The Simple Guide to Enjoying Shakespeare with Kids

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Enjoy Shakespeare.

For many this statement seems like an oxymoron. Their feelings about Shakespeare are on par with having a tooth pulled without the anesthesia. Why is that? Why is Shakespeare so well-known and yet so feared? I am willing to bet that the biggest reason is unfamiliarity with the language of Shakespeare. I think one could argue that it is a foreign language all its own! With that said, I am going to share with you ways to enjoy Shakespeare with children of all ages!

Start with re-tellings!

The stories of Shakespeare really are inviting once you break the barrier of the poetic language. The best way our family has been able to do this is to listen to and read re-tellings! Our favorites have been from Jim Weiss and Bruce Coville. Both of these authors and storytellers have a way of capturing the beauty of the story, seamlessly merging original lines from Shakespeare into their re-tellings. So not only do we better understand the story but the poetry of the language is gracefully maintained.Another path to enjoying Shakespeare, and simulatenously expanding our view of his works, is to read a book like Shakespeare’s storybook: Folk Tales that Inspired the Bard. This book shares 6 folk tales and a little history and insight about how each one relates to the works of Shakespeare. The best part is that it comes with 2 CDs so that you can listen to them on the go. I can’t say enough about this book! And I can’t help but smile when my kids say, “Can we listen to Shakespeare? Plleeeaaase?”

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coville shakespeare

Find your guides!

Gather some resources about Shakespeare that work for your family.  These will end up being as much for you as your kids. They’ll be your go-to when you want to dig a little deeper or get some fresh ideas! My favorites are linked below. Having them on hand has helped me to be consistent with making Shakespeare more a part of our family culture, rather than just a story we read once.

Listen, read and watch!

Shakespeare is poetry and play. It is meant to be heard and seen, both on the written page and on the stage. But I have to confess that I am terrified of reading Shakespeare aloud to my kids. Not so much that I will mispronounce words but that I will lose the beauty of the language and kill any chance of my kids enjoying the experience. So, I got creative! I bought several copies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a story with which my children are already familiar. And I purchased the audio version. So we have options. We can listen. We can read. And most preferred, we can listen and read along at the same time! I am still on the look-out for a well performed screen or stage production of Shakespeare plays, but that is on my to-do list before the year is through. So if you have any favorites to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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So that’s it! 

Simple strategies. 

Gather some resources. 

Start small and jump in.

You will gain confidence as you go.

You may even find that you and your kids enjoy Shakespeare!

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