Remember Mary Poppins’ sage advice? “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down” and King Solomon’s wisdom: “A merry heart does good like medicine,” not to mention, “There is a time to laugh?”
Are you, like me, often so consumed with the execution of daily duties, you forget that life should have a bit of levity thrown in to keep us from taking ourselves too seriously? Think of how a silly movie can make you forget your pressures or how a joking friend can lighten your load if you enter into his humor and let yourself giggle.
Jesus said, “Unless you become as a little child…” and I note that most children have plenty of time for laughter, silliness, and are ready at any moment to bubble up with fun. When a mother recently wrote me to ask why her six-year-old only enjoyed reading “funny books,” I had to consider whether that is a problem. Perhaps that fun-loving boy is trying to tell his mother, so set on his loving to read, that if she could read him something funny, he might find the all-important book reading to be more palatable.
I grant that the library and bookstore shelves are well stocked, yes, even over-stocked, with ridiculous nonsense books that insult the intelligence of our children, but weighing our children down with only intense, serious, and purposeful reading is possibly not the only alternative. Children who need to gain confidence and competence in reading need to read—a lot, millions of words, but a steady diet of seriousness will make Jack (Or Jackie) a very dull boy (or girl).
May I suggest a series, because most children (and even some of their parents) love a series. The predictability of plot bothers young readers not at all, is comforting in fact, and a set of familiar characters who reappear in new settings and predicaments makes figuring out who everyone is an easier task. Though we may roll our eyes at the 34th paperback in the latest fad series, our children relish repetition.
Have you heard about Freddy? He’s a pig. A talking pig. Together with a menagerie of other farm animals, he solves crimes. Yes, and besides being a sleuth, he’s a newspaperman, and a poet, sometime banker and politician. The Freddy the Pig series by Walter Brooks is full of chuckles, giggles, and bursts of laughter as Freddy dashes from one tight spot to the next. The characters are true-to-life, yet far-fetched enough to keep the reader from getting too analytical. Begun in the 1920’s, the series remains popular and many titles have been reprinted through the decades. (Believe it or not, there’s even a fan club called the Friends of Freddy Society). Freddy is loyal, hardworking, creative, ingenious. And lovable.
I have read Freddy the Detective with my children, and recently, after a season of intense deadlines and pressures, picked up Freddy Goes Camping and found just the “spoonful of sugar” to lighten my mind. The books are full of worthwhile life lessons your children will absorb incidentally as they cackle their way through the ridiculous and heart-warming adventures of this endearing pig.