I admit I was sceptical when I saw Shakespeare listed on the literature / story based curriculum I am using with my eldest son (aged 9). The recommended book is Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, the idea being to introduce children to the characters and plots of Shakespeare's stories, laying a foundation to help them later appreciate the plays in their original language. I decided to try this book for the first time today. Since all the boys were around, I decided we would all work together and, since in recent days I had observed them all creating adventure games with their soft toys, I thought we'd try using some of these little characters to 'act out' the Shakespeare story. "Let's do a play with your soft toys," I suggested ... "I'll read the story and you can choose who will be who and act it out with the bears." Enthusiastic response!
The story on this week's reading list was "The Merchant of Venice". (I remember this was the first Shakespeare play I read when I was about 14.) Well, we had a great time. Bears were chosen and dressed and presented ... OK, Bassanio acquired a pet seal on a ribbon lead, and my youngest son (5) insisted that he appear in court tucked up in bed ... but aside from a little artistic license, the story was heard and engaged with. Letters and rings were found and incorporated as required. And the plot was narrated back to my husband this evening, with an entertaining introduction to the cast and rather more interest and enjoyment than I can ever remember feeling for the great Bard of Avon. Our home education group plans to see an open-air Shakespeare production in the summer, with a session beforehand to introduce the children to the story. I had wondered about taking the boys, but now I definitely will. A successful experiment!