The Importance of Humour in Children’s Literature discussed at SCRF 2019
Sharjah, 27 April 2019,:Alvin Schwartz, a noted American folklorist, defined Humour as the comic quality in a person, experience, or idea that makes one laugh. To children and adults, ‘comic quality’ can vary enormously. They can laugh at anything from trick conundrums to rude limericks to the sound of a single word – ‘knickers’ for instance. However, all these varied comic stimuli may provoke a humorous response, they don’t provoke it equally.
On the second-last day of the 11th edition of Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF), a session titled, ‘Humour in Children’s Literature,’ was conducted. Included in the esteemed panelists were Arundhati Venkatesh, an award-winning children’s author who writes about football fans and lunchbox looters; Mary Abdullah Matar, an author, translator and academic advisor for several schools in Lebanon; and James Campbell, a comedian and author who performs his comedy for audiences of children aged six and above all over the world.
“I wanted to be a writer when I was 7 years old, before that I wanted to be a duck but that didn’t work out well. For my Christmas gift I asked for a typewriter as my handwriting was really bad. By the time I was 20, I volunteered at a nearby primary school where I taught children how to do simple things from tying shoe lace to playing games. Eventually I began reading to them. After a while, I realized that I could make up stories and make the session even better – and that’s what I did. Before I knew it, I created a job for myself and got offers to do the same in other schools,” shared James Campbell.
Mary followed by saying, “My story is quite similar to James. When I was 7 years old I used to invent characters and stories and tell them to my brothers. It was my dad who initially instilled the love of storytelling in me. Today, my brothers still recollect the funny titles I used to conjure. I find that stories with humor are much easier to remember and can be used to highlight weird and ironic things that we experience in life.”
Sharing her experiences, Arundhati said: “We like to think that childhood is a carefree period where kids have no worries at all. But that’s far from the truth. I remember lots of difficult days from my childhood – my family used to move around a lot so I had to constantly say goodbye to my friends. I picked up humour as a tool to quickly make friends and accept my situation. As adults we use humour to deal with situations as well, from personal to political. I don’t write my books thinking that I want it to be funny, I write to filter through my own emotions and I have to enjoy the process myself. It’s only when I write from an honest place that the book truly resonates with children. They are very smart, if as adults we try to be preachy they catch on very quickly.”