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Friday, February 4, 2011

I Love to Read Clues

Thirteen years ago I was a stay-at-home mom, recently resigned from a reading/language arts teaching position. Nowhere in my mind was there an idea of going back to university life to become a librarian.

Our oldest son was in kindergarten, and I would have loved to volunteer in his classroom. My commitment to his two younger brothers kept me at home. Instead, I revised an idea and created a book clue activity for I Love to Read Month which I offered to the school staff. Three years later I would be the librarian at that school, and the book clues were a highly anticipated part of February's reading celebration. They still are, and today marks the end

It is a simple concept. I choose two books each week, one for primary grades and one for intermediate grades. From those books, I select a line or two for four days of the school week (usually Monday through Thursday). The lines I pick must not reveal names from the book but should give readers some hints for identifying it. They are delivered chronologically through the book (i.e. Tuesday's clues are found after Monday's clues in the text). The principal reads the clues during morning announcements. Classrooms combine their collective book knowledge to determine each book's identity and submit guesses to the library.

There is no reward other than satisfaction. (Note: Read Daniel Pink's book Drive for more on motivation and rewards). Yet guesses are delivered almost immediately after morning announcements end each day by beaming children! Most intermediate classrooms identify both books! On Friday mornings, the principal identifies the books and reads aloud the names of classrooms who guessed correctly. Cheers echo in the hallways.

Here are two from this week's books:
“It was wrapped in an apron of steam. Snowflakes fell lightly around it. A conductor stood at the open door of one of the cars.”

“They worked as fast as they could, but before they finished, Father came with another load of ice. He laid down another layer of ice cubes three inches apart, and drove away, leaving them to fill every crevice tightly with sawdust, and spread sawdust over the top, and shovel the rest of the mound of sawdust up again.

What would be your guess?


  1. OK, I think the first one's POLAR EXPRESS, but I don't know the second one . . . .

  2. Correct. The second is set in New York State and is about the husband of a novelist who once lived in Minnesota.

  3. Ohhh, I love puzzles! I got figured out POLAR EXPRESS, but I, too, and stumped on the second book. A novelist who lived in Minnesota...Laura Ingalls Wilder? Her husband? FARMER BOY?

  4. Ding! Ding! Ding! You're right, David! I love that book...especially when the children use all the sugar to make ice cream.

  5. Hooray! FARMER BOY and THESE HAPPY GOLDEN YEARS are the only two Wilder books I haven't read. I may have to remedy that now!