Solve the Mystery

Yesterday at my local drugstore I found a book of young adult mysteries. Seeing that the type was big and the mysteries were short, I picked up the book. I am always trying to find new ways to get my middle school-age children (two boys) to read. I have tried everything, even offering money if they will just sit for a half hour and read! Doesn’t work! These mysteries are only 2-3 pages long and kids have to solve the mystery. This book looked promising!

Last night when I read a few of the stories I realized how terrific an exercise these mysteries are for my “big” kids – my SAT and ACT students. Reading success on the SAT/ACT requires inferential reasoning. These stories might be for 5th- 7th graders, but they make you think about and look closely at the text. In order to solve the mystery you have to look at every word and search for meaning behind the words. I guess I am not a very good detective because I spent quite awhile trying to figure out some of the mysteries within the book. And, I had to utilize every reading strategy I teach. Definitely not easy!

When I teach a class on how to address the reading passages on the SAT, I always wear a detective hat and carry a magnifying glass. We all need to be detectives when we read! What I love about these mysteries is that they are the length of an SAT passage (slightly longer) and they are fun! Students (and my children) don’t realize that they are gaining strong reading skills; all they want to do is figure out why Peter the plumber is guilty.

I can’t say that these short mysteries will turn my children into readers, but they are enjoying solving the mystery and I am enjoying watching them go back and back again to the story in order to fit all the clues together. I recommend sitting down at the kitchen table and reading the stories as a family. Make it into a game – the first person who solves the mystery gets a cookie!

Books: Five- Minute Mini-Mysteries – Stan Smith

Kids’ Whodunits: Catch the Clues! Hy Conrad

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