Updated: Jun 27, 2022
If you are reading this post, the chances are that you believe and probably even know that reading and books hold a certain magic, that books inspire, heal, foster imagination and creativity, encourage curiosity and are great conduits through which we can broach difficult subjects and big topics….so on so forth...blah, blah, blah.
All these wonderful benefits! Let’s get reading!
Hold on. Not so fast.
While we know that reading is magic, raising readers does not happen with the flick of a wand. It requires work.
In order to experience the transformative power of books, children should WANT to be read to. They should think of story time as a fun and happy space, a time to connect and bond with family or a group, to know that it is a safe space where they enjoy themselves, be themselves and where they can share freely. When we work on building a safe, open, non-judgemental environment, we will find that children will share freely and openly.
A surefire way to get children hooked onto wanting to be present in this reading environment, is to make reading FUN.
If you work with children, or if you are a parent...you may have seen that not all children take easily to reading.
As educators and parents, most of us feel we need to read with a purpose. A good book is one that holds a message, overt or subtle...a message nevertheless. So we tend to choose books with a purpose or intention.
If you do choose a book with an intention, then ensure that you sometimes also: 1. Choose with the intention of making children laugh, with the intention of entertaining them. Some books have the ability to draw out barrels of laughter, hoots, clutched tummies and so much laughter that they will have tears rolling down their eyes. 2. Choose with the intention of making the read-aloud FUN, through interaction, call and responses, guessing games, prediction, chants or songs, alternate endings or extension activities that bring in that element of surprise, encourage creativity and elicit responses in different ways.
The idea that reading must be FUN might seem silly to you. What ever happened to value filled ‘the moral of the story’ kind of reading?
Let me put it in perspective here. Imagine that you are spending an evening with friends, and you are having a wonderful time, laughing and joking. This makes you feel warmth and happiness making you want to spend more time in their company. You would also tend to seek them out again and again because of how wonderful you felt. How often would you want to seek out those friends who are chastising or lecturing you or trying to teach you something?
This is most normal...as human beings we seek out people, places and things that give us pleasure.
When we read a funny book to a child and laugh along with them at the silliness, we share wonderful warm, relaxed moments, pleasurable moments, what we are doing is helping a child associate reading and books with pleasure.
I can’t imagine a world without humour and fun, can you? I often think that one of the best attributes a person can have is a great sense of humour and the ability to laugh at oneself. Humour helps us connect and props us up even when the chips are down... a survival skill almost. When times are dark, it is a smile and a laugh that lifts us up.
So here are a few books that I have seen my students go back to again and again, read aloud to each other, sharing the laughter.
This list is just a snippet of the fun books available for children. To whittle the exhaustive list down, I decided on two criteria:
1. Books which made us laugh during read aloud sessions, many of which I have shared multiple times over the years. 2. Those that I have seen my students pick up voluntarily, again and again, read themselves or read aloud to one another.
1. THE LION’S FEAST by Lavanya Karthik; illustrated by Chetan Sharma (Karadi Tales) What the children love about this book is that it gives them the opportunity to create their own ending...and oh my do they!! Some of the wackiest and most imaginative writing have been shared in response to this book, and the fact that the book nudges the reader to control the ending, seems to draw it to them again and again.
2. A TANGLE OF BRUNGLES by Shobha Viswanath; illustrated by Calpeo S. Fox (Karadi Tales) The coven of hideous witches who have the same dream as any young dainty damsel as seen in a Disney movie or read in a fairy tale...that of finding the man of their dreams, tosses the notion of what constitutes a ‘dream boat’ on its head. What does the ‘dream boat’ they create think of the witches? Giggle, shy giggles and then hoots of laughter! The rhythmic text, devious characters and scope for voices adds to its crazy, fun appeal.
3. MANIC PANIC by Richa Jha (Pickle Yolk Books) This story was all too close to home for my students. They identified with each of the characters in this story, including the yoga practicing Nani...a story which made them laugh at themselves and their families as well as come up with innovative ideas to get their parents off their devices.
4. THE RAJAH’S MOUSTACHE by Asha Nehemiah (CBT) This is a book I read aloud with its cover wrapped up in brown paper and I do not show my students the illustrations. They have to imagine the moustache obsessed Rajah and his moustached inspired kingdom...and oh how much they giggle at the creations their imaginations throw up. Laughing as they recreate Mooshipur in their imaginations and then on paper.
5. WHAT A SONG - A Bundelkhandi folktale; illustrations by Jitendra Thakur (Eklavya) A fun interactive tale, gets my students singing along as he tries to ‘buy’ the best song for his wife. They love singing the lines in Hindi when they understand what it means.
6. ALL FREE by Mamata Pandya; illustrated by Srividhya Natarajan (Tulika) Bikhubai’s miserly nature and the repetitive story, brings about hands banging foreheads at his unbelievably ridiculous bargaining skills, as well as heaps and heaps of laughter as the children join in narrating the story, and hoots of guffaws at the end.
7. DADA’S USELESS PRESENT by Nalini Sorensen; illustrated by Allen Shaw Nalini Sorensen’s sense of humour and writing is very popular with my students. They smile and giggle as they see grandpa creatively use his present for everything other than it is meant for and his adeptness at turning tables on the ‘giver’, makes them chuckle away...adding their own uses for the ‘gift’.
8. KOZHUKATTA by Sumi Chandrasekharan
The author draws from an old folktale to share this hilarious story of a man who tries all kinds of methods to remember the name of a most delicious dish he has eaten, a humble kozhukatta. The unique illustrations add to its appeal.
9. THE LEGEND OF ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS by Drew Daywalt; illustrated by Alex Rex (Balzer & Bray) Loads of opportunities for crazy voices and a highly imaginative origin of a game every child loves to play. The library abound with children reading the book and hooting with laughter and impromptu matches of Rock, Paper, Scissors with data about which one tends to win most.
10. PIG THE PUG by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic) Children love the mischief and mayhem created by this grumpy yet adorable pug named Pig, a perfect example of a message delivered with humour.
11. I WANT MY HAT BACK by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press) A wickedly marvelous book, with sophisticated illustrations, narrated with deadpan humour. Plenty of philosophical discussions may follow, given the end of the book. Children who get the humour, love being in on the joke, and always want to reread, to figure if they really did get the joke the first time around.
MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS AND SERIES:
Here there are a few book series and books popular with my students...books they recommend to one another.
12. THE NINJA NANI SERIES by Lavanya Karthik 13. MOIN AND THE MONSTER by Anushka Ravishankar 14. THE FUDGE SERIES by Judy Blume This is a series that gets many peer recommendations, and I’ve seen children who refuse to read, discover one of the books and tear through all 5 in the series. 15. THE MYSTERY OF THE SECRET HAIR OIL FORMULA by Asha Nehemiah 16. GOONEY BIRD GREENE by Lois Lowry
17. FLORA AND ULYSSES by Kate di Camillo
18. HOLES by Louis Sachar
19. FRAMED by Frank Cottrell-Boyce
20. FRIENDS BEHIND WALLS by Harshikaa Udasi
GRAPHIC NOVELS and COMICS:
In an increasingly visual culture, graphic novels are a popular medium of stories. Graphic novels are especially useful for those children struggling with reading and comprehension, as the visual cues help the reader infer the meaning of the text.
21. BONE SERIES by Jeff Smith 22. Raina Telgelmeir’s SMILE SERIES...Smile, Sisters, Guts, along with Drama and Ghosts. 23. CAPT. COCONUT AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING BANANAS by Anushka Ravishankar 24. BAD GUYS by Aaron Blabey...ohhh, this series is a favourite of the elementary and secondary children...the older ones understanding the subtlety of the humour and the younger ones enjoying the slapstick portions of the books. 25. ASTERIX AND OBELIX...this old favourite with its clever writing and fun characters.
RIDDLE AND JOKE BOOKS: When children discover that a word could have more than one meaning, there is no stopping them with the jokes and riddles. The humble joke and riddle books are a great addition to any bookshelf as they boost language development and comprehension skills, while encouraging social development as they share with friends and classmates.
POETRY, NONSENSE VERSE AND TONGUE TWISTERS:
Pun, wordplay, rhyme and rhythm and outlandish tongue twisters are a wonderful way to make language fun, while nudging them gently towards the poetry genre.
26. TICKLE ME, DON’T TICKLE ME by Jerry Pinto 27. RHYME STEW by Roald Dahl 28. RUNNY BABBITT by Shel Silverstein 29. SILLY VERSE FOR KIDS by Spike Milligan 30. OH SAY YOU CAN SAY by Dr. Seuss
Frank Serafini tells us…”There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.”
Go on, help them find their book...it’ll be FUN.
DO SHARE THOSE BOOKS THAT YOUR CHILDREN/ STUDENTS FIND FUNNY ....we’d love to add to our list!!!
This post was originally written for The Bookwallis Facebook page.