My choice of student reading materials is
The Hardy Boys
mystery series. Although these books contain little ethnic diversity, some contemporary titles are set in urban America. Students must have the opportunity to read many books by a variety of authors in various settings. It is my goal that
students will eagerly follow these young characters as they solve problems and make discoveries about the world around them.
Bay City, New York, the home of the Hardy’s, is probably not unlike the New Haven of 1940 or so. Students can be led to discover the New Haven of old and appreciate its historical significance.
On the issue of moral responsibility, Frank and Joe Hardy and Nancy Drew provide ideal examples for the middle school student. Although these characters are teenagers, they epitomize the models youth: mature, responsible, intelligent, serious, courageous, polite and goal-oriented. With a job to do, they are never distracted by the lures of peer pressure and frivolous behavior.
Nancy Drew has long been considered the most popular girl detective in the world. “[She] manages the impossible feat of being wholesomely feminine—glamorous, gracious, stylish, tactful while also proving herself strong, resourceful, and bold, the most independent of girl sleuths.’’
Bobbie Ann Mason writes, “Not only is Nancy perfect, but she possesses the ideal qualities of each age and sex: child, girl, teenager, boy, and adult. She has made a daring stride into adulthood, and she also trespasses into male territory without giving up female advantages. Nancy’s adolescent readers may not know whether to shave legs and giggle to attract the boys they are discovering, or to join the boys games and emulate them to win their approval, but Nancy does both; Although, being pure, she gives no thought at all to romance—or, [blush], sex.”
Today’s adolescent needs vivid examples of appropriate moral behavior. They need to see that you can work hard and still have fun, be successful yet remain popular. The fact that Nancy is being raised by a single parent (father) can also serve as a point of positive identification for our youth.
Crime, indeed, does not pay, as is evidenced clearly in most detective novels, especially these series. There is a clear distinction between the good and bad guys. m e good guys are the role models while the bad guys are evil and ugly; and they are always caught and brought to justice. Glamour is not given to the criminal or the crime, but to the amateur detectives who always “get their man.”
These stories are exciting yet grounded in the logic of common sense. Children must learn to rely on their basic instincts and use intuition to deal with the problems they face daily. When you know right from wrong you can make the proper choices in life, and decide upon which path you dare tread.
I suggest the use of four books in these series, beginning with an early classic in each series and ending with a contemporary title in each. This unit will progress throughout the school year, one book per marking period.