The teens at my library Seek the Unknown during Teen Read Week!
We had a murder mystery party during Teen Read Week this year, and I have to say it was probably my most successful teen program yet!
When I was younger I did a few of those “How to Host a Murder” mystery parties in a box for birthday parties. And I loved them! So when I became a teen librarian, I knew this was a program I wanted to do. I read a lot about how other libraries did theirs, and when Teen Read Week rolled around, I snagged up this perfect opportunity.
I decided to write my mystery script myself. As someone who loves writing, I found that I really enjoyed doing this! The suspects, the motives, it was all coming together.
The main thing I really wanted was for teens to be able to play the role of the murder suspects, like you do in the “How to Host a Murder” games. I knew this would be a level of participation that would be a lot more fun for the kids than simply solving the murder. So I created six characters and when I started telling teens about the program I told them the first six to sign up would get to be a suspect. I think this really helped grab their interest.
Normally I don’t even require registrations to my programs because my teens never sign up ahead of time. But two weeks out from the program I already had more kids signed up for a program than I ever had before. I promoted the program at my booktalks and had flyers to hand out to everyone who walked through the teen room. I really pushed the marketing for this one, and that made a difference as well.
A week before the program I started calling the kids who signed up. If I could get a hold of them and they were still planning on attending, I asked them to come to the library to pick up their character packet a few days before the program. This way they would know their character and be prepared for their role.
The great thing about this program was that other than writing the script, there really wasn’t a lot of set up! I didn’t even have to decorate the room or anything. The murder mystery was enough to draw them in! So the day of the program arrived. The six characters arrived for a character meeting 15 minutes early. We went over their roles and I told them they would be team leaders and talked a little about their responsibility as a leader.
When the other teens started arriving, I had them roll a die to see which team they would join. I was so glad I came up with this easy method (six teams so it worked out perfect!). Then let the fun begin!
I had two types of clues, and three rounds. During each round the characters would get character clues about the other suspects and the kids acted out accusing one another with their suspicions and defending themselves with their backstories and motivations. Some kids just read their clues straight from what I wrote, but some really got into acting their part and saying their lines in their own words. It was awesome! The other type of clue was a book clue. This part was like a scavenger hunt. They went out to the rest of the building in teams and looked for the books with clues in them. I loved that I was able to combine everything that is fun about a murder mystery party with the scavenger hunt elements and I think the kids really loved it. You should have heard their stampeding feet up the stairs to the rest of the building during each round. But as soon as the entered the main part of the library, they were quiet and focused on finding their clues and they did such a great job!
In the end they all made their guesses of who they thought the killer was. This is the one part I probably would have done differently. It would have been better to be more structured here because the teens were yelling and shouting over one another and it was hard to gain control of the room again. But I did, and to wrap things up I played the detective announcing the cause of death, which revealed who the real killer was! I think some of the kids felt the reveal was a little anti-climatic, so when I do it again next year I’m going to really have to jazz that part up.
All the kids had a fantastic time and were asking me if we could do it again next year. It was my most well-attended teen program so far. I used the chance to heavily promote my Hunger Games Party next month. I hope it is as much of a success as the Murder Mystery Party was. As the kids were hunting around the library, enthralled in their characters and the mystery I had created, I know I was having the time of my life, and I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this!” Those are the moments I live for as a librarian.