We love books in our house. Both my kids will often spend an afternoon curled up reading a good book (or even books). And as much as we love getting lost in some of the more recent book series (How to Train Your Dragon and Warrior cats have been massive hits) I have always wanted the kids to feel comfortable reading the older classics. But I am aware that those older classics are BIG reads and they can be off-putting for younger kids especially when they start a bit slow or when the language is very different to what the kids are used to.
A few years ago I was introduced to the Big Cat series, a friend gave us 2 of their books and we were immediately impressed, so much so that I started looking for more copies and slowly started to build up our Big Cat collection. I really liked the idea of their Classic stories and their Shakespeare set – versions of big classical stories that are easier to read but at the same time introduce the kids to the characters and the events. And yes I know there is an argument that condensed kid-friendly versions leave out details (of course they do) but in our experience when the kids find a condensed classic version that they enjoy they actually go onto read the proper classic themselves. It’s been a trend of my daughter’s – she would read a shorter condensed version and then request the unabridged version to read. She did this over and over again (Little Women, Black Beauty and Romeo and Juliet).
I think reading the Big Cat versions gave her confidence to try the unabridged versions (not a good photo but I wanted to show the progression to the unabridged versions).
But recently I had “forgotten” about our Big Cat classics sitting on the book shelf. And then I noticed a large pile of them stacked beside the couch and sitting on the couch reading them was my youngest. He had dug out a whole bunch and was reading through them one by one. (He stuck with it for a good 3 weeks). And in his pile of books were a few Shakespeare stories. I loved that – they were just seen as good, interesting stories, there was no intimidation or concern that he will not understand the plot or sequence of events. (Macbeth and Hamlet are now two favourites.)
And if that was not enough I later heard him questioning his sister about Hamlet – and she admitted she had not read Hamlet and could not answer his questions. But the next day I spotted her reading Hamlet.
That just made me so happy, the fact that the kids are enjoying these stories, not worrying about who wrote them, how big the book is or if they can understand the language. They are just enjoying the classics and yes I have now had a few requests for some new unabridged versions.