Do you think Shakespeare is too hard for kids? Think again!
With the right type of scaffolding, almost any age can enjoy the “Bard of Avon”. Here are some ideas to get you started:
For Kids 2.5 Years Old and Up
Shakepeare’s Storybook with CD by Patrick Ryan doesn’t exactly tell the stories of Shakespeare. Instead, it includes the stories that inspired Shakespeare. So instead of “Hamlet”, you hear the story of “Ashboy”. “A Bargain is a Bargain” tells the story of “The Merchant of Venice.”
There are two CDs with this book, as well as lots of pictures. None of the stories were too scary for my daughter, who started listening to them as young as two and a half.
For Kids 4 and Up
Can I just say how much I love Jim Weiss? Basically anything you purchase from Greathall Productions is going to be golden. Shakespeare for Children is no exception. This is an audio CD that tells the stories of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and “The Taming of the Shrew”. Both versions are awesome!
Tales from Shakespeare by Tina Packer is another great choice for kids. My son and I have read this book at bedtime over and over again. The plays are told in narrative form but include original lines whenever possible. The illustrations are beautiful; my only complaint is that there aren’t more of them.
For Kids 6 and Up
Chapter 39 of Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World Volume 2 includes historical information about Shakespeare, as well as a brief retelling of “Macbeth”. If you have Jim Weiss reading the audio version of SOTW2, this appears on Disc 9. I love the entire SOTW series to begin with, so getting a bit of Shakespeare thrown in is a nice bonus.
The Shakespeare Stealer is a historical novel for middle grade audiences by Gary Blackwood. It tells the fictional story of Widge, an orphan boy who knows how to do a cryptic shorthand that allows him to transcribe plays when he should just be watching them. The language is pretty advanced (not inappropriate, just challenging). You really feel like you are getting a history lesson when you read this, as well as being entertained.
For Kids 10 and Up
Imagine if Monty Python, the Globe Theatre, and the evening news were mixed together. You might end up with “This is Macbeth” and “This is Hamlet”. These are two really wonderful introductions to Shakespeare for older students, created by Greg Watkins and Jeremy Sabol from Stanford’s Structured Liberal Education program. (More about my own interest in SLE here.)
There are key scenes from the plays performed, faux interviews of the characters, musical interludes, and pretend medieval commercials.
My son Bruce is only seven, so he doesn’t quite have the attention span to make it through an entire DVD. But he loves the medieval commercials so much, we have watched those on repeat. It’s going to be really difficult to walk past the replica sword store, the next time I take Bruce to the mall…