Growing up in Israel, I was used, from an early age, to read translated literature and to watch movies with subtitles. As children we read stories translated from many different languages: English, Russian, Polish, German, French, Swedish and Italian. Some of the books were even translated through a third language into Hebrew. For example, in the early part of the 20th century one of the famous Israeli poet translated Shakespeare from Russian into Hebrew.
I remember watching my childhood idol, the actress Hayley Mills starring in Disney Movies which were based on some of my favorite books. For example The Parent Trap was based upon the German book Lottie and Lisa Das Doppelte Lottchen by Erich Kästner), Pollyanna, based on the book by the same name by Eleanor H. Porter and in In Search of the Castaways, an adaptation of the French novel by Jules Verne Captain Grant's Children.
Whenever I go into the children section of a typical American public library I am surprised by the meager collection of translated books. It is rare to find books by “foreign authors” like Erich Kastner, Jules Verne, Selma Lagerlöf, Kristina Nestlinger to name a few.
I am sure that there are many explanations for this absence. However, it is sad that young American readers grow up reading only about children like them and about reality which is familiar and comfortable to them. Learning about the world from books develops the imagination and teaches the young reader about the world. The huge success of Harry Potter shows that children are ready and willing to broaden their horizons.
Often when I meet Americans, of all ages, who tell me that they don’t go to foreign films because they are heavy and besides they don’t like to read subtitles, I feel sorry for them as I am quite certain that as children they believed that books were only written in God’s language --English
P.S. In response to my post a friend sent me this link with the following comment
And apart from Stieg Larsson I cannot think of anything that is recent.
Thinking about Stieg Larsson and what you had written I realized that the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo movie was in Swedish and released with English sub-titles in 2009. The English language remake, just two years later, used about 95% of the scenes and locations of the original. I had wondered why they bothered but you are right, people will not read sub-titles