Secret Code Book Club for Boys
My seven-year-old son is in first grade but his closest friends are in second and third grades. It just worked out that way because he missed the cutoff so he’s among the older kids in his class. He can read but he needs help with chapter books and when this book club was formed, I was concerned about bridging the different reading levels.
The solution? Advanced picture books for kids. To prepare for this, I even blogged on it. I love advanced picture books — and my older kids do too! — as a means of visiting new cultures around the world and even back in time.
The Unbreakable Code is close to my heart because it’s the story of the heroic Navajo Code Talkers of WWII, unsung heroes who created a code that the Japanese could not break. Apparently, the war in the Pacific prior to this had gone poorly as the Japanese were ace code breakers and intercepted and read every message from the United States military. And yet the United States had begun a systematic purging of the Navajo culture, forcing young Navajo children to boarding schools where they were punished for speaking their own language. The irony!
Sara Hoagland Hunter depicts this story in a way that small boys can relate to and Julia Miner’s gorgeous illustrations make the book come alive.
I am hosting the first book club so I thought I would have the boys read the book at home. It’s too long to read aloud during the book club. The activity would be to create their own code. Next, they would have to work together to crack a message of code that I create. When they follow the clues (all coded of course!), they will come to a hidden prize.
I think I will also have them make their own messages using invisible ink made from baking soda.
- Mix equal parts water and baking soda.
- Use a cotton swab, toothpick, or paintbrush to write a message onto white paper, using the baking soda solution as ‘ink’.
- Allow the ink to dry.
- One way to read the message is to hold the paper up to a heat source, such as a light bulb. The baking soda will cause the writing in the paper to turn brown.
- A second method to read the message is to paint over the paper with purple grape juice. The message will appear in a different color.
I might also share some links for them to view:
1. This is the official site of the Navajo Code Talkers. You can also donate to them. I might show them the website and see if they want to come up with ways to raise money to donate to them.
2. Here’s a great site to make your own Secret Code Wheel. You can print this out on heavy paper. Be sure not to cut off the black triangle. Have the child choose where the black triangle lines up, and then match up the letters in each circle to create the code. The key is to know where the black triangle lines up!
3. For very advanced decoders who can’t get enough AFTER the book club, I’d steer them here to a Cryptography site where there are all kinds of different kinds of secret code strategies.
4. Finally, here’s a link to the Navajo language.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.