Reading a book again and again is great for young children's literacy development!
At a family literacy workshop earlier this year, a parent asked if it was OK to read the same book over and over again to her preschool son, at his behest. "Does that actually do anything?" she asked. "Is it a good thing?"
I responded with a resounding "YES!" Rereading books is great for young children's literacy development. When you read a book for the second, third, or hundredth time, you are helping your child develop not only their vocabulary and comprehension skills, but also their confidence in themselves as a reader. Being well acquainted with a book's text develops fluency, or "the ability to read text 'accurately, quickly, and with expression.'”
Children Learn by Repetition
Children learn by repetition."[Y]ounger children require longer to encode information than older children," according to one writer. In other words, preschoolers need more time-and practice- to remember something, to really make it stick. When you reread a book with your child, you are giving them opportunities to not only learn new information each time you read together, but also the space to be reacquianted with what they've previously learned.
Also, rereading a beloved book is a source of comfort for a child. How many of us rewatch the same episodes of a favorite TV show after a long day, perhaps? For a young child, cuddling up with a parent or trusted caregiver and a preferred book as part of a bedtime routine is a constant on which they can rely. Children thrive on routines. Rereading a favorite book, in which a child knows what to expect and when, provides a sense of security in a world that's often telling them to hurry up, to be quiet, to sit still.
But there are times, however...
...when the prospect of reading a book for the umpteenth time is too much to bear for a beleaguered parent. We here at the library understand.
I am reminded of my favorite comic strip growing up, Calvin and Hobbes, and the famous "Hamster Huey and Gooey Kablooie" plotline, in which Calvin's dad is not looking forward to reading Calvin's favorite bedtime book yet again.
Calvin's dad tries to muddle through his son's demands...
but eventually he cracks.
Gentle Ways to Change it Up
There are better ways to handle repeated demands for the same book at bedtime, however, and ways that parents and caregivers can negotiate a child's desire for routine with the adult goal of not losing one's mind.
When your child invariably asks for _______ at bedtime, couple their book choice with one of your own. Maybe there is a particular book from your childhood you want to share, or maybe you've received a great recommendation from your librarian, or maybe even from this very blog you are reading right now. Try other books by the author of the beloved title in question, or others with a similar subject matter. There are hundreds of books about dogs/dinosaurs/llamas/princesses from which to choose. Explore all that your local library has to offer!
You can also perhaps put a new twist on an old favorite. Ask your child to write a new ending to a story, or have them write what happens after the story ends. This is a great opportunity to take dictation. If you are musically inclined, you can set a book to music, or share with your child examples of how artists have put their own spin on classic children's literature.
Remember, however, to honor your child's agency. The best way to get a child to love reading (and to become a lifelong reader) is to allow them to choose their own reading material. Children grow and their interests change. Today's oft-repeated bedtime read will eventually become a cherished part of your child's younger years.