Children’s mystery stories teach problem-solving skills and help youngsters practice rational thinking, which has practical applications in real life. As young readers think of solutions to a mystery and follow along with the reasoning presented in the story, they are actually practicing the techniques they need to understand and resolve their own real-life problems.
In Someone’s Trapped, a sports mystery for ages 8-12, three youngsters have problems to deal with during the summer soccer season, and one of the children becomes involved in an actual crime. When there is a series of thefts from the dressing room of Rebecca’s soccer team and she is one of the suspects, she realizes that if no one finds out who is responsible, some people will always wonder about her honesty. This is a serious problem for anyone of any age.
Rebecca Calls Upon the Viking Club Detective Agency
Rebecca (13) and two younger boys, Chris (12) and Jaylon (10), had solved a mystery together during a hockey tournament earlier in the year. They decided to form a detective agency and named it in honor of town’s Viking Sports Association for which they all played. The three members of the new Viking Club Detective Agency promised to help each other solve any other mysteries that might crop up, and then went their separate ways. Now, months later, Rebecca calls on her fellow detectives for help.
When they meet, Rebecca explains that two phones were stolen from her team’s dressing room, and the thefts occurred at two different times. She explains that while everyone knows she and several others could have taken the second, she can’t prove she didn’t also have the opportunity to take the first, which makes her a suspect.
Chris and Jaylon question her and they all make suggestions as to how they can solve the mystery and prove who took the phones. Together, they consider if the ideas that are presented are reasonable and, if not, why not.
Excerpt from Chapter Ten:
“How many people had an opportunity to take both phones. Who from your team was gone both times?” Chris asked.
“Mildred, the assistant coach; Kim, the manager; and the players – Janice, Tiana, and Tori.”
“So, why are you a suspect?” asked Jaylon. “You couldn’t have taken the first phone, only the second.”
“Yes, but I’m the only one who knows that. Matea said those were the only names she and Tiana could come up with that first time, but they know someone else could have left the field without their noticing—and I could have. No one was keeping track then.”
“We should be able to eliminate Tiana,” said Jaylon. “Her phone was the first one stolen.”
“No one searched Tiana’s things, I’ll bet,” said Chris immediately. “What if it’s a cover? She pretends her phone was stolen so no one will suspect her if she takes the second one.”
“I suppose that’s possible but it’s pretty twisted,” said Rebecca. “Tiana is without a phone right now. What would be the point?”
Children Learn Practical Problem Solving from Mysteries
The story isn’t just a mystery, it is also an illustration of problem-solving techniques. All the children contribute ideas about what might have happened, and they examine each suggestion. They explore the possible ways the culprit could be trapped and the possible outcomes of any action they might take. A kids’ mystery story demonstrates problem solving in action.
The suggestion that detective fiction and mystery fiction be included in a child’s reading experience has received support from respected educational institutions. This is an easy way to teach problem solving and your children will receive this benefit by reading age-appropriate mystery stories—and they’ll find them exciting and fun, too!
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