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9 lessons learnt from writing our first book!

Writing a book is hard work... but worth it! What began as a retirement project for my mom, Maureen (yes, we say 'mom' in Wolverhampton) ended up as a self-published book of 44 pages in 2017, and is now on its way to become a 250 word pager with a proper publisher. Like I said, worth it.

So, over four years of writing, writing, rewriting and more writing, this is what we learnt.

Teaching Shakespeare in Primary Schools: All the World's a Stage by Stefan Kucharczyk and Maureen Kucharczyk (David Fulton publishers) is due for release on 28 September 2021.

1.        Shakespeare is really good. Shakespeare loved language and he used it to retell classic, timeless stories that his audience knew and loved. The difference? His versions are definitive – they have not endured for 400 years by accident.

2.        Empathy. Shakespeare deals with the big stuff: life, love, death and all the rest of it. His characters are heroes, villains, lovers, victims, brawlers and lowlifes. There is something within each play and character that all children from Year 1 upwards can empathise with.

3.        Teaching children to ‘appreciate’ classic literature is nonsense. Instead, we want children to see Shakespeare’s plays as part of shared heritage - a lineage of stories stretching from the Greek myths to Star Wars. This gives it much more relevance.

4.        But we do not assume you agree! Other books about Shakespeare assume you are already convinced of his brilliance. We don’t. We know many teachers have bad memories from meeting Shakespeare at school. We do our best to show you how to do it differently.

5.        Shakespeare was a poet, not a novelist so it is not surprising his language can be a bit tricky to make sense of. But teaching rich new vocab and encouraging children to read between and beyond the lines is what good teachers do already.

6.        Nobody knows what Shakespeare meant to say. There is no true meaning we need to decipher. His plays are ‘gappy’ and this invites children to decide for themselves what it all means (and, yes, this does take the pressure off you!)

7.        As well as being a full-English workout, Shakespeare can allow teachers to consider the things not in the curriculum: aesthetics, creativity, digital literacy (Minecraft, films, Twine). Being literate is more than lifting words off the page.

8.        There’s more to Shakespeare than Romeo and Juliet. Lesser studied plays such as The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale are rich with opportunities for creative storytelling and interesting discussions. Our book looks at six plays to support a whole-school approach to teaching Shakespeare.

9.        Writing a book is wonderful and exhausting! As we have learned, writing a book requires you to be brave and bold. If you want to enact change, if you feel education can offer more, you have a duty to speak. This, we hope, is what our book will do.

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