Four reasons silly books are not so silly
Funny Kid Peeking Duck is about a boy called Max who, in an effort to prove his bravery to his friends, develops an elaborate plan to run away to a theme park with his pet duck only for things to go horribly wrong and instead Max finds himself on a road-trip from hell and his feather-friend is MIA.
Sound silly? You’re right. It is.
But there is a not-silly reason why I create silly books.
I am convinced that humour is one of the most powerful tools we have to encourage our children to read and to activate their imaginations. Playfulness and silliness are some of our greatest assets when it comes to engaging reluctant readers too. Here are four reasons why:
1. Humour relaxes kids.
When I visit schools to talk about writing, drawing and creativity I always start the session with something that makes us all laugh. And laugh we do. But for me it’s not the laughter that is the most important sound in that room. It’s the gentle exhale from the kids as they collectively relax their bodies. The strange person at the front, from whom they don’t know what to expect, is going to be ok. Their defences begin to come down and they see that I want them to enjoy our hour together, that laughing is allowed, and even important, to the work that we’re going to do.
John Morreall, president of Humorworks Seminars, says, ‘Humour loosens up the mental gears. It encourages out-of-the-ordinary ways of looking at things.’
That’s exactly what our kids need if they’re going to be creative.
2. Humour unifies kids
The imagination is at its best when it can be stimulated by other imaginations nearby. The classroom can be a great place for this (the playground might be even better).
Do you ever listen to a comedian share a funny take on some mundane daily activity and, through fits of laughter, turn to the person beside you and say, ‘That’s so true!’ That is the unifying joy of humour. We want to share jokes with each other and we connect over the joy that they bring us. Humour is, at its best, communal.
When kids are laughing and connected to each other then we know that we have prepared the ground for a rich, creative experience.
3. Humour gets kids reading.
I have a confession. I don’t read funny books. I read widely, but I’m not particularly interested in reading humour. However I was when I was a kid. As a child I loved Roald Dahl, Morris Glietzman and Paul Jennings. And funny books are bridges to other kinds of books. I went from reading Duncan Ball in grade four to Bryce Courtenay in grade six and I’ve never stopped reading since.
The number one thing Australian children look for in a book is humour. They want stories that make them laugh. So let’s take their lead and encourage them to be readers. If we can do that then we are truly giving them a gift, because nothing inspires the imagination the way that reading does.
4. Humour engages kids’ minds
The most common criticism of funny books is that they’re ‘dumb’. However, when we look a little deeper we can see that that is so far from the truth. Jokes require active engagement with the text in order to understand it. Everyone’s been in the situation where we don’t laugh at a joke because we ‘don’t get it’.
We want our kids to not just be readers, but active readers. Active readers read beyond words. They read ideas. They read to understand the text not just finish it. They read to ‘get it’.
So I encourage you, don’t hesitate to pick up humour from your toolbox as you seek to encourage your kid’s imagination! And I hope the Funny Kid series (and all other silly books) help to bring the joy of reading into your home.
Because there’s nothing silly about that.