Growing Reader

Delivering the Punch Line:
The Sheer Delight of Reading Funny Books with Your Kids

by Doreen Cronin

Photo credit: Cultura RM Exclusive/Jennifer Fey, Cultura Exclusive/Getty Images

Books are a fantastic parenting resource — and I don’t mean “parenting” books. I mean the books you read with your kids, books that are full of patience, humor, kindness, and wisdom (the kinds of things a mom can easily run out of by the end of the day!).

I write funny children’s books for a living — or at least I try. But here’s the thing: My kids, now 10 and 12, do not find me particularly funny. Don’t get me wrong, they think I have other endearing qualities, but funny? Meh. (I don’t know what they’re thinking.)


Funny takes time, at least for me. I need a shower, a cup of coffee, and some protein before I can be funny. And then I get to work. When I actually manage some humor, I’m usually at home alone, giggling at my computer. Of course, my kids aren’t around to hear my comedic gold, but that’s okay. I often have to write three or eight or twelve different versions of my punch lines before I get them right. I write them alone, say the lines out loud, go to the next page, go back, re-write more, edit it, and wonder what it will LOOK like. In those moments I’m like an introverted stand-up comedian, locked in isolation, maniacally re-writing, re-writing, re-writing. And even after all that, I promise you that a full one-third of my “humorous” writing comes back to me with a note from my agent or editor: “Not sure I get the joke here?” or “Could be funnier.” Back to the drawing board!

When I don’t have the time or energy to be funny at home, I just take funny off the bookshelf. One of the best things about funny books is that they can be funny more than once! My family has read Grumpy Bird, by Jeremy Tankard, no less than 300 times and we still laugh every single time. Just like good stories get funnier (and likely more embellished) over time, good books do, too. On the first read, there’s the newness. On the second, third, and tenth reads, there’s the joke you missed the first time or something in the art you hadn’t noticed before. Then you get to the point where you ad-lib on your own. My very different kids do grumpy Bird’s voice with two very different voices. When your kid knows a punch line by heart — and delivers it — it spurs a whole new round of giggles and guffaws. It’s priceless. But, now your kids have discovered that they’re funny on their own and they don’t need your humor. They will repeat that joke after you leave the room and maybe at school and definitely for Grandma. They are developing humor confidence — and that’s a big thing! It’s why kids love joke books. It’s not just that they like the jokes, but that they’ve realized they can make other people laugh too, all on their own.

When my daughters were younger, I would bring them with me to book events. They heard all of my books … a lot. The end result many years later: The phrase “click, clack, moo” can send them screaming from the room, yelling “No! No! Not that again!” (I don’t know what they’re thinking.) Lucky for me, when that happens I can turn to my steady supply of other people’s funny books in the house for our family storytime. Here are some of our favorite funny reads: