How To Stimulate Your Kids' Interest In The Classics

While today's youth may choose Spiderman over Shakespeare, parents can pull out a few tricks to interest kids in the classics.

You don't have to be a scholar to enjoy a classical sonnet or a musical sonata. But you do need a sense of curiosity spurred by a quest for adventure. Kids typically have both commodities in abundance. That is why it's not terribly difficult to get your kids interested in reading the classics.

If you're a parent who's wondering how to get started, here are a few tips that can help.

1. Tap pop culture. A recent Brad Pitt film, TROY, is a remake of the ancient classic, THE TROJAN WAR by Homer. If your child is old enough, take him or her to see this great story on the silver screen. During your drive in the car, toss out a few ideas to stimulate interest in the original story:

"The beautiful Helen was the cause of the war. Do you think it's possible for two men's fight over a woman to start a large-scale battle today?"

"Both sides believed that demi-gods fought on their side. Why would they think that about another human being?"

Innocent questions like these can set youthful minds in motion to ponder the larger issues behind the scenes of their favorite film celebrities.



2. Check out the spin-offs. Recent films also take advantage of popular themes or myths. For example, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE fabricates the story of young Shakespeare falling for a pretty aristocrat when his wife gives him the cold shoulder. While the plot may sound questionable, the film offers realistic sets and props that can help teenage viewers appreciate the conditions of Shakespeare's original dramas. Similar films about figures like Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald offer glimpses into the personal lives of modern literary geniuses and may likely impress young viewers.

3. The play's the thing. JOSEPH AND THE TECHNI-COLORED DREAMCOAT provides an entertaining introduction to the oldest classical work of all, the Bible. Or take your offspring to see other stage shows like Les Miserable or the Phantom of the Opera. Productions like these stir interest in the authors and their works. Who knows? Your kids might come home asking for the book to read.

4. Buy a few copies. Bring home an attractively bound volume of a classical work, from AESOP'S FABLES for the younger set to Ovid's METAMORPHOSES for high school students. Even modern authors like Edgar Allan Poe or William Faulkner portray some pretty offbeat characters that kids may find compelling. Leave your new books on the coffee table or the desk where they will attract notice.

5. Set the example. Don't be afraid of being seen reading a great book yourself. Often, kids get interested in whatever is occupying Mom or Dad's time. So let them see you poring over a story that has classic value. Discuss it over dinner or in the car. Chances are the next time you look, one of the kids will have your book in their hands.

6. Surf the Web. Literary Web sites for kids are plentiful. Do a little online browsing to find some that offer helpful or fun information for kids the age of yours. Introduce your children to these troves of undiscovered treasure and watch as they "ooh" and "ah" over little-known facts or fun word puzzles.

Bringing the classics and your kids together may not be as difficult as you think. With a little forethought and ingenuity, you may soon find that your kids have developed a new taste for reading.

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