About ten years ago I wrote a short book called GETTING BOYS TO READ.  I filled it with a number of suggestions to get your reluctant reader child, particularly if that child was boy, to pick up some reading material and, without realizing it, practice reading. My motivation for writing the book was that a poor reader was at a tremendous disadvantage not only in school, but in finding their way to success as an adult. And my premise was that it did not matter what the child read—instructions for playing a video game, an advertisement for a Harley Davidson motorcycle, or a comic book was just as valuable( and maybe more so than a piece of fine literature such as War and Peace or Moby Dick).  The point was to practice reading—practice makes for proficiency exactly the way shooting thousands of baskets, or pounding out endless piano scales makes for expert s in those prospective fields.

 I proposed that if you could not pry your teenager away from the TV then sign up for close captioning and disable the sound on the TV.

Some of the strategies I suggested may not apply today. For instance, I proposed that if you could not pry your teenager away from the TV then sign up for close captioning and disable the sound on the TV.  If your boy(or girl) wants to watch TV then they will have to read as well.  I suspect  that in this new digital age the TV deprived child will simply turn to their tablet or phone and do a run-around their parents best intentions.

Years ago I was in the audience to hear a panel of children explain how they selected the reading material they consumed. One girl said she read what interested her and defied her mother’s best intentions to shove fine literature “down her eyes”.

I had a mother like that, she was a librarian and was always bringing home books she loved, and thought that naturally I would too.  And sometimes she was right. Treasure Island is still one of my favorite books, but for the most part I read what interested me. That included two newspapers  everyday, Mad Magazine, assorted comic books and anything that had to do with the weird and strange in a world I thought could use a little more excitement than my everyday life in suburbia.

What did I get out of picking out what interested me most?  One giant thing: The ability to read effortlessly.  I remember the years my son was mastering the saxophone.  Every so often he’d get to a place where he’d be ready to give up because the next step just seemed too hard. But by persevering he got over the hump and found waiting on the other side the ability to really have fun playing the instrument. After that, practice was fun and he soon became so proficient he began winning awards and even spent a year at the top music college in the country.  So, I encourage any parent who wants to turn their child from a reluctant to an enthusiastic reader to make sure he or she has access to material that interests them.  Start by getting them subscriptions to magazines in their field of interest—you will find there is pretty much something for everyone. One of my favorites that I gave as gifts to friends kids was to a magazine called Fortean Times. It is full of weird and strange—and true stuff.  Look it up online.

Attached is a pdf of my Getting Boys to Read – it is also will be helpful to girls—as I can’t emphasize enough that reading takes practice and if you get your children reading for pleasure they will soon become proficient readers  and, trust me, they will thank you for it.  And no doubt  you will thank yourself as well for nurturing a literate child equipped for success in this increasingly competitive and complicated world.

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Class Clown Academy – CHENGDU



Stephen Mooser conducting  a brain storming session with current class clowns in Chengdu China about some exciting new ideas for the CCA website.


These Bookworm Literary Festival Attendees. Were asked whether they wanted a full length feature film version of Farts and You the reaction was immediate and enthusiastic.


interviewed by China Daily, country’s biggest paper. 100 million circulation.


Class Clown Academy – Beijing Part 2



CCA goes to China! Class Clown Academy at work in Beijing. Author Stephen Mooser is trying to explain why Class Clowns have fun with flatulence! It seemed lost in translation until they saw the CCA app!.



These Bookworm Literary Festival Attendees. were asked whether they wanted a full length feature film version of “Farts and You!” the reaction was immediate and enthusiastic.


Class Clown Academy – Beijing Part 1



Stephen met with a Chinese publishing house to discuss a translation of Class Clown Academy. Can a billion new readers be far behind? Or maybe a Hong Kong CCA theme park ?


WHOOPPEE!  Here is Steve outside The Beijing Foreign Language Institute. After 40 talks in Forty languages he recruited students for the Class Clown Academy fall term.


Class Clown Academy in China


Seeking new students for the upcoming term at the Class Clown Academy, CCA author Stephen Mooser was on tour in China. Many a chuckle and giggle all around with these great students!




At a fancy Beijing dinner Stephen asked these new Class Clown Academy recruits whether they wanted to attend the Academy for one year or two. The vote was unanimous for two!







Quick! What do a quarterback, a chess player and a comedian have in common? If you think at all like a quarterback, a chess player or a comedian, you will just have run a number of answers through your head, discarding most, but taking a second look at some of the more promising possibilities. Like a computer, you were sorting through your database in a race to come up with an answer before time ran out.

The very best quarterbacks—and by the time they reach the professional ranks there are only a handful of them — have the ability within a few seconds to look down the field and determine where to throw the ball depending on the complex pattern unfolding before them. Like the quarterback, the chess master looks at the board and determines where to move in order to optimize the chance of coming out on top somewhere down the line.

I don’t believe that some people are born funny and some are not.

And so how does the comedian fit in with this company of insightful, quick thinking superstars?  Quite comfortably, I believe.  Did you ever notice that your funny friends often don’t seem to be paying very close attention to the conversation?  Perhaps they could be just bored or distracted, but more likely they are frantically running snappy, funny comeback lines through their head. Like the quarterback who must release the ball before getting sacked, the joker in your group is shuffling comedic possibilities through his or her head before the conversation switches to another topic and the opportunity for a laugh has dissipated. What I’m trying to say here is that a child who develops a sense of humor, usually through lots of hard work, practice, and, a lot of bad jokes and groans along the way, is going to come out of the experience not only with a great social skill, but more importantly with a lightning quick mind that can read an audience and throw them a punch line as smoothly as the quarterback threading a football between two defenders and into the hands of the receiver in the end zone.

I don’t believe that some people are born funny and some are not.  Everyone has the potential to become the next great class clown, which is where, of course, most comedians got their start. But, like any skill whether math, music or mime, competence requires encouragement first and foremost and then desire on the behalf of the pupil.

The encouraging part is easy. You probably already are doing it with a newborn whether making funny faces, tickling a tummy, or laughing a lot yourself, particularly at cute and/or funny things your child is doing. Laughing is a visible sign of happiness, and, by the way, science has shown that happy people lead longer, healthier lives.

The one rule you want to follow whether working with a two year old or a twelve year old is that it is not funny to make a joke at someone else’s expense.

By year two your child is already laughing at a few simple things such as slapstick comedy, funny pictures in a book, or noises they might make themselves or hear others make.  Again, reinforce their laughter with laughter of your own or words such as “That’s funny!” The one rule you want to follow whether working with a two year old or a twelve year old is that it is not funny to make a joke at someone else’s expense , or to use humor in a way that is derogatory based on race or gender or other ethnic or personal traits.

As the child matures they will be able to master a few simple jokes and riddles—knock-knock jokes and simple riddles such as “What do you call a snowman with a sun tan—a puddle!”

The big leap in developing a sense of humor comes around seven or eight when kids can begin to make jokes involving puns—what is the saddest fruit? A blueberry!


Puns involve word play, and the ability to be funny makes a quantum leap for the child who understands that twisting words can elicit laughs—and is the first introduction to that place where the mind races about selecting just the right word, or turn of phrase.

Finally, a child, or young adult who has already experienced the joy of entertaining friends and families and strangers will, like the budding musician or magician, happily take it on their own to master their skills.

For the newly minted comic that means going to school by watching other comedians, funny movies and TV shows and by taking simple stories, including funny things that may have happened to them, and writing, and re-writing those adventures in their head until they have what amounts to a short comedy routine complete with a compelling set-up and satisfying (and hopefully very funny) punch line.

So, it is really quite simple: Encourage laughter and word play and you will be molding a smart, funny, self-confident child.  Not only that, you will be making the world a happier place.




One thing I believe all class clowns love is a true, weird story. Just because you are a Class Clown does not mean everything has to be a joke.  Everything, though, should be fun and entertaining. There is nothing better than getting a bunch of likes to something you post online. And even if you are not online there is still a way to get something you say liked—and that is to get someone to share a story you told. Here is a story, a true story, I have told many times. I know the story has been told and retold by people because every once in a while someone tells it to me, and I’m pretty sure they heard from someone who heard it from someone, who heard it from me.

Anyway, I once wrote a book called The Man Who Ate a Car and Tons of Other True Stories (look it up).  Here’s the story—and I bet you’ll end up telling it to some of your friends.

It took him four years to do it—but he did it! He ate the whole thing…


In 1970 a man named Leon Sampson, who was a strong man in an Australian circus won a bet for $20,000 by eating a car, a real car. I’m guessing it wasn’t a giant pick-up, but something more like a little Volkswagen. And he did not eat it all at dinner one night. It took him four years to do it—but he did it! He ate the whole thing, the tires, the motor, the door, the windshield, the seats, the radio—the entire car!  I’m pretty sure he didn’t eat anything that would poison him like the battery or the oil, but everything else went into his stomach. Here is how he did it: he ground everything up into tiny pieces, some not much bigger than a grain of sand or a pile of dust. Then he would mix it into his soup or mashed potatoes.  And, after four years the car was eaten and he was $20,000 richer. He also became famous. So famous, in fact, that someone bragged he was going to do something even more amazing—he was going to eat a school bus!  Whether he did or not, I don’t know. But I do know that Leon Sampson ate that car—and now, you know it too.


A Different Perspective on Seeing Your Students — A Suggested Resource from Dr. Kralovec on Class Clowns



Dr. Etta Kralovec is Associate Professor of Teacher Education and Director of Graduate Teacher Education at UA South. She holds a doctorate in philosophy from Teachers College, Columbia University.

I am back from Finland and will be ready to share that experience soon. For now, I wanted to share this new project on the Class Clown. I know that we all have had class clowns in our rooms and they are very hard for new teachers to deal with. This new book and Class Clown App is worth looking into and sharing with the class clowns in your classrooms. The short statement below on class clowns is written by Stephen Mooser, the author of over 60 books for children including his latest title, Class Clown Academy, the basis for his Interactive online school. For more information, go to:


From Stephen Mooser:

If you search for “Class Clown” online, what comes up most often are teacher strategies for dealing with disruptive students. You’ll also discover plenty of amateur psychologists diagnosing the range of mental illness from which these clowns surely suffer, starting with ADD and ending with schizophrenia. A disruptive student, prancing around the room making faces, poking their fellow students, throwing things, or shouting at the teacher is not a class clown–it is a disruptive student with some serious problems.

First, they happen to be funny and can’t help themselves.

A real Class Clown, as the name implies, is someone who is funny and makes people laugh-hopefully not at another student’s, or the teacher’s, expense. From my experience as a class clown throughout my elementary and middle school years, and of talking to others who have also held the position, there are a number of very good reasons why someone would take on the role of class clown . First, they happen to be funny and can’t help themselves. Most likely they have spent much of their spare time perfecting the craft of telling a joke, posing a riddle or twisting a pun. He or she is no different than the boys and girls who master video games in their room, or the ones who draw in class all day, doodling their way toward a career in art.

But there is another reason kids become class clowns. It is very often a defense against bullying or social ostracism. Stories of how and why a Class Clown learned his or her trade are not hard to find. All you have to do is skim through the biography of any comedian, and you’ll discover, most likely, their first gig was working the room in the third grade. Humor not only makes you a lot of friends, it can often disarm a tense situation. I am not necessarily arguing for special recognition of Class Clowns. Though it might be fun to put on a Class Clown Pride Parade down Fifth Avenue complete with a whoopee cushion band and a paper airplane flyover just to see what kind of a turnout we might get. And though we might want to petition Congress for some kind of non-discriminatory legislation I have my doubts it would ever reach the floor of the Senate or the House–this despite the fact there’s a majority of clowns in those chambers.

Seriously teachers, when it comes to class clowns the only thing I am arguing for is the same thing Rodney Dangerfield wanted for himself–just a little respect.

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