I mentioned last week that I’ve been reading Shakespeare with my fourth grader and kindergartener. We’ve never gone as far as to recreate a play, but that may be changing. In-depth study of drama and stage vocabulary is part of the fourth-grade curriculum in my state, so I’m toying with the idea of putting on a little show of our own. While I’ve been over here collecting costume pieces and debating which play is our best bet, I’ve also compiled a list of our favorite books we’ve used so far:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Kids by Lois Burdett. I got my first Shakespeare Can Be Fun! books from my mom and promptly ran out and bought three more. Each book tells the story of a Shakespearean play in more accessible language (accompanied by great illustrations from other kids). My favorite part is that the play is still written in rhyme, so we get the rhythm of the original in a shorter form. My children really love the illustrations and the suggested activities at the end of each book. You know I’m a huge fan of the public library, especially for books we only use for a week. These books have been worth every penny for us, however, and we love having them around to read again. We started with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but every one we’ve read has been fabulous.
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb. If you’re looking for Shakespeare’s stories retold, this is a great option. I love the drawings in the Wordsworth Children’s Classic edition, but there are at least 5 different versions available online. Even better, LibriVox has a free version of the audiobook available online so you can all listen while your kids color their science notebook pages and you make lunch. (Why yes, that’s exactly what we did yesterday. What was your first clue?)
Bravo, Mr. William Shakespeare! by Marcia Williams (and the rest of the series) present favorite Shakespearean plays in a mix between a picture book and a comic book. I’ve found my fourth grader really enjoys this format, while the five- and three-year-old do best with straightforward prose. If you enjoy this one, there’s an entire series by the same author.
How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig is something you read before (or while) teaching Shakespeare as opposed to a book for reading out loud. It has some great suggestions for memorizing passages and really unlocking Shakespeare’s wordplay for students. Some of the content was too advanced for my fourth grader (and way over the head of the kindergartener), but I learned a ton. It was more inspiring for me in my desire to teach Shakespeare than anything. I’ll be tucking this one away to use again in a few years.
The Best of Shakespeare by E. Nesbit. After the Shakespeare Can Be Fun! series, this is my top pick for reading Shakespeare with young children. I shouldn’t have been surprised that each story completely captivated my little listeners since Edith Nesbit was a successful children’s author in her own right; she certainly knew a thing or two about storytelling. This collection would be a fabulous bedtime read or calm read aloud while students cool down after P.E.