Introducing Your Children to Shakespeare

I have to admit that I didn’t read much Shakespeare when I was young. I remember a brief introduction from some short passages in my high school literature book. But I’m not sure I ever read a full play.

I didn’t really think much about introducing my children to Shakespeare either. After all, the plays are written in language that’s hard to understand; many of them have crude sexual references; and they aren’t really relevant to anything today. Right? At least that’s what I thought then.

And then I began to read and study Charlotte Mason and her methods. And I came to realize that introducing my children to Shakespeare might be really important and that, perhaps the works of Shakespeare really do have some merit.

Resources for introducing Shakespeare to kids

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If you’re not sure what to do with Shakespeare in your homeschool, here are a few reasons why introducing your kids to Shakespeare really is beneficial. And I’m sharing some of the resources I’ve found for sharing Shakespeare with my kids.

Why introduce your kids to Shakespeare?

Our culture has many references to Shakespeare’s works. From quotes to thoughts and ideas, there is a cultural relevance to having an awareness of Shakespeare’s words. There are sayings that we hear or that writers or speakers make reference to that come directly from Shakespeare. Introducing our kids to Shakespeare gives them a basis for understanding those references.

Reading Shakespeare is beneficial in helping children develop language and vocabulary. Many of the words and phrases in the English language come from Shakespeare who contributed over 2000 words and phrases. Reading his works builds vocabulary.

Shakespeare’s works provide opportunity to discuss the gamut of emotions. His plays cover pride, jealousy, love, joy, sadness- a wide range of emotions. As you’re reading the plays, you have the opportunity to discuss a variety of emotions.

Shakespeare’s plays discuss the concepts of good and evil and the consequences of sin. Shakespeare’s characters aren’t perfect. And when they do wrong, the wrong often has consequences. Romeo and Juliet have a secret love affair, an obsessive love. They both end up dead. Macbeth commits murder and goes insane. Shakespeare’s characters- especially in the tragedies- face definite consequences.

Resources for introducing Shakespeare…

There is no doubt that some of Shakespeare’s material is not appropriate for children- especially young children. We began our introduction to Shakespeare when my oldest children were about 7 and 8 and the younger ones were still preschoolers. We began by reading two wonderful children’s adaptations: Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare by Edith Nesbitt and Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb . These books offer a few of the plays told in story form. It’s a great way for kids to first understand the story of the play before reading the play. And the stories are ones with better morals and language to introduce to younger children. Both of these books can be read free in the public domain here- Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare; Tales From Shakespeare.

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig is an excellent resource to use to introduce your children to Shakespeare. Ken Ludwig presents passages from a variety of plays to talk through and memorize with your children. Although it’s only a passage and not the entire play, the discussion he guides you through will help you and your child become aware of the plot and themes of the given play. I love this book and am currently using it. I reviewed it here.

Simply Charlotte Mason offers a suggested schedule for introducing Shakespeare’s plays to your family. I haven’t used their Shakespeare In Three Steps book, although it does sound useful. My younger girls have heard at least parts of some of the plays suggested here for older students. I introduced the plays along these guidelines, but I included all of the kids. So the younger ones heard some of the readings as the older kids were doing them.

The Folger Shakespeare Library is a wealth of information and resources. They have pages that are directed to kids such as games, coloring, puzzles, and fun facts. And they have teaching resources which include links to lesson plans for various ages.

Activity Village has this page with a brief introduction to Shakespeare as well as a variety of printables to use as you study the Bard.

This Shakespeare for Children page is one I’ve found to be an extremely beneficial resource. There are links to printables, to places where you can read or listen to Shakespeare for free, to teaching tools and lesson plans, and more.

One of the reasons kids hesitate to read Shakespeare and we hesitate to introduce it is because of the complexity of the language. We’ve found the No Fear Shakespeare versions to be good ones to read. They have the original language on one side of the page and the modern English version on the other side. It’s particularly helpful for phrases and passages that are important to the plot but are very difficult to understand in the original language. We used this version when we read aloud some of the plays together. We often took turns taking parts and reading. The older kids and I read the original language, while the younger girls read the modern version.

Shakespeare In Bits is a program I was able to review some time ago. This program is a multimedia approach that presents the play in the original language with some animation, audio, and the opportunity for kids to learn more about certain phrases or words. I thought it was a really good way to present the play to make it easier for even my younger girls to understand.

For older kids, Music in Our Homeschool has an online ten-week introduction to Shakespeare course for 7th-12th graders. Kids will have the opportunity to read, analyze and watch several plays.

Resources for introducing Shakespeare to kids

Introducing kids to Shakespeare can be beneficial and isn’t hard to do with some of the resources I’ve listed. Do you enjoy reading Shakespeare with your children? I’d love for you to share any favorite resources.

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