This year is the bicentenary of author Charles Dickens and families are celebrating his life by reading his books, watching adaptations and doing all things Dickensian style. If you have only just introduced Dickens novels to your kids, you’ll want to read some of our tips on where to learn more about the infamous author.
Top on our list is the Charles Dickens Museum, situated near Russell Square tube station, which was Dickens’ home between 1837 and 1839. On the website you can download an activity sheet for your children if you think they would like that. If you’re a teacher taking them on a field trip to the venue, the activity sheet would engage them with the museum in a fun way.
Every Wednesday until 4th April, there will be guided Dickensian London Walks, starting from the museum and finishing at St Paul’s station and in between, guides will stop at historical landmarks to read passages from Dickens’ novels to give that Victorian edge to the walk. (Note: It’s best if you book a tour in advance.) At the museum, there are paintings, personal items, manuscripts and rare editions and you can also see what would have been Dickens’ bedroom! Definitely something you and the kids should see. Kids under 10 go free, over tens cost £3 and adult prices are £7.
Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth is also a must. Here, you can see Dickens’ childhood house the way it was during the Regency – still authentic and with beautiful designs and fully furnished rooms. You will find collections of memorabilia, including the couch he died on and little possessions such as the author’s inkwell and snuff box, to name a few. Every month there are two guided city tours, starting at Victory Gate and ending at Museum Road, commencing at 2.30pm and lasting about 90 minutes. Events in the last week have included an exhibition of children’s creative modern takes on the author’s work, a Dickens ball, productions of David Copperfield and Celebration Dinners. To find out more, visit the website at www.charlesdickensbirthplace.co.uk.
Next up is Dickens World, located at Chatham Maritime in Kent. This spot is an interactive experience where you forget all about the modern world and step into the nineteenth century, as well as the shoes of Dickens and what inspired his greatest novels. Here, there is so much your kids can do. You can walk through the town, go to the school room, have a boat ride if you fancy it, walk through a prison and visit the Haunted House. Current events include the Little Dodgers Dressing Up Club where kids go half price if they dress in Victorian costume and the Little Dodgers Arts and Craft Club. If you’re a teacher, your class will benefit greatly from a field trip here: children dressed Victorian style will get a free gift and educational packages will be offered and tailored to the age range. Family learning worksheets are also available. For more information, go to www.dickensworld.com.
If you and the kids would prefer not walk around all day, why not watch a production of David Copperfield in Kent? Said to be Dickens’ favourite novel, it has been adapted for the stage at the Playhouse Theatre in Whitstable, directed by Peter Hunt. Running until April 21st, the semi-autobiographical book is brought to life by a stunning performance from the Lindley Players, giving the audience what they visualised when they read the book. The play chronicles David’s life, from infancy to his brutal childhood, the friendships he made and the love he found as an adult and it is portrayed with such vividness you won’t forget a moment of it! To book your tickets, go to http://www.playhousewhitstable.co.uk/index.php/productions.
For a fun, lively way to celebrate Dickens’ bicentenary with your kids, head to Dickens Puppet Workshop at the Barbican Children’s Library in London. On 15th February, join Avigail Rachel Pommert for a fun puppet workshop and performance – it’s a fun way of learning more about the author in a relaxed environment. Aimed at children five and over, the event is free but you should book tickets in advance. Shows are from 2.30 to 4.30 so buy your tickets now by calling 020 7628 9447. Materials will be provided.
You might think the Victorians were a bunch of stiffs but give them a chance, for Dickens’ sake!
You’ll enjoy it and the kids will get something out of it, so don’t delay – book your tickets now.