Blogger Chelsey Roos

Encouraging A Culture of Rereading in Your Library

It happened again this week: a caregiver told a young reader to put a book back. “You’ve already read that one,” they said. “Go put that back and find something new.” I’ve heard many well-meaning adults say this to a child in their charge, often once they’re standing at the self-check. And I understand what they’re thinking – they want their little reader to grow by reading something new. But research on reading tells us that rereading is actually great for developing readers. How can we create a rereading culture that subtly (and not-so-subtly) encourages grown-ups to take home that Dog Man for the fortieth time?

The Benefits of Rereading

Rereading has several different benefits. Some of them are scientifically measurable, and some are more about how we feel when we read, but both are valuable.

  1. Building new vocabulary. In one study, two groups of three-year-olds were exposed to new vocabulary in the books they were read. Each group listened to a book read aloud, on three different days. One group heard the same book each time, while the other group heard a different book at every reading. Even though the books were targeting exactly the same vocabulary words, and the words were heard just as often, the group that reread the same book were able to remember and understand that new vocabulary long-term, when the group that read different books were not.
  2. Increasing fluency. According to Scholastic, reading the same books over and over can help a developing reader move from choppy decoding to smoother fluency and true understanding.
  3. Creating true connection to literature. Although this isn’t exactly testable, we can see anecdotally that rereading helps readers truly connect with a book. We see it in the way young readers bond with the characters, come to know everything about their favorite series, and can incorporate the stories they read in their imaginative play. We can feel this as adult readers, too, in the ways we return to favorite tales when we’re stressed or too burnt out to take in something new.
  4. Building an identity as a reader. In my experience, kids read more when they have freedom to read what they want. They build an identity as a reader by choosing what they read, no matter if it’s the first time they’re read that book, or the fiftieth.

Put Rereading Culture on Display

Library staff are masters of display. Depending on your space and culture of your library, you could:

  • Create a shelf of face-out books that get better and deeper each time you read them, with great signage that lets families know they can dive deep with rereading.
  • Print out blank book covers and have patrons write in their favorite books to reread, then display their answers along with copies of the books.
  • Display your most battered and beloved books with a cute sign (“We Read These Books To Pieces!”) – possibly with a stack of more pristine copies for check-out.
Several children's books in a display, titled "Books we love to read again... and again"

Rereading in Storytimes and Class Visits

How often do you reread the same books aloud in storytime? I know I have my favorites that I read several times a year (Moo, by David LaRochelle, and A Big Mooncake for Little Star, by Grace Lin are heavy in my rotation), but in addition to just reading them again, I also make a literacy aside for grown-ups when pulling out a book we’ve recently read before. “We heard the word ‘defenestrate’ when we read Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo last month – let’s see if we can find it again to help us remember it.” (Yes, Ammi-Joan Paquette really uses that word in her picture book, and it’s great!)

Class visits are another great place to talk about rereading. Bring your own battered copy of a book you’ve loved since grade school, then ask the class what books they love to read over and over. Show off a book that rewards repeated readings – graphic novels like Christina Diaz Gonzales’ Invisible are great for this, because the first reading might get you just the storyline, but the second reading lets you take in things like the artist’s style, or the Spanish language used in Invisible.

A very battered and torn up copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales.
My own battered copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales that I’ve lugged around since childhood, complete with shredded spine, water damage, and a ripped off back cover.

What Are You Rereading?

I’ve been telling kids all month how much I’m enjoying rereading Percy Jackson, now that the tv show has started (comparing adaptations to the original – another great part of rereading!). I’m itching to go back and reread Kristen Gudsnuk’s Making Friends series with book four coming out later this year. And I’m sure that tonight me and my kiddo will reread his favorite picture books for the one hundredth time!

Blogger Chelsey Roos, a white librarian with short hair and glasses.

Today’s blogger is Chelsey Roos. Chelsey is a Children’s Librarian for Santa Clara County Library. They have served on ALSC’s Advocacy and Legislation committee and the Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers committee. Images in this post belong to the author.

This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies I. Commitment to Client Group, III. Programming Skills, and IV. Collection Knowledge and Management.

Research mentioned:

Horst, Jessica; Parsons, Kelly L.; & Bryan, Natasha M. Get the story straight: contextual repetition promotes word learning from storybooks. Frontiers In Psychology, 2011.

Rodriguez, Jodie. 6 Benefits of Rereading Books (Over…and Over) for Kids. Scholastic, 2018.

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