Argh — it’s a good thing to read, matey

If humor does for learning what a spoonful of sugar does for taking medicine, the pre-kindergarten through second-grade students at Paul Banks Elementary School are destined to be reading wonders. 

The school kicked off its 2015 readathon Monday afternoon with the theme of “Pirates — Seek Treasure in a Good Book.”

Hallway bulletin boards and school walls were covered with posters, decorations and informational tidbits about pirates, and a string of jokes to make even the most hardened pirate laugh. For instance:

Why was the private drafted into the NBA? Because he had an awesome hook shot.

Or how about: Why do pirates carry a bar of soap? So if they are shipwrecked, they can wash themselves to shore.

Or maybe: How much does it cost a pirate to get a set of earrings? A buccaneer.

Or more to the point of reading: Why does it take so long for pirates to learn the alphabet? Because they get stuck at “c.”

To further inspire the students to read, a play performed during Monday’s kick-off assembly presented the following scenario: Redbeard the Pirate — a lover of books with the dream of walking the plank and otherwise known as Eric Pederson, the school principal — and his sidekick Scurvy Gerty — otherwise known as Seanna Gunn, a Paul Banks teacher — are banished by the villainous Captain Scallywag to Paul Banks Island because of their love of reading. Their freedom, plus the fulfillment of Redbeard’s dream to walk the plank, will only be granted in exchange for a chest filled with Buckaroo Bucks.

Fortunately for Redbeard and Scurvy Gerty, Paul Banks Island is filled with book-loving youngsters who also love to read. For every 12,000 minutes read and a pirate question correctly answered, the students will move Redbeard closer to his dream of walking the plank. If 120,000 minutes are read before the readathon ends Feb. 4, Redbeard and Scurvy Gerty will be set free and Redbeard’s dream to walk the plank will be granted. 

At the same time, the young readers are taking reading pledges from family and friends that will be paid off at the end of the readathon and used to purchase books, and pay transportation costs for field trips, music programs and Beach Day.

“Families can participate by reading nightly with their children at home and helping to get pledges for their reading,” said one of the readathon coordinators, Paul Banks teacher Wendy Todd. 

“Learning to read doesn’t happen magically,” a handout on the readathon quoted from the National Council of Teachers of English. “Parents and teachers play important roles in developing young readers. Supporting a child is best accomplished when parents and teachers share common methods and basic understandings about the reading process.”

A little laughter also helps, as evidenced by the youngsters’ enthusiasm over seeing Pederson and the faculty and staff dressed as pirates during the Monday kick-off. The anticipation of witnessing the principal’s dream coming true also helps.

“The students will love to help Redbeard realize his dream of walking the plank. We will see if he makes that big splash come February,” said teacher Sally Burns, another of the readathon organizers.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at