One cannot deny the benefits of everyday reading. They are backed by hundreds of scientific, psychological studies and experiments. And what about re-reading? Does your child also want you to read the same fairy tale every night or the same book? And do they ask after reading: “One more time, please”? Don't worry, because this is actually a good sign, and the process of repetition has many benefits. Repeated reading develops the child's empathy, memory, imagination, vocabulary, and attention, as well as increasing emotional intelligence. Your child also relaxes in the presence of familiarity, because they feel safe. By repeatedly reading the same tale, the child intuitively discovers hidden meanings that are important for their emotional development. Based on several scientific studies, it has been proven that it is not the number of books read that matters, but the quality of reading gained from the book or fairy tale. Reading one over and over again has a much greater impact on a child's emotional and cognitive development than simply aiming for a higher number of completed stories.
When you read a book to your child for the first time, they may not fully understand what the story is about. As you reread the book over and over, the child begins to understand the storyline in a progressively deeper way. Repetition is a very important step for a child on the path towards learning. Repetition helps them process more complex information. Understanding this information takes time and, of course, further repetition.
Language and reading development
When a child repeatedly listens to the same text, and sees the same words, it helps them to recognise letters as well as words. Phonetics is the best way to teach a child to read. Repeated reading of the same source material, along with the highlighting of letters when pronouncing words helps the child to recognise new letters and how to put them together to form a word. It also helps them to learn language patterns, and through this they learn to form sentences, phrases, and combine their own words.
By reading repeatedly, the child trains their brain and develops memory. Children forget things faster and it takes them longer to understand and remember the new information. According to research, by reading repeatedly, the child remembers the story as well as individual words better when compared to memorising the same words and information from different fairy tales.
Building on vocabulary
In general, reading significantly helps to improve vocabulary. But a one-time hearing of the word in the middle of the story is not enough for the child to be able to memorise it and add it to their vocabulary. According to research, a child who reads one fairy tale several times learns words faster than children who hear more fairy tales with less repetition. In fact, a child needs to hear the same word approximately 80 times to start using it actively. Fairy tales are a great source of new vocabulary. Although adults may not find the stories complicated at first sight, words that are not used in everyday communication may comprise up to 50% of a given fairytale.
Development of emotional intelligence
In needing or asking to re-read a specific story, the child gives you a clear signal about their current emotional state, what they are currently experiencing in the family, in kindergarten, at school, with friends, and what is actually happening in their inner world. Fairy tales offer a way for a child to understand, name, and express their emotions, anxiety, fears, conflicts and doubts in a safe environment. A fairy tale allows them to identify with the chosen character and seek solutions in their emotional world.
Development of creativity and imagination
Each tale draws a child into a fantasy world, where they can visualise the characters and the whole story according to their own ideas. Through repeated reading, the child develops their imagination, allowing it to become more richly detailed, or they can imagine the same story in different variants, which significantly supports the development of their creativity.
Security and peace
During the day, the child experiences a number of different, unpredictable situations. Because they have very little control over what is happening around them, or control over themselves, they find a sense of security and peace when reading the same fairy tale. They prefer something familiar, safe, with no surprises, and predictable to the unknown. They know the story, they know the end, they know that everything will turn out well and they feel calm inside exactly because they have the story "under control". The child chooses the same fairy tale because it is familiar and reassuring, they see at least a small structure in the crazy and somewhat unpredictable (for them) world. Reading the same fairy tale is a great bedtime ritual during which they relax and fall asleep faster and, above all, more peacefully.
A few tips for you, parents
How can you support your child in their development by re-reading one fairy tale, or one book?
- Be patient! It is best for your child.
- Focus on something new every time you retell the story. One day look at the pictures better, the next day focus on certain words or parts of the text, then let the child complete the words, or even whole sentences.
- Try to connect the fairy tale with the real situation in which the child finds themselves.
- Let the child ask questions and attempt to answer thoroughly.
- Ask your child what is happening in the story or what will follow.
- Use different voices to make the child better distinguish between different characters as well as emotions.
- Sometimes use gestures or props (puppets, toys, tools, etc.).
Have lots of fun, learning and development with re-reading!
Herbert, J., Duursma, E. 2018. There’s a reason your child wants to read the same book over and over again. University of Wollon, 2018
Hors, J.S., Parsons, K.L., Bryan, N.M. 2011. Get the story straight: contextual repetition promotes word learning from storybooks. • School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK, 2011
Brock, K. 2019. Don’t Stop Re-reading: There are Benefits of Reading the Same Book Over and Over.
Dawn, Y, 2018. Why do toddlers want to read the same book over and over again? https://www.todaysparent.com/toddler/toddler-behaviour/why-toddlers-want-to-read-the-same-book/