Don’t you love that Pixar and Disney movies always throw in a bit of humour that appeals to adults? A couple of laughs make it more bearable to be sitting in that theatre, with your shoes sticking to the drink splattered floor and your elbows bumping those restless kiddies squirming in their seats. Transfer this humour to Children’s Literature and you’ve got a magic recipe. A giggle or two in kids’ books makes them more enjoyable to read again and again AND AGAIN to those eager little ears. And some humour helps you laugh along with your tween as you discus their latest read.
As you begin planning those summer vacations and afternoons by the pool, here’s a list of eight amusing books recommended from birth to teenager, which also appeal to adults. The audio book versions of the novels for older kids are a great way to pass the time on the road and let the whole family enjoy a literary experience together.
1) Hug, by Jez Alborough (Ages birth–3, plus adult)
This charming picture book is almost wordless, but manages to tell an adorable tale. My toddler is all giggles when I fake-cry with the little monkey protagonist and we both celebrate at the triumphant ending. A tiny story filled with joy, which my toddler asks for by name!
2) I Love You Stinky Face, by Lisa McCourt (Ages 1-7, plus adult)
This is a favourite bedtime book that will inspire chuckles for both the reader and the listener. A mommy tucks her little one into bed and reassures him that her love is unconditional and there is no situation that could change it. This tale lends itself to some goofy voices and has an enchanting message.
3) Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, By Mo Williems (Ages 1-7, plus adult)
My book club was talking about great adult books and some how this title came up. The energy level in the room immediately began buzzing as those familiar with this book started to sing its praises. In this great read-aloud, the bus driver takes a break and pigeon tries to fill in. The pigeon uses every bit of persuasion at its wingtips to attempt to sway the reader to let him drive, leading to audience participation and lots of laughs. If you love this tale as much as I do, there are more pigeon books to delight in. “Bus,” as my daughter calls this book, has recently been surpassed in my house by, “Hot Dog” (The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog, by Mo Williems), a book that, at 16-months, my daughter has already memorized and says along as I read.
4) Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, By Kevin Henkes (Ages 4-9, plus adult)
I love all the Kevin Henkes mouse books, but Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is our family’s favourite. This story resonates with me as a teacher since Lilly wants to be the best little mouse in school, but her new toys from Grammy prove to be a very tempting distraction. Lilly’s expressiveness gets her into trouble. Henkes accompanies his humorous dialogue with equally amusing drawings to elicit ear-to-ear grins from the audience.
5) Artemis Fowl Series, by Eoin Colfer (Ages 9-14, plus adult)
Artemis Fowl is a teenage genius, a criminal mastermind, and an entertaining anti-hero. He is involved in such exploits as capturing the police captain, who just happens to be a fairy, and standing up to the Russian Mafia. Fowl’s bodyguard, Butler, makes for a lovable sidekick. Artemis finds himself in the midst of all kinds of adventures and with his clever quips and charming demeanour, he endears himself to readers of all ages. There are eight books in the series, giving you lots of chances to laugh along with your kids.
6) Percy Jackson Books, by Rick Riordan (Ages 9-14, plus adult)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a series of five books, although there have also been a few spin-off series and supporting books created. At the beginning of the series, Percy is a troubled 12-year-old, growing up without a dad and struggling with learning issues. He soon discovers he is actually the son of Poseidon, the Greek God of the Sea. Percy is just a regular kid, thrown into the life of a demi-god and managing all the exploits that come with his new-found title. All the characters are very relatable and entertain with their own brand of comedy. The series is full of adventure and lots of tongue-in-cheek humour to entertain readers of all ages.
7) The Fault in our Stars, by John Green (Ages 14 and up, plus adult)
You wouldn’t think a story about teenagers fighting cancer would end up on a list of humorous books, but John Green writes in such a wonderfully engaging voice that the reader is able to laugh through the tragedy. The characters are startlingly real portrayals of teenagers, and they immediately work their way into the reader’s hearts. This book is difficult to put down and even more difficult to forget. The movie of this one is about to launch, so read it quickly before it gets swooped up into all that Hollywood glamour.
8) Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray (Age 16 and up)
When fifty teenage beauty queens crash land on a seemingly deserted island, the hijinks begin. This satirical comedy mocks beauty pageants, reality TV, advertising, and arms dealing, just to name a few. Couched in a plot of adventure and good versus evil, the ridiculous characters manage to learn a thing or two about life. This book is good fun and may even lead to some discussions with your teens about what people value in life.
Laughter and learning go hand in hand. Go on, grab a great book and enjoy the journey!
When I was a kid I remember the threat—don’t mess up or it’ll go on your permanent record! It was as if our transgressions as students would follow us around until the end of time, and that detention we got in Grade 2 would mark us for life. Obviously, this isn’t the case, but every student does have a permanent school record that follows them from grade to grade, teacher to teacher, and school to school. So what is in this mysterious file, anyway?
I can’t speak for other provinces, but I’m pretty sure that the record keeping is similar across Canada. I can certainly shed some light on what is in your child’s student file in Ontario.
English as a Second Language:
Other Things that May be in There:
Some Things that are Not Included:
So, that one time your child got zero on their spelling test? That will quickly be forgotten—at least by the school system. Don’t worry, that recess detention they once served won’t affect their college entrance. Oh, and do you want to take a look at your child's Student Record? All students and the parents or guardians of students under eighteen years of age have the right to look at the record and to receive copies of the contents if they wish. Just call your school and make an appointment.
If you liked this, you might also like: "Why Your Child's School Is Losing Great Teachers" and "Is Grade Eight Too Young To Make This Life Choice?"
So, I have been declared surplus to my school again.
This has happened to me many times in my years of teaching and I’m quite sure will happen to me again.
Good teachers keep losing their jobs, and it’s affecting your kids’ education.
Here’s the process as it stands in the Toronto District School Board. Every year the purposed enrollment numbers are released for a particular school. These numbers, based on current enrollment, new students entering kindergarten in September and the amount of families coming into an area with school-aged children, allow the government to give a teacher allotment to a school. “You have 526 purposed students and your school shall be allowed 26.5 teachers.” Although these particular numbers are a fabricated example and the formula is slightly more complicated based on Special Education students, socioeconomic groups and a few other factors, the 0.5 situation is very common. That means often full-time teachers are offered half-time positions and must find another half-time position at another school if they want to continue to work a full-time job.
Once that number is given to a school, the principal must cut as many teachers as required. In my school this year that means five teachers are losing their jobs. The decision about who has to go is based purely on seniority. There are no allowances made for teachers with specialized skills, nor are the decisions based on teacher performance. If you’ve been teaching longer than me, you will be saved and I will go.
I am far from a new teacher, but depending on the “career age” of the staff, I’ve seen teachers with 15 years seniority fall victim to the surplus. And so, once again this year, I have been declared unnecessary at my school and must find a new position elsewhere.
The process involved for finding a new teaching job is a lengthy, convoluted experiment in persistence and luck. There are three rounds of job postings that we must scramble to apply and interview for, often with hundreds of applicants for each job. Principals are required to interview at least five candidates, even though they often have a particular candidate in mind for the job. Just last week I sat outside an interview overhearing the principal offering the applicant before me the job. Clearly in that case, my interview was just to fill out the numbers.
If the surplus teacher is unsuccessful in securing a job at the end of the three rounds, they are placed in whatever positions are left needing to be filled. This means that the teacher may be placed anywhere in the large board and in any role they have the qualifications for. Which also suggests that many teachers will be unhappy with their placements.
And how does this affect your kids? Firstly, there is a lot of stress involved as the multiple rounds of hiring and subsequent placements take over a month to complete. Also, potential postings come out at 9 am on a particular day, meaning that teachers are trying to teach their class, occupy their students in a meaningful way, while looking at job listings and sending out applications. Interviews are held before or after school, which may require teachers to leave school early or arrive late. Interview times may also leave teachers scrambling for last-minute childcare, as is the case with me. Basically, during this process, a teacher’s mind and attention cannot be as fully directed towards the class as it could be.
I fulfill a particular specialized teaching role in my school, as I have in each school I have been in. One part of my role involves a great deal of training on software that assists us in completing the mountains of paperwork that are required for special education students. A school provides release time (meaning they have to hire a supply teacher) for someone like me to attend a multitude of trainings and workshops. It is unfortunate when that person (um, me!) becomes surplus as the school then has to complete the training process all over again with the new person in the role. Clearly, it would be better for students if the well-trained teacher could stay put, rather than having a revolving door of teachers who are new to the role.
In a Special Education classroom, I often work with students who are particularly sensitive to disruptions in programs and have anxiety regarding change and unknowns. Due to this process of declaring teachers surplus, many of these students don’t know who their teacher will be next year. Families are unsure how programs will run under new direction. The rapport that I’ve built with kids and families is lost and I start all over again in a new school.
There are some advantages from being moved around a lot. I have been been able to see many different approaches to education. I’ve met so many great teachers and been able to use several of their ideas in my own lessons. I’ve had to be flexible and a team player, as I’m often the newbie in the school. I have learned a lot and become an expert at handling change.
But, now I tire of all this turmoil. I'm tired of being told I'm unnecessary. It’s time for me to settle in a school and stay put for a few years.
I know that school boards need to use their employees effectively and ensure that there is an equitable distribution of teachers among the many students. I do think a strong case can be made to not have teachers in specialized roles or those delivering Special Education programs become victims of surplus — but then again, if my job gets saved it would just mean I’d bump the next person up the seniority list, so either way someone would lose their job. Maybe it would be fair to limit the number of times this can happen to a person in their career. There must be some sort of simpler, less time-consuming, less stress-producing process to make these changes.
In the meantime, here I am, blowing in the wind again, waiting for the dust to settle so I can get back to the job of good teaching. Fingers crossed that my skills and passions will be put to good use somewhere next year.
If you enjoyed this post and want to find out why Erin Chawla does this job see Why I Became a Teacher. To read about why she keeps on laughing throughout her workday see How Laughter and Fun Encourages Learning.