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Mystery Reader program puts the mystery into reading

New Richmond High School teacher Jason Eckert reads to a group of first-graders at Hillside Elementary during a Mystery Reader event at the school on Thursday, Nov. 21. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
911 Dispatcher Jason Jacobs reads to a group of children in a first-grade class at Hillside Elementary as part of the school’s Mystery Reader event. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

There are many different types of books out there for people to read, but there is always one thing that stays the same in almost every book in the world: a sense of mystery as to what is contained between the covers of a good book.

That sense of mystery is taken to a new level for first-graders at Hillside Elementary every time a new “Mystery Reader” is set to walk through the doors of one of the classrooms to read the students his or her favorite book.

“Before the Mystery Reader comes in, the students ask questions to get clues about the Mystery Reader,” said Hillside first-grade teacher Lindsay Jacobs. “When the Mystery Reader comes in they introduce themselves and then they read their favorite book and talk about why it is their favorite book.”

Not only do the students get a story read to them by every Mystery Reader, but they also get to learn about that person’s job.

“After they read their book they talk a little bit about their job and then the students can ask questions about the Mystery Reader’s job and also questions to learn more about the Mystery Reader,” first-grade teacher Cherie Lubow said.

Mystery Readers are chosen two ways: either a teacher at Hillside will ask the person if they would like to come in to read for the students or a person from the community might volunteer their time to read their favorite book to the first-graders.

“This is something we started new this year, because we wanted our first graders to see other people reading, including adults,” Jacobs said. “We wanted to get kids excited about reading.”

The idea to start the Mystery Reader program came from the Hillside teachers’ desire to show their students that reading can not only be fun, but that it can also be a way to learn something new as well as a way to travel to new places.

“We wanted our first-graders to realize that everyone reads, and to become great readers you need to continue practicing even when you are an adult,” Lubow said. “We also wanted to show students that different people have different types of books they like to read. We wanted to bring people from the community in as a way to show connection from people they might learn about in school, like firefighters, police officers, 911 dispatchers, teachers, coaches and doctors.”

Each Mystery Reader session lasts between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on the reader and how many questions the students ask. And with each reader picking their own favorite book to read, the students get a chance to hear something new at least once or twice a month.

“We try to have at least one or two Mystery Readers a month and we let the readers choose their favorite book to read to the students,” Jacobs said. “We usually have them go to one class based on who we set up. In the future, depending on the Mystery Reader, we may do it together so that  both classes can benefit from the Mystery Reader one of us set up.”

According to Lubow and Jacobs, upcoming readers scheduled to make an appearance as the Mystery Reader in the near future include a sheriff’s deputy, a newspaper reporter and an electric company worker.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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