Five Reasons Children Should Read Humour
(Notes from Andy Griffith’s session at CBCA Conference, Canberra, 2014)
Books by Andy Griffiths are madness and brilliance personified and I’m yet to find a reader who has not enjoyed them. If you have a reluctant reader, Andy Griffiths is possibly the author to turn your child into a reader – and that is not something I say lightly. His books are clever and complex, and he has captured the essence of what it feels like to be young.
At the CBCA 2014 Canberra Conference, Andy Griffiths spoke with passion about the importance of humour in children’s literature. Some years ago now I greatly enjoyed reading Matthew Zbaracki’s 2003 dissertation, ‘A Descriptive Study of How Humour in Literature Serves to Engage Children in Their Reading’, which is well worth a read. In his session at the CBCA conference, Andy Griffiths also referred to Zbaracki’s research and quoted, “Laughter is the reward that lures the most reluctant reader” (2003). Too often adults dismiss humorous books as not quite as worthy as more ‘highbrow’ literary choices. Griffiths eloquently spoke of his own writing, and the writing of many others throughout the history of children’s literature who have used their wit to entertain, heal with laughter, educate and turn young people into lifelong readers.
My notes from his talk were scrawled over several pages and I have tried to make sense of them here by pulling out what, I hope, Andy was trying to convey to his audience.
To add Andy Griffith’s books to your home, school or library collection click on title or cover image links.
Five Reasons Children Should Read Humour
- Humour engages young people (particularly reluctant readers) as they are naturally playful and generally laugh far more than adults do.
- Humorous literature harnesses the exuberance and wonder of youth with words and ideas.
- Young people interact with their peers and foster friendships through humorous literature as they enjoy sharing the laughs with their peers.
- Humorous books reflect reality, which, in reality, is a mixture of sad and funny, joy and pain, highs and lows.
- Far from being an ‘easy option’, humorous literature encourages critical reading as young people learn to read between the lines and develop an awareness of subtly and sarcasm, right and wrong.
Griffiths quoted author/illustrator Mo Willems as saying, “my goal is to write 49% of the book, and then to let the audience create the 51%. They are my collaborators more than they are my audience” (CBS News, 2014).
Andy Griffiths work has frequently been criticized as mere toilet humour. I particularly liked his response to his critics when he said, “Adults and children often have very different ideas about what is funny and even adults can’t agree with other adults about what is funny. It is important to be aware that humour comes in many forms” (Griffiths, CBCA 2014 Conference).
And on young people taking risks as a result of reading books which depict nonsensical situations he said, “Young readers are aware of the jokes and know how ridiculous these stories are. If you fail to recognize that the stories are supposed to be ridiculous, you will completely miss the humour and judge the story as inferior” (Griffiths, CBCA 2014 Conference).
My favorite Andy Griffiths/Terry Denton books at the moment are the Treehouse series, which are below. My six year old would argue this, as she has been laughing herself silly at the Griffiths/Denton series pictured below the Treehouse books. They are super short early readers for those just starting their independent reading journey. I have a huge aversion to classroom ‘readers’ and it appears I have passed this feeling to my daughter. For some time we thought PudStar was struggling with her reading. Turned out she hated classroom readers and is in fact a great reader; these Griffiths/Denton books she will read over and over and over to anyone who will listen – $5.90 well spent!
Audio versions of Griffiths work (absolutely fantastic for school use or use in the car!) can be found here on Booktopia. Example image of ’13 Storey Treehouse’ is below.
The Flat Cat and Big Fat Cow series
The Just series
The Bum Series (well what else do I call this series?!)
The Bad Books
OthersBooktopia. You can also compare prices on Fishpond and Bookworld for Australian purchases.If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here. Purchases clicked through from the Children’s Books Daily site result in a small commission. Commission is used in part to maintain Children’s Books Daily and to support community groups which connect children with books.