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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.

The "Mystery Reader" needs a book

November 10, 2009

My daughter's third-grade teacher does something called The Mystery Reader, which involves a surprise visit by an adult who comes in to read with the class. I'm the Mystery this Friday (shhhh...don't tell Molly!)

I'm looking for funny and engaging picture book read alouds for third graders. I've asked around my neighborhood and my teacher friends, and combed our own bookcases. I have a few ideas, but would love to hear yours!

Some possible titles are below; please tell me what titles have worked well for you! And, with our teacher's permission, here's more information about her "Mystery Reader" program:

The invitation and description

The reminder letter and request for clues

So far, possible titles include:

My fellow blogger on Page by Page, children's lit expert Maria Salvadore, gave me other suggestions, here are two:

  • Ever wonder what writing instruments do when their kid snoozes? Well, Tony finds out in Arthur Yorinks' newish book Homework (published by Walker). Richard Egielski did the boldly outlined and colored illustrations just right for sharing to a group. (This is the author illustrator team that won a Caldecott for Hey, Al, though this is a very different book.)
  • A chapter from a Gooney Bird Greene book (any of them) would read aloud well — and 3rd graders might enjoy recalling what life was in 2nd grade. My favorite chapter is in the newest book, Gooney Bird Is So Absurd (Houghton), in which Mrs. Pidgeon introduces the class — including the principal — to the fun of writing limericks.

Update 11/16/09

It was SO fun to be the Mystery Reader! The class caught me in the hallway as I was heading to the classroom, so there wasn't much of a "big reveal," but it was still tons of fun.

I ended up reading two books about writing: We started with Homework that Maria suggested, and then read Chester (that commenter Jaymie recommended - thanks Jaymie!)

The kids LOVED both books, I think Homework appealed more to the boys, and everyone loved Chester.

I almost went with one longer book, and had chosen Henry and the Kite Dragon, which is a book I still want to share with a group of kids.

THANKS for all your suggestions, both here and on Facebook. I really appreciate it!


I read The Giving Tree to my daughters 1st grade class and brought all the students apples and challenged them to give the apple to someone they lover and who may need it.

Thanks for the suggestions.....they were great (esp. Bad Case of Stripes)

Mindi : I did just that! Want to know my clues? Here they are:1. I read every single day. Mostly right before bed.2. I make really good spinach lasagna. And brownies.3. I have a sister who can make a very loud noise.4. I have four sisters and two brothers.5. One of my favorite books as a third grader was Little Women. My Mom always said I reminded her of one of the characters in the book.

What a great idea. Kids love a great mystery so I can see how that would be fun. Next time, before you go to the class you might write something up about yourself with vague clues, give it to the teacher to read and then have the kids guess who is coming. That would make a neat introduction. Thanks for the cool idea.

The Great Fuzz Frenzy makes a terrific read aloud! Usually the Mystery Readers in my classroom just continue whatever we are reading as a class, unless they have a specific book they really want to read. Hope you had a great time! The kids love listening to someone new!

Double Trouble in Walla Walla by Andrew Clements is fun. or Mystery of Eatum Hall.

My suggestion is: "The Bus Ride That Changed History" (subtitled The Story of Rosa Parks) by Pamela Duncan Edwards

How about Chester by Melanie Watt. The author is trying to write a mouse story and Chester hijacks the book with a big red marker. Very cute.

How fun, Joanne! Next time you're at school, swing by my room and feel free to peruse my books-- I have some great read-alouds! Help yourself! The one that first pops to mind is "A Bad Case of Stripes". (I'm in room 314)

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"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." — Coolio