Bringing the Bard to your children's bookshelves might seem like a scary prospect for parents - whether you're fans of Shakespeare or not - the language of the plays is notoriously tricky and sometimes the plots aren't all that simple either. But, introducing your children to the greatest writer the world has ever known can also be a very rewarding and exciting process. So, if you're keen to get your kids familiar with the classics but are worried on how to go about it then we've got five great tips for easing your children into Shakespeare's plays.
1. In order to introduce them to an Elizabethan writer - first you need to introduce them to the Elizabethan period!
Many people might say that William Shakespeare was ahead of his time but he definitely was writing with Elizabethan and Jacobean audiences in mind. This means in order to help your kids understand these great plays they need to learn something about the time period. Some great books to introduce them to Shakespeare's world include Tudors and Stuarts, Life in Tudor Britain and Terrifying Tudors. You could also treat them to a day out a very Tudor attraction such as Hampton Court Palace, Hever Castle and of course, all the attractions around Shakespeare's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon, including the Tudor World museum. Your little bookworms will become junior historians in no time!
2. Treat them to children's versions of Shakespeare's classics.
There are plenty of ways to get your kids reading Shakespeare's classics but finding the right versions of the plays is hugely important. One of our recent bestsellers is the Shakespeare Stories Collection by Andrew Matthews and Tony Ross which features 16 different Shakespeare plays, rewritten to be understood and enjoyed by children aged 7 and up. We also have the fantastic Terry Deary's Shakespeare Tales Collection. Terry Deary is the hilarious writer of the Horrible Histories books and in his Shakespeare Collection, he takes 4 of the best-loved Shakespeare stories and rewrites them to children. The books feature historical information as well as an easy-to-follow plot description of each play. Shakespeare really doesn't just have to be for adults anymore with these handy books.
3. Work with their interests - Shakespeare wrote such a wide variety of plays that you're sure to find something that in the mix that your kids will enjoy!
The Shakespeare play that is most often introduced to children first is A Midsummer Night's Dream and for good reason - it's funny, it's magical and who doesn't want to read all about the mischievous antics of the forest fairies? If your kids are fans of magic and fantasy then starting out with A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest would be a great idea. Or, if your kids are more fans of comedy then they might just love reading the silly misunderstandings and witty jokes of Twelfth Night and As You Like It. Other plays that might be worth showing you kids first include Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth.
4. Start showing them film, TV and theatrical performances of the plays.
When introducing Shakespeare to anyone it's important to remember that the plays are supposed to be performed. This means seeing them down on the page will really only give you half the story. The plays are obviously intended to be acted out on the stage so seeing child-friendly theatrical performances can be a real help in getting your kids interested in the Bard and enjoying the stories. However, there are plenty of film and TV adaptations that will do the job just as well.
5. Make Shakespeare fun!
There are plenty of ways to make Shakespeare more fun and engaging for children. You can make family trees, get them to draw their own version of the scene/set, play hot seat with the characters (where your child takes on one of the roles and answers various questions as the character) and read the play together as a whole family, each of you taking on a different character. There are plenty of ways to make Shakespeare fun for everyone!
These are our best tips for introducing your kids to Shakespeare so soon enough they'll be fans of the Bard and more than ready to take on studying his plays in their English lessons. And, once they've become fans of Shakespeare's plays, you could maybe even get them started on his poems!