what they need from books, and will seek it out. They will spend the rest of their lives learning on their own terms, for their own purposes.
"When a book beats out movies, we're in great shape,"
You got that right.