Shakespeare and Audio Books

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

Busy planning for the new year …

This time I’m working on starting a journey with


This past quarter I read Julius Caesar aloud to my Grade 10 daughter. 

We spent several afternoons reading aloud together and we enjoyed the play. 

I was amazed. 

She enjoyed it

Really engrossed. 

No problems with language, weird words,

very little confusion about antagonists and protagonists, plot and themes.


I thought,

now I’m ready to start Shakespeare with my younger kids.

I have ~

  • several Shakespeare plays (some with detailed student notes)
  • the book Shakespeare For Children: Tales From Shakespeare (1879) by Charles Lamb
  • the pdf download  Tales Of Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
  • audio recordings  Shakespeare For The Ears I purchased 2 years ago (remember I confessed that I don’t do it all) from
  • looked at Jimmie’s Shakespeare for Children Squidoo lens

I thought … this is how we’ll do Shakespeare ~

  1. Listen to the audio recording of a chosen play.  Maybe twice or so.  Get a good over-view.
  2. I’ll read the same play from Tales Of Shakespeare by Lamb.  Chat about the story, characters etc.
  3. Finally, I’ll read the play over several afternoons or evenings aloud to the family.  The real thing.  In full.

I listened to some of the MP3 recordings.  They are great.  Well narrated. 

But … I had some reservations …

I felt they were like a meal-replacement milkshake.

They taste ok, give nutrients, but not genuine food.

Books are real food.

Reading your own book or listening to a read aloud

you can taste the words,

chew the meanings,

digest the story

and learn

and grow.

And to confirm my thoughts on this, I came across an excellent and thought-provoking post on Audiobooks by Jeanne at Oh Peaceful Day.  She made such good points – both educational and personal :

Why she prefers to read aloud instead of audiobooks ~

… When I read these stories aloud, I do some judicious editing to remove the profanities and blasphemies, thereby making the classic stories acceptable for their 9 yo audience…

And what do you make of this?

… I can’t see how a child’s reading comprehension improves by listening to a book . Most importantly, I do not see that audiobooks nurture a love of reading. In fact, I am inclined to think they do the opposite, cultivating a lazy child who is not willing to master the mechanics of reading for himself. Miss Mason speaks of this in Home Education:

We must remember the natural inertness of a child’s mind; give him the habit of being read to, and he will steadily shirk the labour of reading for himself; indeed, we all like to be spoon-fed with our intellectual meat, or we should read and think more for ourselves and be less eager to run after lectures.

Home Education p228

Later she says ~

… The real reason that I don’t use audiobooks is because one day when I’m dead and gone, I want J to remember my voice …

… I’m going to stick with read alouds. I’m going to make the most of every minute I have left. I’m going to snuggle together on the sofa with my daughter and read, read, read …

So, I’ll give my plans and the audio recordings a shot.  If it is like candy floss, quickly diluted into a sticky mess, I’ll just pick up the orignal play and read aloud.  I’ll let you know!

It has worked for everything else. 

It should work for Shakespeare.

How have you done Shakespeare with your middle schoolers?  And what are your thoughts on audiobooks?


Carnival of Homeschooling
This post is part of the 314th Carnival of Homeschooling.

15 thoughts on “Shakespeare and Audio Books

  1. Pingback: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet | Practical Pages

  2. Pingback: Celebrate Charlotte Mason | Practical Pages

  3. I have found Youtube a wonderful resource for Shakespeare – either as snippets of plays as television or stage productions (a great little study is play production and differences between styles), as different interpretations, or as child-friendly puppet plays (Taming of the Shrew is very funny, and complete). I studied film renditions of the great man, and different language/cultural version of the same play is another fascinating project (Hamlet in Russian was very dark and sometimes just funny). Just another way to enjoy Shakespeare…


  4. As an auditory learner myself, I can’t live without audio books! My kids love them too, and it gives me a break from having to read out loud all the time. I do read outloud to the girls, but they also enjoy a good audio drama which I can’t do.

    Audiobooks that are done well can inspire a child to read the rest of the series, or to pick up the book and follow along. It actually goaded my middle daughter into learning to read for herself!


  5. We listen to LOADS of audiobooks, but only in the car. We read aloud at home but have really enjoyed many great stories on the road and it hasn’t diminished the kids love for reading! I also use them on rare occasions to let the kids “read along” with the picture books if I am helping someone else at the time!


  6. My girls listen to a lot of audio books and it has not diminished their love of reading. In all cases, audio books have enabled them to benefit from books that are above their respective “reading levels”.

    I also read aloud to them – I am a homeschool mom after all – but there just aren’t enough hours in the day to read everything I want to.

    I wrote a post on what Shakespeare study looks like in our house with four young daughters (our oldest is 10 now).

    Thanks for your inspiring blog!


  7. I was just talking to my aunt at Christmas. She was never a reader but loves audio books now. Don’t forget the audio learners who get lost in print! You can open up the joys of reading in a new way to someone who may hate reading because the writing throws them off. And, having 4 different learners in my home, I realize the joys of reading aloud or listening together as a family. Happy studying!


  8. My two babes are currently listening to an audiobook… so I guess that means we use them 🙂
    They do love being read to, and are ‘later’ readers so they can’t yet get much from books themselves. If I can’t read to them (for instance, during a quiet time moment in the afternoon), then an audiobook fills this gap.

    As for Shakespeare, we’re really enjoying Lamb’s ‘Tales of Shakespeare’. And having studied and performed Shakespeare as a high schooler myself, I’m surprised at how much I’m getting from the ‘Tales’. Perhaps reading the ‘Tales’ first would be a good idea, before tackling the real thing?

    Wishing you much Shakespeare enjoyment!


  9. I prefer audio books with my high school age sons because it is more like visiting the theater. Shakespeare was meant to be seen on the stage and not really read like a book.
    Although I imagine you have a nice British accent and that in itself would make it a hundred times better listening to you read it versus my very plain California accent. It just isn’t the same. 🙂
    I use for our selections and they are usually very well done with professional actors. We follow along in the book and at the end we pick a scene to perform for the family or with the family.


  10. Thank you for the thoughts concerning audio books. We haven’t done any audio’s yet–I love reading to and with my kids! But I do know from other blogs that love the occasional addition for travelling, the child with special needs, and so on, that there is a place for the audio books. As for Shakespeare, my two children are 8 years old and love Shakespeare. Granted, I read the Lamb or the Nesbitt versions, and we use hand puppets to help keep track of the various characters and their many switches. But when I mention Shakespeare, both kids can’t wait to finish their other work in order to have the new story. As they grow, I hope they will keep this enthusiasm as we tackle the original version and discuss the many nuances of man, sin, and the many tangled webs we weave.


  11. I haven’t used audio books mainly because my kids aren’t fond of them. The only time I have insisted on using an audio book is for Pilgrim’s Progress since I wasn’t enjoying reading the book aloud. I know many homeschoolers enjoy using audio books, however.

    When introducing my kids to Shakespeare in the elementary years, I used Lambs’ Tales like you are using. I still use Lambs for my 9yo, but my 13yo reads the original on her own. Both kids can follow the plots when we see live performances. I never anticipated we would enjoy Shakespeare as much as we do.

    Your plan sounds great! Enjoy!


  12. I use audio books because I can then school more than one child at a time 😉 DD will listen whilest I am helping DS. I only use them for things that ONE child is doing or if the child cannot read. I have also been known to use them to help with texts that have difficult language. For instance, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer sounds absolutely ridiculous in my English accent. So I had an audio book.


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