Several young scholars learn about Shakespeare's plays at a TD Shakespeare for Kids Library Club workshop at the Highland Creek library branch. The club is run by Shakespeare in Action, a literacy program for children ages 7 through 12.

Kids experience Shakespeare in Action at Highland Creek library

Program about getting children 'excited about reading'

For the past couple of weeks, 9-year-old Edward Jung has been learning Shakespearean classics.

He is just one young scholar attending the winter TD Shakespeare for Kids Library Club at the Highland Creek library branch.

“My favourite part about the program is reading the plays,” Jung said. “I think it’s different when you’re acting the plays out because when you show your emotion, you can tell what the characters are feeling.”

Shakespeare in Action, a literacy program for children ages 7 through 12, has come to Scarborough public libraries as the TD Shakespeare for Kids Library Club. The free program combines the worlds of theatre and reading Shakespeare into two-hour educational workshops.

“The point is to get kids interactive,” said Alex Benarzi, an educator in the Shakespeare in Action program. “Reading was definitely a selling point. But, of course, if you just sit around and read the entire time, it won’t go over well so we do acting games.

“It’s all to create the kind of multi-learning environment … to get them reading and also excited about reading.”

Over its 25-year-plus history, Shakespeare in Action has served more than 6,000 children. From November 2013 to May 2014, the program will be in 30 libraries across Toronto.

During each workshop, a trained educator or professional actor leads the kids as they read scripts out loud, perform scenes and participate in games to help them understand the plays.

For six consecutive Saturdays, the TD Shakespeare for Kids Library Club covers classics like Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night and Macbeth.

“The wonderful thing about teaching them so young … is that because the scripts are so universal, everyone can understand them if they are presented in the right way,” Benarzi said. “If you strip away the difficult language and just present the story, they are fantastic stories that the kids love.

“So, when you start them really young, by the time they get to high school and they’re sitting in a classroom reading through the language, it’s not as painful as some high school students may think it is.”

Hannah Powell attended the winter program at the Highland Creek library. She says although she is only eight years old, she has already learned everything a person needs to know about Shakespeare.

“My favourite part of the program? I would say doing all the games and being dramatic,” she said. “I really like doing all the actions … and I even take notes on my princess paper.”