Why re-read? This is a question we get a lot at RAR, and I’m not going to beat around the bush…I’m convinced there is a lot to gain from rereading. Today, I’m going to tell you why.
If you have a child who re-reads the same book over and over, we’re going to talk about it.
And if you or someone you love has recently read the same picture book to a little one every night for months, I’ve got some good news for you.
In this episode, you’ll hear:
- why re-reading may just be the very best kind of reading
- what’s to gain from re-reading?
- how our kids benefit from revisiting their favorite books (and the rewards are huge!)
Click the play button below:
Use the time stamps below to skip to any part of the podcast:
|1:45||How often do you rewatch your favorite movie?|
|4:37||Knowledge and vocabulary|
|7:57||Reading for plot|
|11:20||How we change|
|14:30||Kate DiCamillo and Charlotte’s Web|
|15:59||A challenge for you|
|17:04||How to log re-reading|
|18:58||Let the kids speak|
What’s the deal with re-reading?
Consider: how often do you re-watch your favorite movie or re-listen to a favorite album, a favorite song?
I asked this question on Facebook, and the responses surprised me. “10 times” was one of the lower responses. And I could not believe how many people said “over 100 times”.
Nobody even thought it was a weird question.
We expect to revisit our favorite stories again and again.
So what’s the deal with revisiting our favorite stories, movies, songs, and books?
There’s more here than meets the eye, so let’s dig in.
Reward #1: Books become lifelong companions
I bet we can all agree on this: we want books to become some of our children’s lifelong companions.
I want my kids to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder books or The Chronicles of Narnia or S.D. Smith’s Green Ember books on a bookshelf 20 years from now and feel like they’re bumping into old friends.
I want them to remember who they are and remember where they came from when they see those book covers.
But friendship isn’t instantaneous. Friendship takes time.
You wouldn’t feel like someone you had a single conversation with at a coffee shop was one of your closest friends or life companions, right?
Relationships with books and with book characters take time as well.
If we want books to become our children’s lifelong companions, then they need to spend some quality time with those characters and those stories.
They do that by re-reading.
Reward #2: Better retention of knowledge and vocabulary
A recent study found that children are more likely to retain knowledge of new vocabulary if they’re exposed to words through repeatedly reading the same book than if they’re encountering those new words in different books.
New knowledge and better vocabulary are two academic gains all kids get from reading, even on a first-go-round.
Re-read that book, and the retention of vocabulary goes up.
This is really good news for anyone with kids who like the same book to be read over and over and over again.
Pro Tip: Generally speaking, you’ll find the best, most beautiful language in picture books.
Picture books tend to be crammed with beautiful language (yes, even more than novels), so when in doubt, grab a picture book and read it as many times as your kids will listen!
Reward #3: Improved fluency and comprehension
What we really mean by fluency is this: how accurately your child can read a text with the correct expression while also understanding what he/she is reading.
This is probably obvious, but the more often you read a picture book, the better you get at reading aloud that picture book.
You know this is true. If you’ve read a picture book a number of times, you know where to slow down, where to speed up, where to pause. It’s familiar territory.
It’s like walking a well-worn path instead of blazing a new trail.
The same is true when our kids are reading for themselves.
Let’s say your child wants to re-read Charlotte’s Web over and over (in which case I’d point out that your child has excellent taste 😉)…
…even if he’ reading it silently to himself, he’s gaining fluency each time he reads it. The way the language sits, the way it works, how it hangs together… it’s all syncing up in your child’s brain. Your child is become a more fluent reader.
Re-reading puts fluency on jet fuel. Your child makes tremendous gains in fluency by reading favorite books over and over.
Reward #4: Reading past the plot
The first time we read through a book, most of us are reading for plot. Our brains want to know the answer to the question, “What happens next?”
It’s just how we’re wired.
On the second, third, or 30th reading of a book, however, our brain is free to ask deeper, more layered questions.
We know what happens next, so now we’re catching beautiful turns of phrase. We’re seeing a hint of foreshadowing.
We’re noticing these subtle nuances that are only gifted to re-readers.
There are questions that don’t surface for us when we’re reading for plot. They only surface once the question of “what happens next?” has been answered.
How do we get there?
You got it. Re-reading.
Reward #5: It’s a whole different book because you’re a whole different person
Not only are our brains wired to ask a different set of questions (and pick up on deeper nuances) with a re-read, but we’re different than we were the first time through.
You never read the same book twice.
We’re different people every time we come to a book. That’s why we can read Little Women as a 13-year-old girl and then read it as a 35-year-old woman and somehow it feels completely new and fresh.
As a 13-year-old girl, we probably weren’t identifying much with Marmee. It was all Jo, all the time. As a grown woman, I still identify with Jo, but I have a different kind of respect and attention to Marmee.
I’m a mother now, so I’m reading from a different lens.
I’m a different person, so we come to the book with different experiences.
As years pass, we gain a slew of life experiences, and we bring those experiences into our reading every time we open a book.
The same thing is true for your kids. Every time they re-read that old favorite, they’re having a new experience.
They are coming to the page as a different person than they were last time (even if it was only last week!).
The first encounter is never a complete encounter.
In The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, Alan Jacobs writes, “A first encounter with the worthwhile book is never a complete encounter and we’re usually in error to make it a final one.”
If we go in to a reading experience understanding that we don’t have to get everything on the first go-round, we’re then free to enjoy that first encounter for what it is: a first encounter.
We are free to get caught up in the plot, without worrying that we’re missing out on deeper shades of meaning, on important themes, on poignant turns of language.
The first time you’re blazing the trail, it’s going to be a different experience than when you’re walking it as a well-worn path.
Don’t just take my word for it…
C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter to Arthur Greeves, “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”
Over 10 years, he read parts of that book every single night before bed.
He doesn’t know why. He can’t pinpoint exactly what it was about that book that was so important to him. But clearly it was.
Kate DiCamillo, who has won multiple Newbery Medals and is one of today’s most celebrated middle grade authors, reads Charlotte’s Web pretty much every year. She says she finds something new there every time.
And I recently read that Robert Frost, the poet who wrote Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening taught his children to re-read the books they loved most of all.
Which takes us right back to that idea from C.S. Lewis of not being able to imagine somebody really enjoying a book and reading it only once.
My challenge to you:
Re-read something this month.
There aren’t any rules here. Just pick something you enjoyed before and re-read it.
See what happens.
A first read is a wonderful experience, indeed. But a second, third, or tenth time through offers riches that cannot be found any other way.
Books from this episode:
By the wonderful E.B. White, a touching tale of friendship, character and love, with charming illustrations by Garth Williams. Your kids will hang on every word—there's a reason this book is a classic! (psst... get out the Kleenex)
FROM THE PUBLISHER
E. B. White's Newbery Honor Book is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come. It contains illustrations by Garth Williams, the acclaimed illustrator of E. B. White's Stuart Little and Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, among many other books.
More info →
A Read-Aloud Revival community favorite. Rabbits with Swords! This story will inspire heroic virtue in your children (and who knows... maybe you too!). This is first in a truly wonderful fantasy series. Your kids can meet author S.D. Smith at his Author Access video replay in RAR Premium.
FROM THE PUBLISHER:
Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.More info →
The March sisters are each distinctive in their own way, but they band together to help their mother while their father is serving in the Civil War. The original version follows the girls as they grow into womanhood. Girls might enjoy identifying with a particular sister -- Meg, Jo, Beth or Amy.More info →
Alan Jacobs is one of my very favorite nonfiction writers. I feel smarter after I've read them, and like my soul has been spiffed up, too. Don't miss my conversations with Alan Jacobs on the RAR Podcast: #145 The Importance of Reading at Whim and #163: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind.
FROM THE PUBLISHER:
In recent years, cultural commentators have sounded the alarm about the dire state of reading in America. Americans are not reading enough, they say, or reading the right books, in the right way.
In this book, Baylor University Professor Alan Jacobs argues that, contrary to the doomsayers, reading is alive and well in America. And the best kind of reading of all is reading at whim.
FROM THE PUBLISHER:
Read this captivating adventure by Jonathan Auxier, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Gardener. It’s been two years since Peter Nimble and Sir Tode rescued the kingdom of HazelPort. In that time, they have traveled far and wide in search of adventure.More info →
FROM THE PUBLISHER:
The set includes: Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years.More info →
FROM THE PUBLISHER
Ever since it was published in 1978, the picture-book presentation of Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" has been an enduring favorite. For this special edition with a new design, trim size, and three new spreads, Susan Jeffers has added more detail and subtle color to her sweeping backgrounds of frosty New England scenes.More info →
FROM THE PUBLISHER:
The hardcover box set of C. S. Lewis's classic fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, with cover art by three-time Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator David Wiesner and the full black-and-white original interior art by Pauline Baynes.More info →
Oh, Mercy! Pig out on the first six adventures in the New York Times best-selling series, all tucked together in one enticing box--the perfect gift!Foiling a robber, driving a car, squeezing into a tutu--is there anything the porcine wonder won't do in her single-minded pursuit of treats, buttered ...More info →
I want to give this book to every teenager I know. It's a book that will make you want to hug a mean kid, stare at Audubon paintings, thank a veteran, read Jane Eyre, and get an orchid. Even if you ignore every other book I recommend, read this one. Highly, highly recommended. Meet author Gary Schmidt in the Author Access replay in RAR Premium.
FROM THE PUBLISHER:
At once heartbreaking and hopeful, this absorbing novel centers on Doug, 14, who has an abusive father, a bully for a brother, a bad reputation, and shameful secrets to keep. Teachers and police and his relatives think he's worthless, and he believes them, holding others at arm's length.More info →
Jonathan Auxier is one of my very favorite storytellers- don't miss his episode on the Read-Aloud Revival podcast. He's also a favorite WOW: Writers on Writing presenter in RAR Premium! This is my favorite of his books and also one of my all-time favorite reads. I learned so much, and my heart grew five sizes. Recomended for ages 10+. Or just read it yourself!
FROM THE PUBLISHER:
Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived. With her wits and will, she's managed to beat deadly odds time and time again. But when Nan's Sweep disappears suddenly and then she's caught in a chimney fire, everything changes. It starts with a black piece of coal.More info →
**Description from Amazon: The sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that is set some six months later than the earlier book, Alice again enters a fantastical world, this time by climbing through a mirror into the world that she can see beyond it.More info →
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- How to Create a Book Club Culture at Home
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