My grandmother’s beautifully bound, already-brown-with-age books on her shelves were closed to me as a child. Many volumes of Shakespeare, Latin instruction, and other mysteries too dense for me filled her library. Of course, I had permission to peruse them.
But after a few moments of browsing, “poof!” I’d let the book fall shut and re-shelf it with its accompanying cloud of dust.
As an adult, I find the rewrites of old works to be wonderful tools to expose kids to great literature. Recently, my three kids listened as I read Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale as retold by Charles and Mary Lamb in their book Tales from Shakespear e (their retelling can be accessed online for free!)
Then on a Friday morning, we snuggled up to watch a recording of the actual play. (Which can be found here: https://youtu.be/q9wn5Qo9PYI)
The particular play we watched was great. A pot of tea, along with toast and jam, helped set the tone.
Watching the play helped clarify some of the kids’ confusion swirling around the cast of characters and their exotic (to us) names. Bathroom breaks came and went with pleadings to pause the play so no one would miss anything.
I don’t want to mislead you into thinking my family is particularly cultured and cozy, because we’re not. We were good for about an hour. Someone dozed off. A squabble erupted over something or other. More frequent complaints of “Huh?” and “I don’t understand!” arose. Shortly after, we dispersed and went back to our regular school routines.
But, it was worth it. By taking small bites of his works now and then, Shakespeare is already more to us than an abandoned book on a shelf.