Trent, one of my preschool pals, couldn’t stop giggling as he told me this gem, “So, a horse walks into a bar and the bartender says, ‘Hey, why the long face?’” Kids love good jokes – and they don’t seem to mind the bad jokes, either! Joke books are perfect for early and reluctant readers because:
1. Jokes are short.
2. You can flip through pages instead of reading sequentially so the thick books aren’t intimidating.
3. Humor makes them intrinsically motivating.
4. With “knock, knock” jokes, kids can already read some of the most important words (and you can use them for a great mini-lesson on those letter-sound combos of kn and wh.)
5. Joke books build Fluency and hit Range of Reading (two CCSS with one stone!)
My latest favorite joke book is Knock, Knock! illustrated by fourteen artists and published by Dial Books for Young Readers. Each artist chose a different “knock, knock” joke to illustrate. The repetition of words like “knock, knock” and “who’s there” plus the clues from the art make this book one most kids can read successfully, especially if you read it aloud first and let students guess what the punchlines to the jokes will be.
Rereading joke books in order to learn the jokes for future telling is probably the most fun way to build reading fluency. Make Knock, Knock! and other joke books available during choice reading time, then give your budding comedians a set time to tell jokes. This can be a one-time laugh-fest, or an ongoing event in your classroom. I liked to claim the end of the day as “Open Mike Time”. If students could gather their belongings and prepare for departure quickly, we’d have time for an “open mike” session where kids could come to the front of the room and tell a joke. This encouraged kids to get ready without dawdling, and for those who liked joking all day long, I could say, “Suzy, we won’t have time for Open Mike if we don’t use this time wisely.” Suddenly, being a class clown (at the appropriate time) is a good thing!