An initial list of some other mystery or detective fiction by African American authors is attached to this unit. It is important that a good number of the "right" books are available to students. Teachers who will use this unit are encouraged to build a classroom collection of 20 to 25 disposable volumes, along with magazines. These volumes should provide a wide variety of subject matter and, should students so desire, they should be encouraged to borrow the literature for reading periods in class or leisure reading at home all year round. A reading table with several issues of appropriate magazines with detective fiction can also spark interest. Teachers also are encouraged to put up at least one large-scale display on mysteries in the classroom, the library media center, or in the hallway.
It is important that the classroom have an array of books, magazines, newspapers and other reading materials involving the same themes for silent reading. The classroom teacher should work with the school media specialist to create a student bibliography of both print and electronic resources. While it will be worthwhile for each student to have a copy of this list for personal use, an enlarged version prominently displayed in the media center will benefit everyone, including other teachers. Setting up a bulletin board on detectives in the library may be a class project. It may be a boost to the esteem of the Advancement Academy students if movies of some of the titles were shown for an audience wider than those enrolled in the Academy. This might be offered in the after school program. All that is needed is the space and a TV VCR.
I encourage the involvement of the talents of other staff people. The teacher lounges and cafeteria are excellent places to demonstrate the excitement that reading mysteries can produce. For example, a conversation, although brief, regarding meeting Walter Mosley this Spring and attending a reading of a new work, a play was infectious. It created a different atmosphere in the small circle where it happened. We talked about something professional, rather than griping about the cafeteria food or whatever. This type of concentration and excitement on the part of the teacher generates a more cooperative spirit. The biology teacher may understand more fully the contribution his/her teaching and the use of the scientific method make to this unit and to the general education of high school students. In addition, the teacher may be able to practice openly the use of the Socratic method with these kinds of groups.
Others may actually conduct some of the activity for this unit in the school. For instance, a successful component of the 1998-99 school was a cooperative effort with Hillhouse's Career Services Center. Academy students began a four-year program, which focuses individuals on career exploration, choices and preparation. They took a computer-based survey of careers and their preferences, worked with practice employment applications and interviews, and constructed a simple resume. Career Services personnel also came to class several times to understand the general interest and on the school wide career day, the classroom visitors were especially selected according to these interests. They were a female police officer and a free lance news reporter with experience on the police "beat". This type of cooperation fulfills the state mandate to provide career exploration in each classroom setting.
I encourage any teacher thinking about using this unit to seek one activity in which the entire school, or several classes, can participate. These can be one of a range of activities from an entire grade attending the showing of a movie, to a scavenger hunt, to sharing the vocabulary. Walter Mosley lives in New York City. I met him in Hartford at a reading for a new play. The class might arrange and host a visit by the author. Such activities will confirm that any one in the school can use the general direction of this unit. It will make the Advancement Academy students very ordinary, not set apart from the others. At the same time, if a larger scale activity can be accomplished, the accomplishment will enhance the self-esteem of the Academy student.
I dare mention video and audiotapes of good mysteries. After all, this unit is essentially constructed to teach reading. However, good video and audio versions of the Mosley's stories and the works of other authors do exist and can not be ignored. It is paramount that the teachers guide students to supplement their reading with other media, not to replace reading. They use cassette players and television so much in their lives. Teaching students the difference between taking in the original written words and the interpretation of these words on tape or the screen is time well spent. The students can be presented with real examples of the differences between the actual words and the visual and audio images presented by someone other than the original author.