Keeping the racial and ethnic composition of my school in mind, I have decided to develop my goal of improving reading comprehension, through understanding the relationship of various related facts, within a framework that includes characters representing a diversity of individuals. Generally, in the past, characters in popular children’s detective fiction have been white, both male and female. Even in recent years, students recognize Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and even the more modern Encyclopedia Brown as the detectives who ruled over detective stories aimed at the young reader. Though I certainly recognized these mystery works as worthy tools to use in developing students’ reading skills and as stories to be enjoyed by children of all backgrounds, I feel there is a value to exposing them to a wider range of junior sleuths. Seeing children of different origins solving the crime, being the hero, and just plain having the sense to take the facts and figure things out has to be a positive for all students, especially for those who do not regularly see themselves in such roles.
In most of the stories that will be the focus of my unit, a diverse group of young people cooperates to solve the dilemma that they have encountered. Though there is sometimes a clear leader, each member of the group has a positive attribute to contribute to the investigation. This conveys another positive social lesson that should serve students well. In some cases, such as with the Kooties Club gang, the junior detectives have taken the social ostracism they have received from other kids and turned it into a positive. This group of seeming “losers” has banded together, giving each other the support needed to develop their self-esteem and freeing themselves to utilize their individual skills. If friends give you positive support, you feel better about yourself and usually can get a whole lot more done, as students might express the idea.