Comedian and TV host Jeff Foxworthy moves into the realm of children's books with Hide!!!, a picture book that reminds children of the fun to be had playing outside with only their imaginations. In our Q&A, he shares why getting off the couch is important, how his daughters inspire him and whether he really is smarter than a fifth grader.
Why did you decide to write children's books?
I had always had the idea in the back of my mind that I could write a children's book. When I started hosting "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader" suddenly every kid knew who I was. My daughters said, "Dad, if you are ever going to write a children's book now is the time." I thought, "Oh this will be easy." Then you realize you are working with a restricted vocabulary. It has to rhyme, be funny and make sense. And there is an almost musical rhythm to it. After about three days I thought, "No wonder Dr. Seuss is such a big deal! This is hard!"
Hide!!! encourages kids to turn off the TV and be active with friends. Do you think kids are more likely to be couch potatoes now than when you were a kid? How can we fix this?
We really didn't have the option of being couch potatoes when I was growing up. There were only three television channels and the only kid's programming was on Saturday morning. We always played outside until we could hear Mom calling us (not by cell phone but with her hands cupped around her mouth) that it was dinner time.
I recently read an article that said that children that play outside develop better problem solving skills and have a stronger ability to work within a group. But my generation, as parents, has been so overprotective that we have taken away many of those opportunities. I'm not sure how you fix it. Sometimes I think we probably stagnate our children's emotional growth by not letting them have some separation from us.
What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
I was always a big fan of Dr. Seuss. He didn't write for adults, he wrote for kids. If he had to make up a word to make a sentence rhyme, so be it. To this day you can't find many adults that can't quote at least a few lines ofGreen Eggs and Ham. They were books you read over and over again and they still hold up decades later.
Which five authors would you like to have dinner with?
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Jamie Leigh Curtis.
Fill in the blank: "You might be a redneck kid if….."
"All of your kisses taste like peanut butter."
Fess up: are you smarter than a fifth grader?
I've said that if they didn't give me the answers that would be the shortest show on TV. We often have celebrities come on the show and play for charity. The fifth graders were trying to talk me into doing it. I told them, "It's better if everybody just thinks Mr. Jeff is an idiot than to take the test and prove them right!"