LOL – The Power of Laughter and How Reading Lets the Joy of Laughter Ring Loud
“A smile starts on the lips, a grin spreads to the eyes, a chuckle comes from the belly; and a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles all around.” — Carolyn Birmingham, author
Is there any sound more wonderful that a child’s laugh? Often when we think about children, we have a vision of fun, play, and laughter.
Psychologists have reported that the laugh of an infant activates reward centers in a parent’s brain, reinforcing continued playful interactions that produce more laughter. Laughter really IS contagious! Research has also shown that laughter reduces levels of stress hormones and even improves blood flow to the heart. I personally never tire of hearing children laugh and laughing along with them. I once heard a baby-laugh ringtone that made me laugh out loud and briefly contemplated installing it on my mobile phone!
We all need a laugh right now, so we have compiled our favorite LOL list of books. There are read-aloud books for preschoolers and a variety of stories for readers at all levels – beginning readers to preteens. Some are goofy-silly, others witty and clever, some include gorgeous illustrations, a couple offer relatable life-lessons learned through misadventures or embarrassing moments — and ALL will make the reader laugh out loud. If you give any one of these books as a gift, and you’re not reading it yourself, be sure to ask your young reader to share the funny parts. Then prepare to giggle.
This Moose Belongs To Me Written and Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
How can a book that is so beautiful also be so funny? This book has so many quirky moments you will absolutely have to read it twice. We start out with Wilfred, a very organized young boy complete with suspenders and a bow tie, and his pet moose Marcel, who isn’t always good at following the many constraining rules of being a pet. Through the book, they take a journey to stunningly painted mountain landscapes in which they meet other “owners” of the moose. Wilfred needs to learn not to stifle his new pet’s outgoing personality in order to maintain his part ownership. A great lesson in boundaries, expectations and the value of being open-minded and willingness to adapt in order to solve a problem.
Gilda the Giant Sheep, Written by Emiio Urberuaga, and Translated by Ben Dawlatly
Opening with a drawing of a house-sized sheep named Gilda and a bunch of scheming shepherds, this gripping fable of Gilda’s escape from her farm is hilarious as well as poignant. The shepherds wake up one day too lazy to shear Gilda, deciding instead to “chop Gilda up and sell the meat at market.” Gilda’s extra large ears hear the evil shepherds, prompting her to leave and look for a new home. On her way she squeezes through a city, where selfie-sticks and cars frighten her off, prompting a King Kong-style skyscraper climb, “She looked like a huge wooly cloud.” Next she is rejected by a circus for not being able to swing on a trapeze. Gilda does find her way, and her misfit status makes her final triumph more satisfying; there’s a home for everyone, Urberuaga argues–one just needs to find it.
Mina Written and Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
This Academy Award nominated author/illustrator Matthew Forsythe brings us a silly new book with museum quality artwork. Mina is a bookworm mouse who lives in a beautiful forest with her eccentric father. Dad goes daily into the world, bringing back surprises for Mina, such as rare art (used postage stamps) and a megaphone (a rusty tin can). She’s okay with all of this until he brings a large “squirrel” that looks suspiciously like a cat to live in their tiny home. One visitor then leads to several felines moving in. How Mina and her dad navigate their new guests is hilarious, and becomes even funnier as the cats chase the family up a tree. Mina confronts the three cats and says, “Stop! We shared our home with you! Our food! Our toothpaste! And this is how you repay us? By trying to eat us?” Should Mina have trusted her dad? Will they talk their way out of this mess? Do large praying mantises read the same books as mice? So many questions, such wonderful drawings with which to ponder them.
Grades One and Two
The Leaf Thief Written by Alice Hemming and Illustrated by Nicola Slater
A fast paced, hilarious, and possibly even sneaky way of teaching kids about the changes of the season. Adorably hyper squirrel is upset because his leaves are going missing. Searching all over the forest, accusing his fellow animals of thievery, Squirrel is followed by his best friend Bird. Bird keeps trying to explain why the leaves aren’t staying around. Cute drawings and a very frustrated squirrel keep the laughs coming. Everything is finally making sense, and then, “Bird! Someone has stolen the grass!!!” Sigh, it is called snow. A valuable and concise two-page explanation at the end of the book will help young readers understand seasons. This book is also good for talking to young ones about how to accept change, and how transitions can be scary and frustrating.
Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot, (series) Written and Illustrated by Cece Bell
From the Newbery Honor author of El Deafo, here is a great new offbeat graphic novel series for beginning readers. The hilarious duo of a sarcastic baby chicken and a shorts only-clad kid with a brain that is so big, it rests on top of his head. Constant goofy misunderstandings and miscommunications keep the reader turning the page to see what’s next. Brilliantly constructed with only about 120 different words, I couldn’t help but notice that Chick and Brain rhyme with the characters from school primers Dick and Jane; what a way to bring early readers into the present! Book two in the series is titled Egg or Eyeball, which has me laughing already.
Grades Three to Five
The Bad Guys (series) Written and Illustrated by Aaron Blabey
This relatively new format called a hybrid graphic novel, which combines text with lots of drawings, is fabulous for reluctant readers. The “Bad Guys” are all pretty scary: The Big Bad Wolf, Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, and Mr. Shark. The wolf gathers them all together for the first meeting of “The Good Guys Club” in an attempt to change their reputations by doing good deeds. As the motley crew break a bunch of dogs (wearing prison uniforms) out of the animal shelter, all the dogs run away, terrified of their “scary” rescuers. I challenge anyone to read this series and keep a straight face.
Addison Cooke and the Tomb of Khan, (series) Written by Jonathan W. Stokes
This book is one part Indiana Jones, one part Treasure Island and two parts laugh out loud silly. A goofy teenager and his motley crew travel around the world to seek the secret tomb of Genghis Khan, causing and then solving problems, and teaching the readers history at the same time. Addison is a funny kid, seemingly able to talk his way out of any situation. His sister Molly trusts him and is willing to use her skills learned from eight weeks of martial arts training. Raj is a daredevil and constantly jumps in when others are in danger. Eddie manages to whine and find the worst in any situation. While Addison and his cohorts always get involved in huge messes, they escape using their vast knowledge of history and archeology, demonstrating that it is OK for kids to be both goofy and studious all at once.
Most of us have heard the phrase, “Laughter is good medicine!” When we laugh, physical changes take place that affect our internal organs. As we draw in oxygen-rich air our lungs, heart, and muscles are stimulated. Research shows that when we laugh, endorphins are released in the brain to produce a feel-good emotion. Laughter has been shown to boost our immune system and improve our cognition/understanding of a situation. Humor and laughter are important social skills and can assist children as a stress reliever when challenges present themselves. Laughter is a happy sound; easily understood in every language. It is one early childhood developmental skill that you can easily reinforce and enjoy while you are laughing out loud together!
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