Program promotes reading through forensic science

"Get a Clue!" program integrates crime solving and reading
Friday, July 6, 2007 | 2:07 p.m. CDT; updated 3:23 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
Amber Stocker, 8, left, and Jordan Smith, 8, compare fingerprints on file with an enlarged picture of the fingerprint found at the crime scene where Mr. Owl was stolen. CSI Kids, part of the summer reading program, is an event coordinated by the Boone County Regional Library. Each year library staff use a new theme to introduce kids to reading. After this event, many kids checked out detective books.

Mr. Owl had been stolen from the Columbia Public Library, and it was up to 20 kids in latex gloves to solve the case.

This was the scene today at the library, where participants of the summer reading program “Get a Clue!” had to solve the case of the missing library mascot. The crime scene science event was planned by library associate Brandy Sanchez, who thought kids would enjoy the investigation.


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“It’s a popular topic and job path right now,” Sanchez said.

Local children seemed to agree. There was a waiting list for the event, which took place in two different time slots today.

Jordan Smith, 8, chose to attend the event when he saw it in the summer reading pamphlet.

“I heard it was pretty cool, and I like spy things,” Jordan said.

Each child had suspicions about who would have stolen Mr. Owl. Nick Lowery, 8, explained why it was Regina Reading, one of the three main suspects with literature related names.

“If you look here,” he said, holding her fingerprint to the light, “it matches the one at the scene.”

Jordan, on the other hand, suspected Bonnie Bookmark.

“She looks mischievous,” he said.

The “Get a Clue!” summer reading program has been overwhelmingly successful, Sanchez said. Enrollment has already exceeded the numbers from last year, with 2,500 kids reading detective and mystery-themed books. At the end of the program last year there were 2,400 children registered.

The idea for this event, which Sanchez said has been in works since the spring, was also taken out of a book, “Crime Scene Science Fair Projects.” In each child’s case file Sanchez placed briefings, suspect information and instructions on making their own fingerprints, shoe prints and ink analyses at home.

Although parents were on hand to help solve the crime, Bonnie Hammond, mother of Caroline, 12, and Katherine, 9, said she was confident her children would solve the crime on their own.

“The library does a good job of gearing events towards the correct age group and then letting them explore,” Hammond said.

In the end, it was the fictional Regina Reading who wrote the ransom note and left her fingerprint at the scene. She also left a suspicious footprint in the garden.

“It wouldn’t take a genius to find that out,” Nick said after solving the crime.

Sanchez said incorporating science with literature draws readers who wouldn’t usually be interested, especially young boys.

“It makes it all worth it to introduce them to books they wouldn’t know they liked, or even a career path they didn’t know existed,” she said.

The “Get a Clue!” program ends Aug. 17. For more information, go to the library’s Web site,

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