Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Suggestions for Mystery Readers

Parents who sign up to be mystery readers in the classroom often stop by the library looking for help, which we are happy to provide (note: you are welcome to borrow books from the school library for your mystery reader visit and we can advise you on good selections - we also appreciate as much advance notice as possible). I hope the following suggestions will be useful!

You can check out my list of great readalouds to help you get started. This page from the American Library Association is full of useful information aimed at parents. Some books are ideal for one-on-one sharing but do not lend themselves as well to a group reading, while other books beg to shared with a large audience.

Once you've chosen your books, practice reading them aloud clearly, varying the volume of your voice, adding dramatic pauses and otherwise bringing the material to life. Make sure the book is a good fit for you: are you comfortable with any regional accents or dialects that come up in the book? Does the book genuinely appeal to you? (If so, your enthusiasm for it will shine through!) Do the rhymes scan well?

Here are a few tips for getting a great discussion going after you've decided what to read:

Look at the author's and illustrator's websites or online biographies (or check for notes in the book itself) so you can share interesting background information with the class. Maybe the book was inspired by a true story or the author lives locally or owns a dog just like the one in the book! These kinds of details really enhance the overall experience.

Prepare some open-ended questions to ask that encourage children to think on a deeper level (rather than questions that have a simple, factual answer), such as the motivation of various characters, why the illustrator portrayed certain scenes in a certain way, why the plot was resolved the way it was, and so on.

Consider the artwork in the book: what materials and techniques did the artist use and why? Picture books are a unique genre in that words and text together create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts; neither can stand alone. Ask children to notice the font: how does it enhance the story?

Being mystery reader is daunting to some, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to share your love of literature with an eager audience. Happy reading!

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