It all started two years ago when Michael was eight. I found the picture book
of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in our local library. Michael just loved this poem and we read it many times. At the same time, we were reading about the early settlers to America. We read the Childhood of Famous Americans book <g> about Miles Standish. Michael thought Miles Standish was quite a character! I remembered that Longfellow had written "The Courtship of Miles Standish." I went to our local used bookstore and found a lovely old book, Poems of Longfellow and Bryant for $3.00! The Courtship of Miles Standish is not written at a level of language or a style that is easy for an eight year old to understand easily. But I read it to him anyway! I didn't stop to explain words unless he specifically asked me to; I could see he was understanding the story by the wording he could comprehend. Our book has "The Courtship of Miles Standish" broken down into nine sections. We read one section per evening at bedtime. At times, Michael laughed out loud! We both enjoyed the poem very much.

I had planned to read more Longfellow to Michael, but I saw Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare advertised and I thought that Michael might also enjoy some Shakespeare. So I added this book to our collection.

We started our Shakespeare unit with books from the library:
Bard of Avon, The Story of William Shakespeare by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema
Bottoms's Dream by John Updike (adapted from Midsummer Night's Dream)
Shakespeare and Macbeth, The Story Behind the Play by Stewart Ross

For our first "more complete" reading, we first chose to read "Romeo and Juliet." We read this from Tales From Shakespeare. We then watched the old 1954 movie on video of Romeo and Juliet. Thoroughly enjoyable! After we had read the story and watched the movie, I had Michael dictate the story back to me. You can read his account here.

We found more library books:
Shakespeare's England by Marshall Cavendish
Shakespeare and His Theatre by John Russell Brown (looking at pictures only)
Will Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre by Anne Terry White (very good!)

We now moved on to "Macbeth," reading the story in Tales From Shakespeare. We then watched about half of a video of Macbeth, which was performed on stage. I simply wanted Michael see some of the play acted out. He then dictated the story of Macbeth to me. You can read his account here.

Macbeth was so interesting to Michael, he also made a presentation of the story in his Kid's Studio. It was quite entertaining!

Now we found more library books. We basically just perused them and looked at pictures and read captions:
The Shakespeare Handbook by Levi Fox
Shakespeare by Anthony Burgess
Shakespeare: The Globe and the World by S. Schoenbaum

About this time, I stopped into our local used bookstore again and found another book, Shakespeare, Arranged for Modern Reading. I looked through the book and saw that the plays of Shakespeare were presented in shortened form. "The story of each play is related act by act and scene by scene with all the celebrated lines retained as Shakespeare wrote them. Minor lines, topical material, and interludes which have little meaning for the modern reader have been eliminated. Abstruse and obsolete passages that have discouraged many people from reading the plays are left out. The important parts of the omitted passages have been summarized so that the story is kept intact." I bought the book - 1,165 pages! It has been well worth the $6.00 I paid for it!

The first story we read from this book was "Cymbeline." We only read a few acts at a time. To this point, we have enjoyed everything we have read! We used our chalkboard during this story to show all the different characters of the play and their relationship to each other. It helped Michael to keep the characters straight. After reading the story in book, Arranged for Modern Reading, we read the story in Tales from Shakespeare as well!

Time to go back to the used book store! I now find this gem:
Shakespeare and the Heart of a Child by Gertrude Slaughter (1922). The book is about two sisters, one of whom loves to read Shakespeare. She shares the stories with her sister and relatives. As she experiences life, she draws comparisons of people and events to people and events in Shakespeare's plays. Such as the time she and her friend were accidentally left behind on an island while the rest of their party returned to the mainland. This brought about reminiscences of Shakespeare's "The Tempest." There was a day when the girl and her sister were rained in at their aunt's home. They read and acted out Twelfth Night. There is very little of Shakespeare's actual writing in this book, the stories are told in the words of the characters in the book. It is very enjoyable.

I decided to read this book in order, from Chapter 1 through to the end. As the sisters in this book experience an event and discuss Shakespeare, we then read the story from Tales from Shakespeare and Shakespeare Arranged for Modern Reading. These are the remaining plays/stories we have read to date:

Twelfth Night; or, What You Will
The Winter's Tale
The Tempest
As You Like It

We are obviously not done with Shakespeare yet!

Is there more to Shakespeare than what we do? Of course there is. But for the time being, I am simply exposing Michael to some very classical works. If he wants to study the style of writing and the deeper meanings of the writings later in his life, I'm certain this exposure now will benefit him greatly.

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