OUT OF THE BEST BOOKS
Shakespeare can be daunting! We recommend teaching Shakespeare in a way that includes the following:
Read biographies of Shakespeare (picture books are excellent for this!)
Read picture-book versions of his plays before you tackle the “real thing.”
Remember, Shakespeare plays are not meant to be read, they’re meant to be WATCHED. Attend a live play or rent a movie of any play that you study together. It is fun to watch or attend several different versions. Your library or Youtube will both have several options.
Memorize part of every play you study. You can choose short pieces like “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” or longer speeches or poems, like the song of the Witches from Macbeth (“Double, double toil and trouble…”).
When you finally read the play: make puppets, peg dolls or costumes to help your kids (and you) keep track of different characters. Just read one act every day.
If this is your first Shakespeare play, we recommend beginning with A Midsummer Night's Dream.
PLAYS AND POEMS
A Midsummer Night's Dream, by Bruce Coville
Bruce Coville has illustrated versions of many Shakespeare plays. They are very well done and we recommend all of them.
The Tempest, by Ann Keay Beneduce
Many of these books are hard to find new, but you can likely find them used or available at your library.
The Tempest, by Marianna Mayer
Cambridge has published full versions of each play specifically for students. Includes activities, information, photos and illustrations. When you read the "real thing," make sure you have a copy of the Cambridge School Shakespeare to read from.
Be sure to get the Complete Shakespeare. Usborne has another illustrated Shakespeare collection of stories, but it only includes a few plays. We love this version, which includes every play- even the less well-known ones.
Tales from Shakespeare, by Marcia Williams
This is a very fun comic-book style compilation of some of Shakespeare's plays. Older kids will enjoy reading these on their own.
Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare, by Diane Stanley
Our favorite Shakespeare biography for elementary-aged kids.
William Shakespeare and the Globe, by Aliki
An excellent picture-book biography that is a bit more complex than the Bard of Avon. Wonderful for older-elementary, middle schoolers or even teens and adults.
Will's Words, by Jane Sutcliffe
A fun supplement to any of the other biographies.
Shakespeare: the World as a Stage, by Bill Bryson
An excellent book for adults or teenagers who want to know more about Shakespeare.
MISC SHAKESPEARE RESOURCES
King of Shadows, by Susan Cooper
This book is strange, but fun for middle or high schoolers (or as a read-aloud for younger kids), about a teenage boy who finds himself pulled back in time to Shakespeare's day.
The Shakespeare Stealer, by Gary Blackwood
Another family read-aloud or book for older students.
How to Teach your Children Shakespeare, by Ken Ludwig
Additional advice and tips on teaching Shakespeare in your home (but we really think our advice above is sufficient).