Reading Chaucer to Children – seriously!

Cover of Canterbury TalesBut I hear you all say “Really? There is all this starting young and getting a broad education which is good, but the Canterbury Tales to children seriously? You’d lose them before the end of the first sentence!”

Well, not if it is The Usborne Illustrated Canterbury Tales, and the opening of the Wife of Bath’s tale is:

“I’ll tell you a tale about marriage,” said the Wife of Bath, pushing back her huge hat (it was as big as a shield) and scratching her head.”

So engaging, chatty and descriptive and, well, a bit different from the original? Is this sacrilege and desecration of the first classic in the English language? Isn’t Chaucer spinning in his grave? No, I think he is sitting up and shouting hooray. Chaucer wrote in English, not Latin, the language the average person in the 13th century spoke. But 800 years on that English has changed markedly so why not revise it so that the average person and child today can understand these tales once again. I think it is exactly what Chaucer would have wanted!!

I am not a student of English literature but I have seen enough of my friends who were have a ghastly experience studying them so I would never have picked up a copy of the Canterbury Tales in the original patois. I have picked up this, and have loved it. It is readable, it is fun, and guess what I do now want to look at the original!

I also think it would make a great read aloud with an older child. A great starting point from which to explore the classics of English Literature. Some parts are quite gaudy and sex is mentioned, so this could be a way to start discussions about this.

If you are interested in other classics retold for children, have a look at this list on the Christchurch City Library website.