It’s a serious old business being a student these days – our children are more measured, tested, compared and ranked than ever before.

Hail then the teacher who can bring a bit of joy into their lives by reading them stories that tickle them and allow them to have a good laugh.

Late last year we were asked for a novel for a Year 8 class who had endured a heavy load of World War One and Third World empathy stories. We suggested Skink, No Surrender by Carl Hiassen – a funny, highly entertaining story with few “covert messages” or “measurable outcomes”. The verdict: the mixed gender, inner city class loved it.

We’ve recently had visits in New Zealand from British actor and author David Walliams, Dav Pikey (Captain Underpants series) and Stephan Pastis (Timmy Failure series).

These are hugely popular writers of low-brow humour for year 4 to 8 children, stories that entertain and amuse without attempting to preach, teach or beseech.

We also produce our fair share of entertaining writers, Joy Cowley’s Stories of the Wild West Gang celebrates the simple joys of a Kiwi childhood, and Vince Ford’s three Scrap stories, about the misadventures of a small stray farm dog, tap into our laconic rural side.

Laughter is liberating and contagious, but equally importantly, the sense of enjoyment leads the children to seek out their own books and up the rungs of the ladder to literacy. Priceless.