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Shakespeare for Kids

Shakespeare for kids? Surely that's not a thing? The stories, the language .... I mean, why would you bother?

Actually there are a few really good reasons to go down the path of introducing children to Shakespeare, whether you're a parent or a teacher of young children.

William ShakespeareWilliam Shakespeare

So here's my take on Shakespeare for kids.

Introducing children to Shakespeare and his work at a young age does a few interesting things:

  • builds their general knowledge about the world around them - about English history and about English-speaking culture;
  • helps them develop a rich vocabulary;
  • introduces them to universal stories that are part of our English-speaking culture;
  • gets them interested in Shakespeare before they are old enough to develop a fear or dislike of his work;

So, if you'd like to introduce your children to the works of Mr William Shakespeare, often called 'The Bard', the books on this page are a great place to start.

Where to Begin

There are quite a few books which tell the stories of Shakespeare in language that appeals to children. The best of these are reviewed on this page.

Some people might argue that these adaptations are a bad idea because they mess around with the language.

And the language, after all, is one of the main reasons we love Shakespeare's plays and poems. I disagree.

Getting children hooked on stories is really important if we want to get them interested in reading and in literature generally so it makes sense to focus on the story when they're young. The language - and it is wonderful language - can come later. So I think the children's adaptations are great.

The other aspect to introducing children to Shakespeare relates to building children's general knowledge - sometimes called background knowledge - about Shakespeare himself and about how the world was at the time he lived.

So let's start with that.

Fun Books About Shakespeare

The two books below are written for adults but they're fascinating and written in a really fun way. I highly recommend both of them if you're at all interested in Shakespeare. Both books discuss his work, life and times and the language used in his plays so they provide a wonderful background to introducing Shakespeare to your child.

shakespeare, bill bryson
shakespeare on toast

Like many (most?) teenagers, I was underwhelmed by Shakespeare when I studied his works at school. I didn't get them at all. Not only did I find the language impossible to come to grips with, I just didn't see the point. Why were we studying these old plays? Our teachers didn't explain anything about the era or why we would want to immerse ourselves in Shakespeare's world.

My school days were a long time ago and I hope that things are different at high schools now. We now know that having a purpose for what they are learning at school heavily influences how much and how well children learn so talking with them about Shakespeare - about the big-picture issues - is important.

So my suggestion is that you read these two books and take time to digest them before talking to your child about Shakespeare. Knowing something about the era and the world he lived in will help them to understand why the plays are important and how they were viewed in Elizabethan England.

The Shakespeare Stories

These gorgeous stories are wonderful re-tellings of some of Shakespeare's most famous stories.

The author, Andrew Matthews, has written many books for children and teenagers and is an internationally renowned author. He does a great job with these stories and the illustrations by Tony Ross, one of the most highly regarded children's book illustrators in Britain, are fantastic.

If you'd like to introduce your children to Shakespeare, I suggest buying one of these books and Pop-Up Shakespeare (have a look on the right) and having a look at them with your child. Then, just follow your child's lead.

shakespeare for kids, the merchant of venice
shakespeare for kids, antony and cleopatra
shakespeare for kids, julius caesar
shakespeare for kids, hamlet
shakespeare for kids, othello
shakespeare for kids, henry v
shakespeare for kids, as you like it
shakespeare for kids, twelfth night
shakespeare for kids, a midsummer nights dream
shakespeare for kids, romeo and juliet
shakespeare for kids, macbeth
shakespeare for kids, much ado about nothing
shakespeare for kids, the taming of the shrew
shakespeare for kids, king lear
shakespeare for kids, richard iii

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