Every night since my little ones were born, we have read a story before bed.
Always at least one story, and on many occasions four or five stories.
With each additional child have come additional stories, taking the nightly reading experience to a whole new level!
4 Reasons To Read The Same Stories To Your Children Again…And Again
A few weeks ago I found myself reading the same book every night for a week or more.
As I watched those chubby little hands reach for the offending book each night it took an almighty effort not to groan out loud.
Silently I screamed “Why me?” as I smiled and said, “You really like this one, don’t you?”
You see, despite the repetitiveness of reading the same book night after night causing me to wish said book to ‘disappear’, I appreciate the benefits that this revisiting has for my kids.
#1: Enhanced Language Development
Children learn to speak by hearing us speak. Every time we talk to or read to our children, their brain is busy making connections.
Hearing the same words or rhythms many times helps children to solidify these connections and to make sense of them.
It’s important not to ‘dumb down’ the stories either – use the correct vocabulary and talk about the words with children.
We have over 200 carefully selected children’s books on our shelves at home (being an early childhood teacher and writer, this is definitely my thing!). I find the ones the children return to again and again often contain rhyme, repetition and alliteration.
When children experience a story repeatedly, they begin to learn the words and often leap at the opportunity to fill in when you pause because you ‘can’t remember’! They begin to notice the words that sound the same and point them out.
Children also pick up on the tone that you use. I have noticed this as my seven year old now shares the reading part of story-time.
He loves reading stories to his sister and I have noticed how he takes on the same tone and rhythm that I use when reading books, accentuating certain words, and creating something of a melody.
As well as enhancing both expressive and receptive language, reading books with children is the best way to ‘teach’ them to read.
In fact, renowned children’s author and reading advocate Mem Fox, suggests children need to “hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read. Or the same story a thousand times!”
#2: Deeper Learning And Engagement With Ideas
As we read and re-read them, I found myself wondering just what it was drawing them in (apart from the illustration of a very naked statue of David which my four and seven year olds found utterly hilarious).
Was it the beautiful, whimsical illustrations? Or perhaps it was the often challenging vocabulary?
No. It wasn’t.
While those things may have been a factor, what kept them coming back for more was the knowledge. Each time we read the book, they asked new questions or wondered about something.
And it’s not just nonfiction books that offer the opportunity for deeper learning. Fiction stories can ignite the imagination or even have children pondering ethical dilemmas (have you ever thought that perhaps Goldilocks was an intruder in the three bears’ house and should’ve been arrested? My kids definitely have!)
#3: Children Find Comfort In Familiarity
When working in early childhood settings, I often found a favourite book was a great way to comfort a child who may have been upset when their parent left.
We would snuggle on some cushions with a familiar story and soon their sadness had made way for joy as they recited their favourite parts of the story.
Trying something new can be scary and supporting children to step out of their comfort zone is important for their growth and development.
Yet the predictability of a favourite book, with its characters we already know and storyline that isn’t full of surprises, can be comforting for many children.
#4: It Can Be Joyous!
This is my favourite reason of all. Reading stories should be joyous!
Sure, there are some nights when the last thing I feel like doing is reading Waddle, Giggle, Gargle for the thousandth time.
But when I see their little faces light up as they make their selections from the bookshelf, carefully searching for just the right book, I remember reading is something I love and something that I want them to love too.
Once we start reading, no matter how bad a day I’ve had or how much I would rather be catching up on Netflix or soaking in a bubble bath, I simply can’t help but enjoy myself.
The words and images take over and I find myself full of expression, adding in voices and giggling along with them at the way the two year old puts her own creative spin on words throughout the story.
Suck It Up And Just Read It Again…And Again…And Again!
There are plenty of things that we do as parents which we would rather not.
I know I would rather not wipe bottoms – but it has to be done for the health of my child!
I would rather not have the feet of my two year old in my face every night as I try to sleep – yet it happens so she actually gets some sleep (and so neighbours three streets over don’t make noise complaints!)
Sometimes, as parents we just have to suck it up and do things, not for ourselves, but for our children.
Repetitive reading is just one of those things.
And a time will come when they’ll be reading to themselves, when you’ll be no longer wanted or needed. You might find yourself longing for the days of remembering the words to a children’s story better than you remember your phone number!
Enjoy it while it lasts. Read a book with your kids!
And then read it again and again and again…