Parent Guide to Book Genres: Mystery, Detective, and Spy Fiction

Empower your child with whodunits that will keep him turning the pages.
Nov 28, 2012



Parent Guide to Book Genres: Mystery, Detective, and Spy Fiction

Nov 28, 2012

Plot-driven tales of intrigue are great for building a habit of reading, since most kids will have a hard time putting down a well-constructed story until they find out what happens. Allow your child's preference for contemporary, historical, or fantasy books to guide his choices toward topics and characters that will fascinate him.

Why They're Worthwhile
Due to their suspenseful nature, high-quality mysteries keep readers' brains constantly working to decode and analyze the events. This active reading will prepare your child not only for future pleasure reading, but tackling textbooks, nonfiction, or even the newspaper!

  • Talking the Talk
    Engage your child as much as possible while he's reading the book. Ask her questions: What do you think will happen? Who seems suspicious? Compare what's going on to current events where relevant. After each chapter or section, ask her to guess what's going to happen. When she finishes the book, compare what she thought would happen with the actual outcome.
  • Beyond the Books
    Mysteries offer many ways to keep your child thinking about the story. Try one of these options to explore it further:
    • For books based on actual characters, objects, and events, give your child the tools to delve further into what inspired the story. For example, Chasing Vermeer is a tale of two kids trying to figure out who created a painting. Get a book about Vermeer and look further at his paintings. Or even go to see an actual Vermeer painting!
    • Create a simple problem for your child to figure out, and see if he can do it by employing techniques he learned while reading. Tell her that you're thinking of a particular object or person and play a game of 20 questions — where you can only give yes or no answers — to test her detective skills.
    •  If there's a current mystery or detective case going on in your area, challenge her to set up a detective notebook to track what's happening in the newspaper.
    • Engage your child with fun sleuthing crafts and activities. Build a time capsule, write secret messages in various ways, such as through sign language or invisible ink, and learn to create and crack codes using different methods like online games, Morse code and code books - encourage her to come up with her own codes too.    

Top Titles to Try

Start building your mystery bookshelf with these standouts - from 

For younger readers:

For older readers:

Lesser-known Wonders


For younger readers:

For older readers:


Problem Solving
Reading Comprehension
Logic and Reasoning
Guides to Reading
Critical Thinking
Age 13
Age 12
Age 11
Reading Response
Drawing Conclusions and Making Inferences
Independent Reading
Content Area Reading
Codes, Messages, Signs
Literary Criticism and Analysis
Reading for Pleasure