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Mystery reader program brings surprises to Viewmont second-graders

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Murray Police Chief Craig Burnett reads to Viewmont second-graders as the class mystery reader. (Jamie Cheney/Murray resident)

As a Viewmont second-grader in Susan Routledge’s classroom, students never know who may walk through the door to sit down and share a favorite story with them.

Parents, grandparents and neighbors have shown up to read to the class of about 25 students.

“I give parents a date to arrange a mystery reader,” Routledge said. “Many times it’s a grandparent who is visiting. The students don’t know when they’ll have a mystery reader come and when a mystery reader comes, it allows the child to feel so special.”

Before the mystery reader arrives, however, Routledge gives students three clues about the reader that have been provided to her.

“I encourage them to give me some suggestions that their children may not already know so it’s a surprise,” she said.

With a recent mystery reader, one of the clues was that he holds an important job in the city. 

Once students try to guess, then Routledge invites the student, in this case, Tymon Cheney, to bring the mystery reader from the school office to the classroom.

When Tymon returned, it wasn’t with his parents or grandparents ready to read, but with Murray Police Chief Craig Burnett.

“My son is fascinated with police officers and firefighters so I asked the chief if he’d be willing to come and he said that he’d love to,” Tymon’s mother, Jamie, said. “My son’s eyes got all big when he saw the chief. It was awesome and it gave the students a chance to see a different role of the police, more of a community helper and positive role model. He encouraged students to be good friends and to care for each other.”

Burnett said it was his first time being a mystery reader so he turned to his schoolteacher daughter for book suggestions. He read “Peanut Butter and Cupcake,” a book written by Terry Border about friendship. 

Then, he answered students’ questions such as how to be a police officer (study at school and work hard) to how many people has he shot.

“With 35 years on the job, I could say none,” he said, adding that 33 of those years have been in Murray. “I wanted them to feel comfortable around me and know that the police are normal people. I’m a father, grandfather, neighbor, friend and someone they can trust.”

Routledge said that often, like Burnett, readers tell students about themselves and their jobs so they’re being exposed to careers and meeting community helpers. 

“It’s an opportunity for the kids to meet new people. Often, it’s a great way to hear new books and be introduced to great literature. It also teaches students that their role models, who they love and look up to, love books and reading,” she said. 

The readers have ranged from school administrators to a chef with books ranging from one about Rosie the Riveter to a story about polar bears, Routledge said, adding that Murray School District Superintendent Jen Covington has agreed to be a mystery reader.

Routledge said she got the idea of mystery readers four years ago when she saw a clip art picture of a detective with the words “mystery reader.”

“I have no idea what their idea was, but I remember thinking I knew what I could do with this,” she said. “I love when people come into the classroom to support students and how it benefits them.”

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