When I started writing children’s mysteries, I did exactly what everyone tells writers to do: I wrote about what I knew. That’s why my stories place children in a sports setting, with hockey, soccer, and basketball as the sport of choice for the first three books in the series. My main characters always have a personal problem to solve and together solve a mystery. So, sports and mysteries are the backdrop for all my children’s stories.
My Goal is to Encourage Kids to Read and Inspire Hope
My goal in writing these books is twofold. The first is that the sports world is a microcosm of life itself and through sports experiences – good and bad – children learn how to cope with life, how to work together, and how to trust and depend on other people. I think it’s useful for children to read about each other’s predicaments and are inspired by the interesting solutions other children discover and use to deal with their problems.
My second goal is to encourage reading the best way I know: keep the child reading to find out “whodunit.” This was the strongest motivator for my hanging in there when I was learning to read, getting past those big words I didn’t understand and didn’t want to stop and ask about, full of faith that, in time, all would become clear.
The Sports Word Exposes Problems That All Kids Face
In these children’s mysteries, each of my main characters has to cope with or solve a personal problem, and I think involvement in the sports world exposes a variety of childhood concerns. As well, playing sports allows children to come in contact with a lot of people outside the family and the classroom who can influence them in positive ways. The stress of competition often reveals that adults aren’t perfect and children learn how to deal with those imperfections that affect them and their teammates.
Children can also be good teachers. They help teach attitudes towards winning and losing by their distain of “bad losers” and “bad winners.” Most children come to terms with what society accepts as reasonable reactions to winning and losing from their parents and coaches, but it’s important that they reinforce these behaviors in each other.
Even more important is the lesson that losing a game, a series, or a tournament isn’t a soul-destroying experience, which is a key lesson to learn for the game of life.
As well, children sometimes offer unexpected and very welcome support when they see one of their teammates suffering and, in this way, they reinforce kindness in each other, too. Sometimes that’s the best kind of support a child can have.
Spinning a Good Yarn is the Best Hook
If you want to encourage a child to read, never forget that every element in the book you choose must be subordinate to the spinning of a good yarn. The story is what it’s all about. When I was selecting a book to read as a child, personal problem solving was never my major interest – I liked the framework of a mystery. I loved working out the puzzle, and I wanted humor, excitement, and maybe even a little danger. Everything else was a bonus.
When you choose books for children, remember “the hook” – the element that keeps them reading even when they run into words they don’t understand. We all want to encourage reading and the best way to do this is to make it fun. Sports-mysteries are a good combination that can help make that “fun” happen.
Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Maureen Grenier and a clickable link back to this page.