If you’re tired of reading the same book over and over to your eager young child, take heart. There are great benefits of reading the same book over and over.
As parents we’ve heard plenty of times about how important it is to read to our children, and we embrace that. Reading is the magic potion that grows our children’s vocabularies, gives them the early literacy skills that set them up for reading success in the future, and even helps to secure a positive parent-child relationship.
We set out as good parents with all the best intentions of reading to our children with enthusiasm and sharing a special bonding and educational moment with them at the end of each day. It’s a win-win. Of course, we want to cuddle up with them and a good book. But then the end of the day comes. We’re tired. Our children are tired. We’ve struggled through the vegetables at the dinner table, the bath that leaves our walls splattered with water, and the toothpaste that suddenly tastes bad; and then our precious child runs to the book shelf and eagerly pulls out that same book we’ve read so many times we’ve lost count.
Is it necessary to read Green Eggs and Ham so many times you’ve memorized it? Is there value in reading the same book over and over? Would it be better to introduce something new? Maybe we’re just plain tired of looking at Noisy Farm and hearing that cow moo (even while our child delights in it).
Why Do Toddlers Want to Read the Same Book Over and Over?
The truth is when it comes to developing reading comprehension skills and vocabulary, reading a book once or even twice is simply not enough for young children.
Younger children forget faster and take longer to make sense of and remember new information. Furthermore, while reading is the magic code to setting our kids up for success in their education, information presented in two dimensions instead of three take extra work to ingrain in young children’s minds, according to The Conversation.
Repetition and Reading Comprehension
Studies show that re-reading the same book helps children comprehend the story and the information presented. On the first read, they may not fully grasp the story line.
One study conducted by the Center for Early Literacy Learning concluded that for optimal comprehension, we should focus on reading one or two books at a time to our young children and then re-read them daily or every other day if possible. Reading the same book at least four times over the course of a few days gives children time to soak in the story and understand more.
Re-reading and Vocabulary Growth
One of the reading benefits that’s touted most often is that reading helps increase a child’s vocabulary. However, hearing a word one time in the middle of a story isn’t enough to commit it to memory and add it to your child’s speaking vocabulary.
Remember that your child has a lot to learn. At some point you learned what a car was, what a train was, what an elephant is. Every word you know, from the complex to the mundane, you learned at some point and not by hearing it casually one time.
Beginning at age two or three, children’s vocabularies are benefited by reading the same book multiple times. Research has found that children who are read the same story several times learn words quicker than those who hear a wider variety of stories with less repetition.
In fact, children need to hear a word around 80 times before it becomes part of their vocabulary. (Have you read Green Eggs and Ham 80 times yet?)
Also, books have more extensive vocabulary that our everyday speech, even children’s books. In fact, children’s books are said to contain 50 percent more uncommon words than prime-time television and most everyday conversations.
Familiarity, Predictability, and Control
While it may be more often overlooked and not as academically beneficial, sometimes children may choose the same story again because it’s familiar and comforting. Young children have very little control over their own lives and what happens around them and even to them.
We all feel more comfortable when we have a little control over our lives or at least a little predictability. Young children especially cling to what’s familiar.
“A preference for familiarity, rather than novelty, is commonly reported at young ages, and reflects an early stage I the learning process,” according to The Conversation.
How to Make the Most of Re-reading the Same Book
So if you’re deep in the trenches of reading Green Eggs and Ham or The Very Hungry Caterpillar over and over … and over, resist the temptation pretend it’s lost and force your child to pick something different. Embrace the repetition, and remember your child is learning. (It’s his own way of studying new words and ideas just as older children may re-read passages of a text book or make flash cards to learn new vocabulary.)
Here are a few tips from the experts on how to make storytime interactive when you’re reading that same picture book again and again:
- Allow your child to ask questions, and answer them thoroughly.
- Ask your child open-ended questions about what is happening in the story or what will happen next.
- Point to parts of the picture to point out vocabulary words or actions that are taking place as you’re reading.
- Use character voices to help your child distinguish between different characters and their intentions.
- Use gestures or maybe even a prop once in a while to further engage your child.
- Provide a short explanation of words you know your child may be unfamiliar with as you read.
The Conversation also suggests you focus on a different theme with each reading. This will add a little variety to the monotony while aiding in your child’s understanding:
- On one reading, look at and discuss the illustrations.
- On another day, find ways to relate parts of the story to your child’s own life experiences. “There’s a train. Remember when you saw a train. Do you remember the sound it made?”
- When the story is familiar to your child, invite your child to fill in words. “If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want a glass of ….”
So say yes to that same book again, and watch your child grow in her vocabulary and understanding of the world.