4 Reasons Why Mystery Readers Rock

by On February 19, 2014 in Childrens Books, General, Reading

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Can kids guess the mystery reader?  Credit: wintersixfour@morguefile.com

Can kids guess the mystery reader?
Credit: win[email protected]

Last week, I stood with my daughter outside her first-grade classroom, waiting with other kids and parents for the door to open.  But since it was Mystery Reader Friday, the kids were also busy staring at parents, giggling and speculating. Which parent was going to secretly wait outside while the kids settled in, then reappear at the door as The Mystery Reader?

On that particular day, the honor was mine, and I have to say, it was a complete blast.

Here are four reasons why Mystery Reader programs rock as a school literacy activity:

  1. The kids are so proud.  While our children may be used to us reading them stories at home, it’s a pretty cool different scenario when we’re Mystery Readers at school! When my daughter’s classmates figured out I was the Mystery Reader and began chanting “It’s Hope’s Mom!” my kid’s face lit up. When I read to her peers using my best animated voices, she beamed. And when the funny story we chose together (Simon James’ Baby Brains; Candlewick Press) had kids laughing out loud, my kid was over the moon.  “You were a-MA-zing mom!” she told me later. That’s a lot of emotional payoff (for both of us) for a simple 20-minute effort!

    Simple parent sign-up slips. Credit: fairydustteaching.com

    Simple parent sign-up slips. Credit: fairydustteaching.com

  2. Busy working parents have a chance to participate.  For many working parents, regular school volunteering just isn’t possible. That’s the beauty of the single, 20-minute Mystery Reader commitment. Many more parents will have the chance to participate in their child’s class in a meaningful way (presuming the boss will OK showing up to work a tad late one morning). Note, too, that Mystery Reader programs aren’t just for parents! Grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and even dear family friends can be invited to participate.
  3. High value/zero cost.  How great is it that such a special school activity costs nothing? Not one thin dime! Hope and I went to our local library to pick out two free, wonderful books. A favorite personal book is another possibility. From the teacher’s perspective, s/he has an entire school year of once-a-week morning reading activities lined up without having to draw down one cent of the classroom budget.
  4. Key literacy messages are simply delivered.   When parents or other important folks in a kid’s life show up at school as Mystery Readers, kids are sent some pretty great messages: Reading is special and fun, too. Books are cool. Making time for storytelling matters.

If your school doesn’t have a Mystery Reader program, why not make the suggestion? Consider sharing the link to this blog for inspiration, or check out this elementary school teacher’s Mystery Reader webpage.  You can also visit Fairydustteaching.com for Mystery Reader ideas and downloadable activity materials.


Diana is a sociologist, freelance writer and mom, though rarely in that order. Her writing spans topics from parenting joys and challenges to prevention education. She writes a monthly parenting blog for Yahoo and has published feature articles on adoption, family rituals and the childcare industry for parenting publications. Diana earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. These days find her hanging with her husband and book-loving six year old in the San Francisco Bay Area, while happily blogging and serving as a reading advocate for Bookboard.

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