Bounce Back 3 – Escapism and Humour

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Sometimes the real world can just seem too much to deal with and escaping into a book can really help. I would like to share some more suggestions of books and areas of your bookstock that could support your recovery plans and ways forward for the next academic year. Again I hope some of the titles mentioned are available to you in school and that you are also introduced to something new. (Catch up on last week’s Bounce Back Blog here)

Reading for pleasure nurtures happiness and fulfilment as children escape reality and explore worlds that offer a deluge of experiences that can both enlighten and detract from the everyday and also give a degree of life perspective. Now would be a good time to remind children to lose themselves in literature, to seek refuge in reading by adding some literary quotations to your book corners or library walls. There are so many to choose from. If you have yet to discover this wonderful title by Charles Mackesy I highly recommend it as a source of comfort for yourselves and your pupils; it is packed with aspiration.

“Wherever I am, if I’ve got a good book with me, I have a place I can go and can be happy” J.K Rowling

Of course the value of the shared reading experience goes without saying but sometimes the solace of privately withdrawing into a comfort read is just what the doctor ordered. We all know Daniel Pennac’s ‘Rights of the Reader’ – one of which is ‘the right to escapism’ and another is ‘the right to reread’ so if children want to stick with their comfort reads – let them. For some it might be an essential coping strategy, whether they realise it or not.

If you are looking for something new to escape into our The Reading Journey collection provides a wide range of books in which children can transport themselves to other lands – go on an adventure in the Pagoda of Peril, blast off to space at the Intergalactic Launch Pad, mount an expedition in the Explorer’s Camp or dare to ascend the Spooky Steppe. The free accompanying app allows children to explore each land and choose which adventures they would like to go on from browsing the book jackets and first chapters and they can even add their own favourite books to their individual bookshelf. 

Fear of the unknown 

One thing children can’t escape from at the moment is the wearing of masks and for some seeing others wearing masks will be fun and for others it will be quite frightening. It is useful in an educational setting to normalise the wearing of masks. This can be done through exploration of jobs where mask wearing is normal practice. 

Research into the purpose and uses of masks in professions and the entertainment industry will provide knowledge and dispel any fear. Mask making is common practice in art and design. Use this activity to explore the purposes: protection or to conceal identity, practicalities and disadvantages of mask wearing: comfort and communication. 

This simple exercise will help to draw attention to how feelings are communicated when the mouth is hidden:

Hold a piece of paper up to your face to cover your mouth. Can you read feelings through the eyes? (this activity can be found in our Quick Guide to Polly Dunbar’s Penguin). As well as helping children to express and recognise feelings in others you could also use the opportunity to develop empathy with members of society such as the hard of hearing, who use lip reading as one form of communication. 

A selection of the titles from this blog can be found in our Bounce Back bookpacks designed to help support children through the current changes. Topics include Coping with Change, Cherish Our World, Taking Control and Containment & Quarantine (10 books in each set). Please email assistant@justimaginestorycentre.co.uk for further details and ordering.

Medical staff, scientists and cleaners are all mask wearers under normal circumstances.  If you are looking at the Second World war home front war you could draw attention to the issue and use of gas masks particularly to children. You may wish to extend the focus to superheroes (easily linked from medical staff at this current time) or when looking at festivals and cultural celebrations (carnival masks, masquerade, mayans). 

The Arts have suffered a great deal as a result of the pandemic. It is so important that children do not lose connection with culture. Ensure the arts are represented in your displays and where possible book sharing activities. A virtual museum tour will provide valuable cultural capital. You could create your own museum gathering together books around historical artefacts, areas of science and technology or art and sculpture.

The ‘Welcome to the Museum’ series offers some wonderful collections and there are many titles produced in conjunction with the British Museum, the Science Museum and the Tate. Linking the structure of the museum to the self can provide children with the opportunity to reflect on their family heritage and local history.

Surround children with art, theatre, music and joy. Here are three arts titles that have been reviewed by our amazing team of teachers and literacy specialists. You can search our reviews by genre, theme, subject and age to find more great books.

One of the ways we have nourished our brains over the last few months is through humour. Comedy can be a great source of comfort when times are hard. Obviously for many there has been a lot of heartbreak and pain through this experience and they deserve support and care but for the vast majority of the country being separated from friends and extended family members has resulted in boredom and loneliness and the tedium of a limited daily routine. Seeing the humour in a situation can diffuse tension and bring perspective.

If you are looking for ways to encourage those who can read but just don’t want to, you may be interested in our resource Ha Ha Boing – a bookclub that combines funny books with high interest titles to engage and enthuse those hard to reach readers. Here are some of the rib tickling titles included:

Curated Funny Forest collections for junior readers are full of riotous reads.

Reading Aloud

If you feel your class dipping a little. If you have had a difficult assembly, lesson or even a wet break and everyone is in need of some light relief, share a funny poem or even tell a few jokes – use a read-aloud opportunity to lift the spirits of your class. We recently received a film clip of a teacher reading a poem to her class, while they washed their hands – a ingenious way of ensuring they spend the required time, whilst benefiting from the read aloud experience.

Now is the perfect time to replenish your read-aloud collection and indulge in sharing your favourite reads with the class. Love for a book is infectious. If you tell your children that you really enjoyed a story, you are likely to have a waiting list before you have finished sharing the blurb. Have you tried our ‘5 a Day’ Read Aloud Challenge? Find out more by watching our Read Aloud webinar and more on the practical benefits of reading aloud in next week’s blog. If you subscribe to our Take One Book teaching resource you can play all our teaching strategy webinars via the website.

Just Imagine Director, Nikki Gamble and guest speaker Mary Anne Wolpert will be discussing humour and spotlighting some great titles old and new in our Online Exploring Children’s Literature Summer School, starting on 21st July.

Next week I will be looking at ways in which children can take control of this situation and at the practicalities of book sharing under social distancing rules.