It’s been my experience that abridged versions or adaptations of classic literature have gotten a bad rap. Purists feel that students should only read the original classics. While I do understand that sentiment, I don’t agree with it. Abridged or adapted classics can play a very important role in a quality education.
Reading an abridged version of a classic as an elementary or middle school student gives the reader an introduction to the story that can greatly increase comprehension when (or if) he later reads the original. When a student reads a book written in a more flowery language than modern English, knowing the basics of the storyline can make it easier to follow the unfamiliar language. This helps with both comprehension of the story and often results in an easier understanding of new vocabulary.
Accessible for Struggling Readers
I’ve got two dyslexic students. The fact that reading can be laborious in the first place is often compounded by books whose language would be considered challenging by most students. (Or, they can completely surprise you and comprehend some of those difficult works more easily than most students, like my daughter and Shakespeare.)
Reading an abridged version can go a long way in leveling the playing field for a struggling reader. These alternate versions can be read alongside or in place of the original. My daughter loves the No Fear Shakespeare books. Surprisingly, she rarely reads the translated pages, but it’s a confidence booster knowing that they are available if something is confusing – and that’s true for kids who don’t struggle with dyslexia.
Understanding of the Storyline
Sometimes the choice comes down to reading the abridged version or not reading the work at all. I’d much rather my kids read the abridged version of a classic than have no knowledge of it whatsoever because, the fact is, the general storyline is all most of us are going to remember over time anyway.
While I will encourage reading the original versions as much as possible, abridged versions and adaptations will always be a part of our homeschool arsenal. That’s because I know they will give my kids the basics of the story so that they can carry on an intelligent conversation about it.
What Are Good Choices for Abridged Books or Adaptations?
I’m sure there are lots of good choices for abridged books or adaptations that we haven’t tried. However, some that we’ve used that have been successful for us include:
- Great Illustrated Classics – We’ve used these for elementary and early middle school
- Puffin Classics – The best that I can tell, only some of the Puffin Classics are abridged or adaptations. I think whether a book is adapted or original may depend on the difficulty of the original text.
- Classic Starts – These are a great introduction to classics for younger students.
- No Fear Shakespeare – We love these because they have the original text on one page with the translation on the facing page. That makes it easy to quickly get past tricky sections of text and get back to the original.
Oh, and one last tip, no matter what types of books your family reads: If you have a struggling reader, get both the print and audio versions of books. That way he can follow along in the print version as he listens. It’s great for building confidence, increasing vocabulary, and tackling difficult books.
How do you feel about abridged versions of books? Are you a purist or do you see the value in adaptations?