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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Whodunnit? Spring break mysteries

April 13, 2009

Both girls, Molly (8) and Anna (6), are obsessed with mysteries right now, and they spent most of their spring break tearing through several. It started awhile back when they stumbled into the Boxcar Children series. Since then, their reading habits expanded into the Nancy Drew series, the Capital Mysteries, and their current favorite series, A-Z Mysteries.

Mysteries provide great fodder for comprehension work. One has to read a mystery pretty closely and carefully to pick up on the clues (albeit they're fairly obvious in some of these). We've had more than one conversation that starts with, "I got it! I know who did it!" Then we talk through the clues the author gave us and the motive, which is a new concept for them. I'm not alone in my thinking — a Google search turned up Learning with Mysteries and a lesson plan for incorporating mysteries from Read, Write, Think.

We recently started a new read aloud called Operation Yellow Dragon from the Get A Clue series. It's a different sort of mystery book. It has one page of text on the left and a picture on the right. The text presents a hint for that page's unknown, and the picture gives away a bit more information. The page's title also provides a clue. Operation Yellow Dragon involves three friends who form their own detective agency and (surprise!) their summer beach house has a mystery of its own to solve. I think I like the book, although I find some of the clues a bit obtuse.

I've also got The Mysterious Benedict Society on hold at the library. I have a couple of friends who have read it with their kids and they liked it a lot. I think it's a bit of a time and effort commitment, though.

I'll likely have to use some read aloud strategies to help us through it, like think alouds and a directed-reading thinking activity (DRTA). We'll see if they have the patience and persistence to make it through!

Do your kids like mysteries? Do you have any good ones to recommend?


Thanks for the recommendation! I'm going to see if our library has any of the shelf.

My boys loved Nate the Great and Cam Jensen. I was an Encyclopedia Brown fan myself. And if your girls like Nancy Drew, you might try Trixie Belden. She's a little less perfect than Nancy, which always made me feel better.

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"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." — Mark Twain