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How can we help introduce Shakespeare to our children?

We’d all love our children to ingest a little bit of the Bard in one way or another, right?

As the world celebrates 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, the best-known playwright to ever walk the earth, Bard fever has been spreading the globe. His plays have been translated into over 80 languages (the most obscure, arguably, being Star Trek’s constructed language, Klingon) and the Royal Shakespeare Company introduces 50,000 new people a year to their first Shakespeare play.

But how do we get our children enthused about his plays? Of course, there is school, and a great many teachers do a fantastic job of bringing his plays alive. But for other teachers’ who aren’t particularly passionate about Shakespeare, many youngsters are turned off him from the word ‘go’, failing to see how a long-dead playwright can be relevant in modern life.

This is Maya.

She is nearly ten years old and 98% of the time she has her nose in a book. She likes horse riding, playing the piano and violin, baking and doing handstands.

Maya didn’t know anything about Shakespeare until she read Shakespeare’s Storybook: Folk Tales that inspired the Bard by Patrick Ryan and she really, really rates it.

In her own words, “the stories are interesting, action-packed and full of humour and I love the pictures.” Does it make you want to read Shakespeare’s actual plays one day? “Yes, I can’t wait!”

THE BEST OF THE REST

Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories

This is the book that I worked with simultaneously to the original plays  when I was younger. Remaining true to the spirit of the originals, these stories are engaging, clear and beautifully illustrated by Michael Foreman.

William Shakespeare: Scenes from the life of the world’s greatest writer
Mick Manning & Brita Granström

This is a wonderful introduction to Shakespeare’s world and Elizabethan England. There is some fascinating information on his life before he became a playwright and the speech bubble format keeps it fun and interactive.

Classics Unfolded: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
retold in pictures by Yelena Bryksenkova

The fourteen key scenes of Romeo and Juliet are depicted in fold-out, concertina style, a real visual treat. Not only does each scene contain a quote from the original text, but a wonderful summary in ’30 seconds’ and also in ‘5 words’ is also included, making it accessible to all ages.

For older readers:

To be or not to be – A choosable path adventure by Ryan North

Experience Shakespeare classic ‘Hamlet’ through the perspective of various characters and alter their fates as you see fit. Graphic artistry at its most inventive, this highly engaging and original book was crowd-funded in 2012 through Kickstarter, deviating from the plot in such a creative way that the Bard himself would no doubt have been impressed.

To finish, a few interesting little facts you might not know about Shakespeare:

  • Shakespeare’s plays feature the first written terms for hundreds of words and expressions familiar today, for e.g. fashionable, wild goose chase & one fell swoop
  • Shakespeare’s father held many different jobs, one of them being beer taster. In 1552 he became Stratford-upon-Avon’s official ale-taster.
  • The moons of Uranus are named after Shakespearian characters
  • He caused great controversy when he married a much older woman, Anne Hathaway in 1582, who was already three months pregnant.
  • His authorship is being called into question more and more. Did William Shakespeare truly pen all those poems and plays? For more on this, click here.

#Shakespeare400

2 replies
  1. natasha
    natasha says:

    A lovely post – having only been taught (and having forgotten) Othello, Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Twelfth Night – of which I can barely remember anything other than green-eyed monsters, et tu Brute and bubble bubble and damn spots, I want to read all these books now, and learn how to appreciate it all. Yesterday on UK tv (I think it was the BBC) there was a wonderful anthology of Shakespearian sketches, and related performances – brilliantly done. I only caught the second half.

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Stonehill
      Rebecca Stonehill says:

      Thanks Natasha! I went to such a great Shakespeare event too here in Nairobi run through the British Council. You would have loved it. Hope you are well X

      Reply

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