It’s the end of a long day of work, parenting, miscellaneous errands, and more parenting. You’ve finally gotten the kids bathed, into their pajamas, and in some semblance of almost in or near the bed. There’s just one more hurdle before we can enjoy some sliver of adult time-the bedtime story. We got this! Right? Right! Then…
Here comes that same story that we read last night and the night before and the night before that. No, no, no, nooooooooooo!
We loved the gorgeous illustrations and engaging text when you first brought it home, but now it is growing into your nemesis. Your pleas of “Let’s try a different book.” are met with great resistance. What are you ever to do?
I feel your pain. As devoted as I am to kids falling in love with reading and embracing books, I’ve conspired to toss a book or two. Green Eggs and Ham almost didn’t make it. Shhhh…don’t tell. While it may be tempting to want your child to move on to a new experience, repetitive reading actually has many great benefits for your child’s development.
Vocabulary Development: You’ve heard all of the research about the word gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” A child’s vocabulary in the early years is correlated to reading comprehension for school-aged children. Books offer amazing opportunities to learn and use vocabulary that may not be easily accessible in everyday situations. The more your child reads or listens to a story, the larger their vocabulary becomes. Just think, those books that you’ve memorized, I’m willing to bet that your child has too. While it may seem like storybooks are all that complicated, they actually feature up to 50% more rare words than prime-time television and even a college student’s conversation. How often do you use giraffe in conversations with friends and colleagues?
Patterns/Fluency: Hearing those favorite bedtime stories is not just about the story. You are modeling how language works. When your child babbled as a baby, they mimicked your sounds and intonation, trying to figure out how this whole communication thing worked. Well, the stories you’re reading are the next stage of that. Language is more than just some words put together; they consist of sounds and rhythm, and it teaches children about expression and engaging in dialogue with others.
Comprehension: Reading comprehension is the meat and potatoes of reading. The whole purpose is to understand all of the story’s components, from the plot to the character development to the greater message. The more kids read or listen to a story, the more adept they become at diving deeper into the meaning. The first time they may only generally follow the plot, but with more readings, they may notice additional details in the illustrations that add context to the story, understand the character’s motivations for or develop greater empathy for others based on the experience of the character. All of this takes time to develop.
While knowing that repetitive reading is good for your child, it still may not help make reading that book for the 345th time any easier. Here are a few strategies that may help bring a new twist each time.
1.Create a new ending This is a fun way to spice up the story. Read up until just before the ending, and then have your child create an alternative ending. You could then ask questions like, “How would that have changed how the character feels?” or “What would happen if we change the setting?” Prepare for the hilarity of your child’s imagination.
2.Become a picture detective Some books offer so much more detail in the pictures. Instead of reading the words, “read” the pictures. I like to pretend we have our magnifying glasses, and we look for special details in the pictures and ask, “What more can we add to the story based on the pictures?”
3.Play a silly change game. Turn the reading into a game. Ask your child to stop you when they hear you exchange silly nonsense words for the actual words in the book. Sometimes I like to start reading the story as normal, then start reading the page as if it were another one of our favorites. When they are aghast by the error, I ask them to read the rest for me because my eyes see different words and pictures. They spend the whole time trying to convince you that you’re wrong and try to show you how their words match the picture.
4.Play a voice mix-up. Using engaging voices always adds spice to any story. Next time, change the voice, so it doesn’t match the actual character. If the character is young, read with an older voice. Change the pronouns and see how the twist affects the story. This can lead to some very interesting conversations.
5.Compromise. If all else fails, try to compromise. When you are just ready to throw the book out the window-agree to read part of it, followed by a book of your own. Sometimes this creates a perfect transition to a new book. Fingers and toes and elbows crossed.
Just remember, this phase will pass, and they will have a new favorite. So, love it or loathe it, back to the bookshelf it will go. Stay sane in the meantime.
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