November 4, 2014
A jester brings laughter and a love of reading to children
Peals of laughter echoed off the walls of Lenicia B. Weemes Elementary School’s auditorium near the University Park Campus as dozens of fifth-graders took delight in The Jester Has Lost His Jingle.
The children kicked off a three-week read-a-thon to benefit sick children — an event co-organized by the Joint Educational Project’s (JEP) USC ReadersPlus program.
The other organizer is the Jester & Pharley Phund for Reading Makes a Difference, a program sponsored by the USC Good Neighbors Campaign.
Weemes is among five schools in USC’s Family of Schools participating in the read-a-thon.
“When you’re feeling lonely, or sad, or bad or blue, remember where laughter’s hiding. … It’s hiding inside of YOU!” a woman read aloud, displaying the colorful pages of the book.
“It was a really touching story,” fifth-grader Erica Mozo said during the Oct. 23 event. “I loved the way she read the story and brought all the characters to life.”
The story behind the story
The reader was Barbara Saltzman, a former Los Angeles Times editor who shared how her son, David Saltzman, wrote and illustrated the story while battling cancer.
In 1990, David died of Hodgkin’s disease at age 22, shortly after graduating from Yale University. The book was his senior project. It tells the tale of a medieval court jester banished by the king when he can no longer make people laugh. Sent out into a hostile, humorless world, the jester hunts for laughter. He finds it in the most unlikely place — a little girl hospitalized with cancer.
After spreading laughter throughout the kingdom, the jester returns to court with the revelation that laughter is hidden inside all of us.
Read more here.