Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review: How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig

I had read glowing reviews of this book on other blogs and glanced through the book enough to decide I wanted to try it with the kids next year for our Shakespeare studies. I was thrilled to find the new paperback version available at Blogging for Books and requested it immediately.

Ken Ludwig has written a fantastic book for all parents interested in sharing Shakespeare with their children. These are exactly the methods he used successfully with his own two children, now young adults, though he was not a homeschooling dad. Instead, they delved into Shakespeare in their free time on weekends and in the evenings. Though the strategy is memorization, the true strength of this method is how understanding the meaning of the passages, their context within the plays, and the genius of Shakespeare's language is intertwined with the passages.
...I became convinced that the way into the subject--the way to introduce someone to Shakespeare for the first time so that it doesn't feel daunting and yet has real integrity--is to memorize it. First a few lines, then whole speeches.
The books is designed for the parent to read first, then share the passage and information with the children. Links are provided for resources as well, pages to print as memorization aids and recordings of Shakespearean actors reading the passages, for those of us unsure of pronunciation. The author explains every passage so anyone, even someone who feels daunted by reading Shakespeare themselves, can understand the meaning of the selections.

What I love most of all about this book is the example the author has given us of how to share a passion with children. Mr. Ludwig's delight in Shakespeare and his awe of Shakespeare's abilities permeate the text so much that I found myself delighted and awed as well at all the same things. It seems impossible to present Shakespeare in such a way and not foster a love of language in our children.

This is not a course of study. There are not explicit lessons for each week and day of the school year, but I think a homeschooling parent can easily adapt this book for homeschooling. I intend to simply start at the beginning and work our way through the passages. When we've memorized one (myself included!), we'll move on to the next. (My oldest two will be in fifth grade and second grade, but I think the book can be used with children of any ages, though some of the later passages are more appropriate in content for older children.) I anticipate years of enjoyment from the 25 passages in this book (and a bonus 26th and lists in the back of additional passages to explore and memorize). I will probably also introduce some of his recommended books for children every once in a while. At the end of the book, it's not about being able to pass a test on Shakespeare or incorporate quotations into college writing papers, though you might be able to do that; it's about building a foundation of Shakespeare in a child that will foster a desire to learn more for the rest of his or her life.

This book is also a gem for anyone interested in Shakespeare. I never studied any of his plays after high school and have seen very few of them performed. I would hardly know where to start now given the plethora of books and movies and performances. The appendices in this book include annotated lists of books for children, books for teachers and parents, films, and audio recordings. After finishing the book, there was nothing I wanted to do more than start reading, watching, and listening to all of his recommendations.

You can read more about the book here and more about the author here or on his website.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions above are my own.

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