You may have heard about the new Roald Dahl Funny Prize (I love that name) for works of children’s literary humor in the UK. If not, zip over right away and read this story in the online Guardian. I particularly like how this story ties children’s humor – which typically isn’t taken very seriously by children’s literature scholars, prize judges, and teachers – and literacy.

Lots of children – especially lots of boys in the middle grades – learn to read at least partly because they want to read books like Dahl’s and Dav Pilkey’s.

Here’s a quote from the story that I feel all of us in library land should read at least twice:

Moreover, humour is one of the best ways to make children into readers. Hence the source of support: Roald’s widow Liccy Dahl believes that not only did her husband think there was “nothing better than a row of giggling children”, but also that he longed for every child to be literate “and you can’t start them on Shakespeare”. Jokes are seductive. Rosen’s theory is that funny books liberate kids from their controlled lives – for the smaller ones by inverting what they know; for the older ones by puncturing teenage angst. And that the best funny books avoid improving morals.

It’s those kids, many of whom are boys, who really don’t want their “morals improved,” who are especially hard to reach, and who need to be told, “Hey, you can be literate and still be your cool and goofy self.” Although we don’t hear from Jon Scieszka in this British piece, I’m certain that he would be nodding along.

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