By Ken Ludwig
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Over the summer, I took my daughter, my niece, and my toddler to Central Park to wait for tickets to see Shakespeare in the Park. As we waited along the path on our picnic blanket, representatives from Crown Publishers pushed a cart full of Ken Ludwig’s book, How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, past all the people hoping to score tickets to that night’s performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost. When they stopped and asked if I wanted a copy, I jumped at the opportunity to read something besides the Metro newspaper that I had already been looking at for the past 2 hours.
After a long day of waiting, we returned home with tickets in hand. Hoping to get back to the book, I placed it on the shelf in easy reach for me to pick it up again. Unfortunately, getting some quiet reading time is hard to come by in family full of young kids. It ended up buried under other parenting books that I’ll eventually get around to reviewing.
As my family was packing for a Thanksgiving trip to Arizona, I perused the books on my shelves for something to read on the plane. There, covered in papers and books, was How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. I picked it up and placed it in my bag to read on the plane and during moments of down time while on vacation.
The book presents an easy method for kids to understand and memorize Shakespeare passages. After reading the book, I wished that I had done so years ago, before I began acting on stage. I have been in a few Shakespeare plays and I always learned my lines by diving into the character, believing it would help me retain the lines. Sometimes it was a difficult task. Ludwig’s take on learning through a repetitive process, as well as dissecting the monologues, proved to me that this is the best way to learn Shakespeare. In fact, I worked though his process and learned the monologues that were included in the book.
Even though I was very happy entertaining myself by learning Shakespeare so easily, I was skeptical that it could work with children. So I turned to my 9 year old son, who was sitting next to me on the plane, and asked him if he wanted to learn some Shakespeare. He’s a good sport and sat down his portable video game devices so that we could go over some lines.
By using Ludwing’s method of breaking down a monologue, understanding the words, and repeating them in various fun ways, he began to learn the lines. I was so impressed that my son could recite Shakespeare after only 10 minutes. The old drama nerd inside of me got very excited to see my son saying the lines. We continued memorizing lines until we figured we had annoyed the other people on the flight long enough. The next morning at breakfast, he could still remember the lines.
If you choose to work through the book with your kids, they will not just memorize lines, they also will learn about the plays and the interesting characters that inhabit them.
This book will be a great addition to anyone that grew up loving Shakespeare and hopes their children will too. Just don’t pile anything on top of it.