Milford author uses humor to get kids to read
MILFORD — Bestselling author Alan Katz said one of his most rewarding experiences is when teachers say he has inspired children to have an interest in reading.
“I’ve had teachers come up to me with their arms around a kid, saying, ‘This is Bobby. He refuses to read but he will read your books, and we thank you.’ That’s what I love,” said Katz, 63.
Katz is the author of almost 50 books, and has been nominated six times for daytime Emmy Awards. Most of his writing is for children.
Three of his most recent books, which are coming out on Oct. 15, are biographies in a series called “Lieographies.”
While the books, recommended for 7- to- 10-year-olds, consists of made-up life stories of famous people, they also contain facts. They’re designed to get children intersted in reading, according to Katz.
Katz said the purpose of the Lieographies series is “not to fool, mislead or misinform them, but instead, to get them to read and be entertained by what they’re reading,” he said. “Hopefully, it’ll peak their interest and they’ll say ‘I had a good time reading. Now, let me go learn about these people.’”
The first three books in the Lieographies series are about Amelia Earhardt, Thomas Edison and Babe Ruth. Each of the books has pages at the end that include real facts about the subjects.
He said if he can get the kids to read, that’s step one.
“If you can get them to laugh, that’s step two. If you can get them to take their curiousity and go learn more, that’s great,” he added. “I’m hoping the kids who are reluctant readers will read the books and say, ‘That’s hilarious.’ Let me find out what really happened.”
Also coming out this month is a short story collection called, “Really Stupid Stories for Really Smart Kids.” It contains 20 short stories for children ages 7 to 11, and is publishing Oct. 6 by Running Press in Pennsylvania.
One of the stories is about a “smelling bee” instead of a spelling bee. Another is about a day when it snowed snowmen, with “a blizzard of snowmen falling from the sky.”
When thinking up creative ideas for the subject matter, humor was the key factor, Katz said. The stories are designed to make kids laugh, he said.
“They are really ridicuous, outrageous,” he said.
Katz has also written a bestseller — “Take Me Out of the Bathtub,” which has about 3 million copies in print since it came out 20 years ago.
He said he enjoys inspiring children to try writing.
When he visits schools, “I say ‘How many writers are in this room?’ Sometimes people yell, ‘One.’ I say ‘No, you’re all writers,’” he said. “The kids really get into it,. By the end, they say ‘I’m going to write a book.’”
Katz has made author visits to schools in about 30 states, from Montana and California. Since he has written that his favorite food is cantaloupe, the schools often “have an array of cantaloupe for me,” he quipped.
He has also written two poetry books. After reading his poetry, kids send him their poems, saying, ‘Look I can be a poet, too,’” he said.
“‘Of course, you can,’ I tell them,” he added.
Writing at 16
A native of Queens, N.Y., Katz lived in Weston for 26 years, and last year, moved to Milford. He and his wife Rose, who is a journalist, have four grown chldren.
He began writing comedy when he was 16.
At Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, N.Y., beginning at the age of 16, he wrote jokes for Henny Youngman, a comedian who was known for his Borscht Belt comedy and humor.
“I would mail him 20 one liners. He would circle three and send me a check for 21 dollars. My parents would always say ‘How do you know he’s not using the others?’ and I would say ‘You got to trust him,’ He kept buying the jokes from me all throughout my time in college.”
Katz is now a full-time author who writes for TV and advertsiging from home. Prior positions he has held include a writer for the Rosie O’Donnell Show.
“I would read seven newspapers on the train ride between Westport and Manhattan every day,” he said. “The show was live at 10 a.m. that day, with the material I’d written on the train.”
He’s also written for the Tony Danza Show, as well as the Grammy and Tony awards. He has written for Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite Online, creating TV trivia games, and was a creator and writer of the Wheel of Fortune Live Show.
He has written for theme parks, advertising, and animation.
“Once I did one thing, everything lead to something else,” he said.
He has also delved into nonfiction. His nonfiction books, which he wrote last year, are on science and technology.
“Each book has profiles of 12 people who invented things that kids definitely use or have access to every day — like the remote control, like the microwave, like windshield wipers. After you read the story about this person in an uplifting way, there are three or four pages of humor related to the invention.”
So, after you learn, you laugh,” he added.
Upcoming projects include a six-book series for young readers about a superhero substitute teacher called S.O.S. (Society of Substitutes). The first two books in the series will be released in January of 2021.
“Everybody likes funny stuff,” said Katz, with regard to his interest in writing humor. “If you can make people laugh or share a joke or write something that makes people have a good time, that’s very appealling to me.”
To read more about Katz, visit alankatzbooks.com.