Book Adventures- Secret Agent: Cracking the Code


Audience: You have to be adaptable when executing a program for such a wide range of ages and be prepared to alter your plans and the contents in split second. At this particular session, I had a younger audience majority of mostly 6 year olds. The oldest in the room was 10 years old. Always have the older children take the lead in helping in the activities.

Secret Agent: Cracking the Code

Plans: Read Aloud & Informational Facts, Different kind of hidden Messages (Mirror Message, Morse Code, Encrypted Message and making Invisible Ink)

I begin the session by asking the children “What is a Secret Agent?” Then I explained that most secret agents were used in time of war. Secret agents in fictionalized stories are often trying to recover an item or locate a criminal. Whenever possible, I try to incorporate history and diversity. I discussed how Harriet Tubman and other slaves were secret agents during the time of the Underground Railroad. I wanted talk about the CIA but backed away since the majority of the children at this particular session was 6 years old and I wasn’t sure if they would understand.


Secret Agent Gadget Battle Harriet Tubmen - Secret Agent     Books- Secret agent 1 

        Tidbit – Harriet Tubman was indeed a secret agent. Besides the quilts that lead many slaves into freedom, secret agents like Harriet Tubman and other slaves also used songs and even clothe lines to secretly message where they needed to go to find their freedom.

Mirror Message: Material (Mirrors) and Reverse Message.


Activity: Have children look at the Reverse Message in a mirror. Beside a fun message, I also reverse tongue twisters. Since I am not great on writing reverse message I used free generator from the web.


Morse Code ( Using Drum and Flash lights)

Activity1: Explain what is Morse Code.   Give a scenario explain you are being held captive or you are stranded somewhere and you need to get help. Teach them the word S.O.S (Save Our Soul or Save Our Ship) S…O—S….

I lightly tapped my index finger on the drum for the dots and the dashes I banged my whole hand.   I asked the children to repeat it. They used their side of the chair to do it.    I then handed out the Morse Code and tap a three letter word like cat or dog.   Repeating it! I asked if they can figure out.

Activity 2 Next have the children write the name in Morse Code. They will figure out that it takes too long to implement it. Ask the children how they can condense their name.   One patron said “ Shorten your name”, I responded “maybe tapping your first initial and last last initial”.   I then asked everyone to sound out their name. One little girl named Mitilda figured everyone name out.   I was impressed.

Activity 3: Flashlights- Before using the flashlight, let the families and children know that you are going to use blinking lights, in case someone is prone to seizures. Send S.O.S using the flashlight.

Encrypted Message

Cracking the cod

Patrons working on the encrypted message!

There are a lot of ways to send encrypted messages like backwards alphabets for example where Z = A; Y = B and so on. I found a great site that has worksheets that you can use. My message, “If you like Cracking the Code, you will probably like books on Secret Agents. Ask your librarian for more books.”

Here is a great link that help you make your own worksheets

Invisible Ink

There are a lot recipes you can find on the internet to make invisible inks.

  1. Using Baking Soda and water to write the message; letting it dry and brushing with grape juice to decipher the message.
  2. Using Lemon and water and then using heat.


For this session I only had seven participants. I asked the children which part of the program they enjoyed the most and they said the flashlight. We ran out of time before we could get to the invisible ink which was okay with me because I was having a hard time making the messages appear. I was also glad because it meant my cleanup will be quick! Unfortunately I could not document the session with pictures because I was really getting into the program and started enjoying myself. The adults were also having a blast. One grandparent said that they learned more about Harriet Tubman during my session than they have in their entire life.










Book Adventures- Crime Scene Investigator – Dusting for Fingerprints

Book Adventure     About Book Adventures

Book Adventures, formerly called “Story Craft,” began 2 years ago as an after school program at the Carroll Gardens Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. I hated the name because it didn’t describe the true scope of my program. I create activities that are based on the read aloud that is geared for children 5 to 12.   In addition, it is difficult attracting children who are fortunate enough to be able to afford and attend a lot of other cool programs after school; such as Magic School and Percy Jackson Olympics. I knew deep down that the library was the last thing on these kids’ minds. However, there are still a wide range of kids that commute from nearby neighborhoods and cannot afford these high ticket afterschool programs and I was hoping that my library would become a cool no-cost alternative. I thought of programs that will be out of the box. I changed the name to Book Adventures after one kid participant in my “Story Craft” program asked me why I called the program “Story Craft” when crafts were not a part of my program and suggested that I change the name. A group of kids thought we should call the program “Story Adventures” instead but that didn’t sound right to me and that’s when it hit me! I read fiction and non-fiction stories to them all of the time. In addition, I also share well-read instructional books so why not change the name to Book Adventures since we explore all kinds of books. They all agreed!

The premise of Book Adventure is to get kids to read out loud. We use mostly chapter books, informational and instructional books with an activity, and get inspired by arts or crafts projects that support the book.   The objective is to intrigue and pique the interest of topic and exploring the books/ topics further.

Adventure: Crime Scene Investigator: Dusting for Fingerprints

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Before starting the program ask the children if they know anything about fingerprint. Why do we do it?

Read a chapter book that has a crime scene that has happened or is about to happen. I usually read about five pages and then book talk the rest of the book. I also introduce interesting facts about fingerprints and the fingerprinting process.

For this program I read Julian Secret Agent by Ann Cameron.   The book is about a boy name Julian and how he and his friends go to their local Post Office and see the poster with the FBI’s Most Wanted sign that offers a hefty reward for information that leads to the capture of one of these people. Julian and his friends begin staking out supermarkets and the local bar. Did they find one of the Ten Most Wanted? Find out as you read Julian Secret Agent.   I also read tidbits about fingerprint from Zoom in on Crime Scene by Richard Spilsbury call #363.256 S, and informational book.

Activity 1 Identifying Fingerprints

Materials: Magnifying glass, inkpads, fingers and template

  1. Have the children take each fingerprint on each finger. Compare and contrast from another person in the room.

Fingerprint identification website:

Activity 2 Dusting for Fingerprints

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Activity 2 Dusting for Fingerprints

Material: Lotion, cornstarch, cocoa powder, paint brush and scotch tape

  1. Setting the stage in a contain area, lotion up your hand and stamp your hands in a contain area.
  2. Ask children to dust the area using cornstarch for dark surfaces and cocoa powder for lighter surface.
  3. Once the children find fingerprints have them use scotch tape to lift the fingerprint from the surface.
  4. Have the children examine it and identify the pattern.


This is the first time that I offered this activity I did not anticipate the amount of children (about 22 children and 8 adults) that showed up and we ran out of time. And unfortunately I was not able to review their findings.  In the past we had fewer kids no more than 14 and now the program double in size.  At the end of each program I asked the children if they were interested in checking out a book on the topic. After this activity, they all stated “yes”!   Mission Accomplished!

By the way last spring 2014, the School-age Coordinator heard about the program, liked it and adopted the program name for the entire Brooklyn Public Library System. I presented on the program this fall.