August is the month when classroom teachers are thinking about their plans for the new school year. One important decision is which books will be read aloud to students. There have been many Twitter conversations and blog posts recently about choosing just the right read aloud for the beginning of the year. Third grade teacher, Franki Sibberson, wrote about the importance of choosing just the right read aloud on her blog, A Year of Reading.
Reading aloud only takes 15-20 minutes each day, yet it is a powerful act that inspires children to read, write, and think about the world around them. Students learn rich vocabulary, literary devices, and effective writing techniques. Reading aloud exposes children to books by different authors and genres they may not pick up on their own. It’s not surprising that when a teacher finishes a read aloud, the students come to the library in search of another book by that same author.
As a school librarian, I frequently recommend good read alouds to teachers who stop by the library. Usually I suggest something thought-provoking or gripping; historical fiction, mystery, realistic fiction, and informational books are top on my list. However, my favorite type of book to read to children is humor. Humor has a way of instantly creating a bond between students and their teacher. In the age of high-stakes testing, reading levels, and the push for national standards, it’s important that we make sure kids get a daily dose of laughter in their school day. Sharing a good belly laugh is a great way to build community, plus kids love seeing their teacher laugh so hard he or she can barely read the next word on the page.
Here are ten of my favorite humorous books to read aloud to middle grade readers.
10. Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-Haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle by David Elliott
Evangeline’s parents are primatologists, so naturally Evangeline is raised like a primate. She learns to swing from a trapeze inside their house. When her parents go missing during a research trip in the Ikkinasti Jungle, Evangeline decides to find them herself. Lots of fun, adventure and outrageous characters!
9. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
It’s hard to believe this book has been around since 1972. The story of Peter Hatcher and his little brother, Fudge, still stands the test of time. I recently read the famous bathtub/cereal chapter to a group of 3rd graders, and they were in stitches.
8. Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka
Anything written by Jon Scieszka automatically qualifies for this list, but Knucklehead ranks near the top. This memoir about growing up in a family of six boys is full of injuries, peeing, dog poop and Mad Magazine. Need I say more?
7. Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets by Eric Luper
Jeremy and his friend Slater have devised a plan to win money to repair the boat they damaged. The two boys disguise themselves as Cupcake Cadets and try to win money by entering the Windjammer Whirl sailboat race. I’ve learned that kids love stories about boys wearing wigs and skirts while selling cupcakes.
6. Matilda by Roald Dahl
The humor in Matlida comes from the Dahl’s use of hyperbole and extremes. Compare the bright, young Matilda to her numbskull parents who want her to watch more television. Contrast the Trunchbull and her torture techniques to the sweet teacher, Miss Honey. Throw in a newt in a glass of water, and you have a funny story.
5. Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks by Kate Klise
Klise has perfected the novel written in letters, memos and newspaper articles. Lots of puns and word play will keep readers and listeners on their toes.
4. Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger
If you read aloud this book, you must wear a fake mustache. Bonus points if you dress up like Jodie O’Rodeo.
3. We Are Not Eaten by Yaks by C. Alexander London
Take two kids who spend all their time watching hours and hours of television, force them into a dangerous mission looking for their missing, explorer mother, and you have trouble!
2. No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman
Wallace Wallace refuses to read any books about dogs because we all know what happens to dogs in children’s books.
“Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down” (p. 5).
Things get heated when English teacher, Mr. Fogleman, requires Wallace Wallace to rewrite his negative book report of Old Shep, My Pal or serve detention.
1. A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
Grandma Dowdel is one of the most outrageous children’s book characters ever. She trespasses, lies, cheats, brandishes a shotgun, and makes her own moonshine. What’s not to love?
Cathy Potter is a K-5 school librarian in Maine, and she co-authors The Nonfiction Detectives blog with her good friend, Louise Capizzo. Cathy is a proud member of The Nerdy Book Club. Follow her on Twitter: @cppotter