Encyclopedia Brown Series
Accelerated Reading Levels: 4.0-4.8
When my older son, David was eight years old, he was a very reluctant reader. He was a good reader, but he would much rather be outside playing instead of reading (The opposite of his mother. My mom was constantly complaining that all I wanted to do was stay inside and read!). My husband and I searched for books to entice him, but we weren’t having much luck, until Encyclopedia Brown. David read one book and was hooked on the series! He loved reading one story or chapter each night and solving the mystery. However, we had a problem. We were living in a community with a rather small library, the Encyclopedia Brown books were extremely popular and the library had very few copies. This, of course, was long before the internet, Amazon or the ability to put holds on library books online. So we had to come up with another solution. We decided to buy the books for David, although money was rather tight.
To give you a little bit more background, let me tell you about our life in the 80’s. We usually didn’t buy gifts for the kids, other than for birthday or Christmas, so to buy books for no occasion was going to be a very different practice for us. We also didn’t give the kids an allowance, with the understanding if there was something they needed (not something they simply wanted) we would buy it for them. We didn’t want to give David the idea that we would buy anything he might want, so we needed to be creative. We decided to let him earn the books. I think back on this time with fond memories for so many reasons. First of all, my son was reading and loving it! Secondly, he actually kept his room picked up (which rarely occurred again!), carried baskets of laundry up the two flights of stairs and helped with folding the clothes. He even vacuumed! All of this was done, without a complaint. In fact, he was constantly asking for more chores, because he earned a star for each chore and when he had accumulated enough stars to equal the $2.50 price of the book we headed to the mall!
One reason David loved the Encyclopedia Brown series was that each book contains ten stories and each book begins the same, with an explanation about who Encyclopedia is. Therefore, the books can be read in any order, which makes it very easy when checking them out from the library or buying the book.
We learn at the beginning of each book that Encyclopedia lives in Idaville and his dad is the Chief of Police. Whenever, the police have a difficult case they can’t solve, Chief Brown brings all of the facts home and discusses them with Encyclopedia during dinner. Usually, by the time the family has finished their dessert, Encyclopedia has solved the crime! No one knows that Idaville’s great crime solving record is due to a ten year old detective!
Each story or chapter is a complete story in itself, which lends itself very well to reading one chapter each night before bed. And the best part about the books, is that at the end of each chapter, the reader is asked the question, “How did Encyclopedia know?” Then you are instructed to turn to the end of the book to check your solution. What a great extra that is! Not only, do the books motivate kids to read, but also to practice their problem solving skills!
If you have a reluctant reader, a mystery lover or a child looking for a new series, you might suggest Encyclopedia Brown. I hope you have as much fun with it, as David and I did!