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Are you a serial reader? Meet Dan Parks, the teenage detective

July 24, 2018 by cymaster

What’s better than a good story? Simple, a series of good stories! Just think of the immense popularity of TV series and the excitement you feel before buying the next comic book in a series. In our post about serialisation, Frances Mariani explains that it is not a new phenomena as it was the way Victorian authors published their novels: Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, Robert Louis Stevenson first published their most famous books in episodes.

Reading series in the English class is just as much fun, with one small but important difference. Just like your favourite characters in TV series, your students also get older, and it also means that their language and reading skills quickly improve. The series you read in the English class should not only be engaging for teen readers, but they should also challenge the readers enough for them to want to read on.

This is what the ‘Dan Parks series’ offers, starting at beginner reading level (CEF A1) through elementary and pre-intermediate levels (CEF A2), also suitable for B1 readers. The stories were written by Richard MacAndrew and illustrated by Giulia Sagramola and Lorenzo Sabbatini.

Read an interview with Richard MacAndrew:

The stories

Who are Dan Parks and Sue Barrington?

Dan is a young English boy, who likes to think of himself as a detective. Sue Barrington is a new girl in town who feels lonely, and Dan offers her his friendship.

Dan and Sue in Dan and the Island Mystery. Illustration by Giulia Sagramola. © Helbling Languages

Where do they live?

They live in a small English town, Steeple Crompton.

What adventures do they get into?

Dan and the Village Fête by Richard MacAndrew (Level 1 reader)
It’s the day of the Steeple Compton village fête and everyone is happy. Everyone except Sue Barrington, the new girl in town. Sue’s friend Dan is worried. Dan finds out that someone called Nemesis is bullying Sue and he decides to help. Who can Nemesis be? And why does he or she want to hurt Sue? Only Dan the detective and his dog Dylan can find out.

Dan and the Stolen Bikes by Richard MacAndrew (Level 1 reader)
When Sue’s bike is stolen one evening in Oxford, Dan decides to do something. He starts Oxford Bike Finders and soon lots of people are contacting Dan on the Internet with information. Then one day, one of Dan’s followers sees a bike being stolen and Dan and Sue decide to follow the thieves. What happens when they find the thieves, and can they get Sue’s bike back?

Dan and the Missing Dogs by Richard MacAndrew (Level 2 reader)
When Mrs Jackson’s pet dog Basil goes missing, Dan Parks realizes immediately that something strange is going on. Then when he sees thieves taking his best friend Sue’s dog, Charlie he knows  that there is definitely a mystery to be solved.Who is taking the dogs and can Dan and Dylan save them before it is too late?

Dan in London by Richard MacAndrew (Level 2 reader)
Dan and Sue are in London with their parents when they see two men acting in a very strange way outside their hotel. They decide to follow them and find out that the men are stealing handbags. What happens when the men discover that Dan and Sue know their secret? And what can their parents do to help? Join Dan and Sue in London and find out.

Dan and the Island Mystery by Richard MacAndrew (Level 3  reader)
Dan and Sue are on holiday in Bute, a quiet island off the west coast of Scotland. One evening when they are out walking with their dogs they notice some men putting boxes on a boat. What's in the boxes? Why are they putting them in the boat? And where's the boat going? Dan wants to find out but soon he and Sue are caught up in a dangerous adventure and their lives are at risk!

Dan and the Hong Kong Mystery by Richard MacAndrew (Level 3 reader)
Dan and Sue are on holiday in Hong Kong, visiting Sue's grandparents. While they are sightseeing they notice an ivory shop and Dan goes in to ask some questions. Later they see some men going into the same shop with a bag. What's in the bag? And who are the men? Dan wants to find out but soon he and Sue are caught up in a dangerous adventure and their lives are at risk!

How can you approach these stories in class?

Characters and maps Some features in the books follow a pattern which your students will easily get used to. At the beginning of each book you will find a double spread introducing the characters, and another one with a map or situation. These spreads are a great way to become familiar with the setting and get ready for reading.

A map from Dan and the Hong Kong Mystery, illustrated by Giulia Sagralmola. © Helbling Languages

Before Reading activities
The Before Reading activities prepare your students for reading.

  • They activate background knowledge.
  • They are engaging tasks like quizzes, discussions and picture descriptions.

Reading suggestions
Read some chapters in class – try a D.E.A.R. session and read for about 10-15 minutes in class.

Give your students some extra days or weeks to comfortably read the story at home, and check on their reading progress regularly, without making them feel under pressure.

Use the reflection boxes which appear throughout the story to create opportunities for a personal reflection and engagement with the story.

After Reading activities
These After Reading activities will help you with the extra language work which is necessary if you want to benefit from reading on various levels. Reading on its own engages the mind, creates a cultural context, helps your students practise reading in long stretches without feeling under pressure. If you also want to achieve some visible language development, do these activities in class:

  • Personal Response
  • Comprehension
  • Characters
  • Plot and Theme
  • Language
  • Exit Test
  • Quiz

The Final Projects offer some creative space to learn more about the cultural field of the story.

If you have time, occasionally you can do some role plays in class. These stories contain plenty of dialogues, which make independent reading more enjoyable. Do some role play sessions in groups to practise reading aloud during classroom reading sessions. These role plays create great opportunities to practise pronunciation and intonation, they also set the context for meaningful vocabulary and speaking practice. The language of the story and the dialogues become more complex, just like the plot and the setting of the stories expands: from local adventures we first go to Scotland, then to Hong Kong!

The illustrations in each book create a friendly, playful atmosphere with their bright colours and comic book style depictions of the scenes and characters. Notice how the characters change from book to book. They grow up, just like your students.

Audio recordings
The stories are also recorded in British English so that your students can also practise some extensive listening just like with audio books.

Would you like more detective stories? Check out our other blog posts about detective stories:

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