I don’t have a baby yet, but I’m already reading Shakespeare to my uterus.
I walked into my co-worker’s baby shower/maternity leave office party at the publishing company I worked at expecting most of the conversations to revolve around saying “Congratulations.” Perhaps there would be some small talk about baby names, pregnancy cravings, and parenting advice here and there. Instead, there was a noticeably excessive amount of comments focusing on one topic: Reading books to the unborn baby. Left and right, co-workers reminded the mother-to-be, “Don’t forget to read to the baby!” They eagerly demanded to know “What books are you planning to read to the baby?” and “Have you been reading the baby our new releases?” (insert forced laughter here). While it’s no exaggeration that people who work in publishing are obsessed with books, reading to an unborn baby isn’t an uncommon practice. We all remember Ross from Friends singing to Carol’s baby bump, perhaps even your own mothers did it too. And it makes perfect sense: We all want to ensure that we provide our children with every opportunity to be smart. What better way to stimulate their brain than with Shakespeare? So after doing extensive research, I have compiled the most convincing reasons as to why exactly Shakespeare is in fact the best reading option.
The baby will come out with a British accent.
Yes, when you give birth to your baby, the first thing you will hear, if you read them Shakespeare in the womb, is a resounding British cry. Everyone knows that the British accent is by far the most sophisticated and intellectual-sounding accent known to man. All those skincare commercials: British accents. All those nature documentaries: British accents. Sherlock Holmes: British accent. The Queen of England: you get my point. The evidence literally speaks for itself. A British accent guarantees that your baby will have their pick of respectable professions, and every time someone hears your baby’s voice, they will think to themselves, oh wow, that baby’s stunning accent has truly commanded my respect and authority.
You don’t have to go to any plays.
If you spend at least 6 months reading Shakespeare to your unborn baby, studies show that you will never have to go to any plays. Yes, you heard that right. When your baby is born, your beautiful bundle of joy will be equipped with Shakespeare’s entire canon of work. If you simply prompt them with “To be or not to be…” your baby will respond with the rest of Hamlet’s 262-word soliloquy. There will never be a need for you to go to a play ever again, or wait in line for Shakespeare in the Park. Comedy, history, tragedy, even poetry, your own personal performance is at your disposal 24/7. But please keep in mind — and I can’t stress this enough — you must read to your baby on a consistent schedule for at least 6 months in order for the Hamlet soliloquy thing to work.
They will do well in 8th grade, high school, and AP English.
The study of Shakespeare is a staple of the English curriculum in schools all over the US, from junior high and all through high school, sometimes even earlier. But why not give your child a head start? The best way to prepare your child for the academic rigor of Shakespeare is as simple as reading to them as much Shakespeare as you possibly can before they are born. My personal tip is to also read to them the Sparknotes or Cliff Notes version so that they can better process the complexities of Shakespearean English. This will also help them write analytical essays and be ready to discuss all the relevant themes and symbolism with their peers. By the time your baby is born, they will have a PhD-level understanding of Shakespeare, and all those classes will be a breeze.
You don’t have to worry about supporting their head when you carry them.
A common concern for new moms is properly supporting their baby’s head for the first few months until their neck muscles have strengthened. One sure way to avoid this is, of course, to read your baby Shakespeare. The day you give birth, the nurse will ask you if you read Shakespeare to your baby, and you will definitely want to say yes. Hospitals are equipped with a supply of Shakespearean collars, also known as ruffs, that they give exclusively to the babies who have listened to Shakespeare in utero. While wearing a Shakespearean collar, your baby will be able to safely support their neck on their own, without you having to hold them in a certain position. This will be one less thing for you to worry about, and more importantly it will put them ahead developmentally. This is a huge reason as to why it makes sense to read Shakespeare over any other author or genre: it is the only proven option that promotes both intellectual and physical development.
Kate Middleton did it.
From the Duchess of Cambridge to Chrissy Teigen, all the famous moms have done it, which means you must do it too. Princess Charlotte is already bilingual at the age of two, and on her way to becoming fluent in Spanish, following the footsteps of her older brother Prince George. But Kate Middleton doesn’t credit this to language tutors, school, or practice, but rather to the fact that she constantly read Shakespeare to them before they were born. According to linguistics experts around the world, the flowery, indecipherable nature of Early Modern English stimulates the left, right, middle, and central lobes of an unborn baby’s brain, where speech and language comprehension are developed. If you want your child to have a better command of languages, reading Shakespeare to them is the surest path to a life of eloquent speech. You will be as cool of a mom as Kate Middleton, and your children’s language abilities will be of royal status.
Having a baby and raising a child, while a joyous experience, is also an enormous undertaking with a great deal of pressure. But by reading Shakespeare to your baby before they are born, much of that accompanying stress can be easily alleviated, and the benefits of doing so will have an everlasting impact throughout childhood to adolescence and adulthood. If the only thing holding you back is the required time and effort, or the fact that you just don’t own any copies of Shakespeare’s plays, rest assured there are tons of other resources out there to help make it easier, including audio books and public libraries. The sacrifices you make reading your baby Shakespeare for hours upon hours each day will all be worth it when you hear them say “I loveth thee v’ry much, mother” for the very first time. And if you know any other expectant moms, make sure to gift them a copy of Macbeth — I promise it’ll be a much better use to them than What to Expect When You’re Expecting.