Jokes promote reading? Wait, are you joking?

 By Anita Haller, Children’s Services senior librarian at Southeast Regional Library

Why did the singer climb the ladder?  Because she wanted to reach the high notes.

That joke was one of many shared recently at Southeast Regional Library’s Joke Fest. It was all laughter and fun for the 60-plus children and parents, but to me it was also about literacy skills.

Where is a book’s favorite place to sleep?  Under its covers.

So how can humor be about reading skills? Ask Rhanda Hardee, my counterpart at Greenfield Elementary school. Each month I attend the school’s advisory council meeting as part of the partnership between Jacksonville Public Library and the Duval County schools. I recently began discussing the value of humor for all readers, but particularly for reluctant readers, and my idea to begin a Humor Festival at JPL. Hardee, school library media specialist, was very supportive. She will tell you that at her school “joke books are hot items.”

What has four eyes but can’t see?  Mississippi.

So we collaborated. Hardee and I created the idea of a Joke Fest to kick off a month of humor. Hardee recruited 10 students (we call them Joke Masters) who reviewed dozens of books to select jokes for the event. They practiced at school and learned presentation skills, such as hand gestures and eye contact. Without knowing it, they were practicing reading fluency and critical thinking skills. Because everyone can relate to humor, the learning was all fun. In fact, the children enjoyed it so much that they want to make it an annual event.

Jokemasters for blog
Student Joke Masters from Greenfield Elementary School and Rhanda Hardee, school library media specialist.

Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road?  Because it didn’t have the guts.

That was a joke presented by Jasmine, a fifth grader at Greenfield. She and the other Joke Masters stood before the group and shared several jokes. When they were finished, children from the audience—sometimes with a parent for reading help—pulled a joke from a fancy joke box, created by Carisia Rooney, library associate. Children of all ages participated.

Joke Fest for blog
Library Director Barbara Gubbin and Jacksonville City Council President also joined the fun.

What do you call the tallest building?  A library of course; it has the most stories.

Trying to get your kids away from texting and their phones? Try a joke book. They may even have the urge to talk with their friends. Vijay, a fourth grader at Greenfield, loves to share jokes. “When I hear a joke and I think it’s funny,” he said, “I want to share it with other people.” Here’s one he shared:

Will you remember me in a minute?  In a day?  In a week?  (Audience response to all: Yes.)

Knock Knock.  Who’s there?  I thought you said you would remember me?


My Top 10 Favorite Joke Books for Children

  1. ABC School Riddles by Susan Joyce
  2. ABC Nature Riddles by Susan Joyce
  3. Just Joking 2: 300 hilarious jokes about everything, including tongue twisters, riddles, and more! by the National Geographic Society
  4. Reading is Funny! : Motivating kids to read with riddles by Dee Anderson
  5. Simms Taback’s Great Big Book of Spacey, Snakey, Buggy Riddles by Katy Hall
  6. You Must Be Joking, Two! : Even cooler jokes, plus 11 1/2 tips for laughing yourself into your own stand-up comedy routine by Paul Brewer
  7. Happy birthday to Whoo? By Doris Fisher
  8. Over the top clean jokes for kids! By Bob Phillips
  9. Math Potatoes : More mind-stretching brain food by Greg Tang
  10. You Must Be Joking! : Lots of cool jokes by Paul Brewer

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