Improve Reading Skills With Mystery Books

The suspense mature of whodunits makes them fun to read, but mysteries are also great tools for skill-building.
By Maria Minsker

Ages

3-13

Improve Reading Skills With Mystery Books

It's the suspense and delight in picking through clues that makes mysteries fun to read. But reading whodunits can also provide a child with powerful skills. Here are three big ways reading mysteries helps kids sharpen skills: 

1. Mysteries Are Big on Details

Was there a footprint in the attic? A sock left on the floor? Mysteries are full of little details that could prove to be important clues. Learning to pay close attention to such specifics is a key skill that readers will have to master to deepen their understanding, and it will make reading more rewarding for them, says Deborah Vriend Van Duinen, Ph.D., assistant professor of education at Hope College in Michigan.

2. They Make Kids Ask “Why?”
Mysteries are all about cause and effect. Recognizing a suspect’s motives is a big part of appreciating a mystery, and trying to figure out why a culprit did it keeps those pages turning. Even the most hesitant readers will want to get to the end to see how the story unfolds, says Dr. Vriend Van Duinen. Understanding cause and effect early will make tackling the concept in longer stories and novels easier later on.

3. Mysteries Encourage Re-Reading 
Nothing improves re-reading skills like practice, practice, and more practice. Revisiting a familiar text can help young readers build confidence, and it’s a lot of fun to go back and see what clues they missed. Plus, sometimes a story is even better when kids know how it ends — it’s almost like being let in on a secret!

Encourage your child to pick up a mystery — just remember, no peeking at the end! Here are three to try. 

3 Recommended Page-Turning Mysteries 

1. Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat — The boy detective who “likes to work alone” finds lost balloons, books, slippers — even a goldfish. A great introduction to chapter books for newly independent readers. For ages 5 to 8.

2. Alphabet Mystery by Audrey Wood — A colorful book that makes learning lowercase letters a breeze, this story tells of the disappearance of the letter x, who leaves the alphabet after realizing that he’s hardly ever used. For ages 3 to 5.

3. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin — Sixteen people are invited to hear the reading of millionaire Samuel Westing’s will. Who will inherit his fortune? And more importantly, who murdered him? Follow the will’s clues to find out! For ages 8 and up.

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