“Mummy, daddy! Read it again!!” How many times have you heard this request from your child? You might suggest reading something other than “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” tonight… again, for the 20th time in a row. But your little one won’t hear of it. Mums and dads, don’t despair at your child’s need to hear the same story over and over again. There are some amazing developmental benefits of re-reading books to your child, as proven scientifically.
Reading the same book over and over again has remarkable benefits for your child. Image: File photo
Re-reading books to kids has important emotional and cognitive benefits
We know that reading books to children has undeniable benefits when it comes to speech and vocabulary development and literacy.
But younger children have this habit of asking you to read the same story over and over again. So much so that you might wonder if re-reading books this frequently has any benefit at all.
After all, by now your child (and you!) has memorised every single word and picture in their favourite book. You can forget about skipping pages six to eight, too.
It turns out that re-reading books to little ones (especially toddlers) supports their learning and cognitive development through one very important technique: repetition.
The science behind re-reading books to kids
Children learn through repetition. And this is why they ask for the same book to be read to them every single night. While you might think they’ve already learned everything the book has to offer, this is not true.
Every time you read that book again, your child’s brain is absorbing the language, the words, the flow of the story (logical sequence), colours, shapes and even numbers. There’s a magical learning process taking place, and it’s been proven by science.
A 2010 study shows that reading the same story four times rather than twice to toddlers improved their capability of reproducing the actions needed to make a toy rattle.
Another study in 2011 discovered that when children were read the same book many times, they remembered and understood the meaning of a new word, in comparison to kids who read different books each time.
Meanwhile, a study found out that reading the same story over and over again to slightly older kids — aged three to five years — helped them learn new and unique words.
Now, you might wonder what rare words can be found in a child’s book. But research shows that children’s books offer 50 per cent more unusual words than TV and your typical university student conversation!
Just think — when did you last use words like “caterpillar” or “giraffe” when talking to another adult?
Learn. Repeat. Learn. Repeat.
Re-reading books to your children is super-exciting for them because they can anticipate what’s coming next. This gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride in their skills too.
Every time they hear the same story, their memory skills get a good workout as they pitch in with familiar words. They learn basic ideas about logic as they immerse themselves in the flow of the story which usually follows a logical sequence.
Repetition strengthens neuro-connections in the brain that enhance learning. It creates a pattern in a child’s brain, which eventually leads to understanding. An unfamiliar concept or idea becomes bright and clear after repeated exposure.
So, with this in mind, every time your child hears the same words and sentences, his brain is making important connections, helping him learn new vocabulary.
Mums and dads, don’t forget to enhance the learning repetition bring your child.
So, stop in the middle of a sentence and encourage your little one to finish it for you. Ask them questions. Answer their questions. Do a mini theatre performance which is an adaptation of their favourite book. Relate the story to an experience. There are so many ways you can further encourage the development re-reading books brings.
Children find comfort in repetition. Image source: File photo
Re-reading books also brings comfort
Besides the cognitive benefits of reading the same book repeatedly, doing this also has another very important advantage: it brings comfort to your little one.
Kids find security in predictability. Comfort in knowing what to expect next. It gives them a sense of control and confidence, knowing that they know.
Children look for patterns and familiarity to make sense of their world. And they find this when they ask you to read their favourite book over and over again! It helps that their favourite people in the world — mum and dad — are intimately connected to the activity that brings them so much security.
So, parents, the next time (probably today!) your child asks you to read that book again, know that by giving in to this request, you are opening whole new worlds of learning for your little one.
Cuddle up now, and read!
Also read: This four-year-old author started reading at age one
References: Frontiers in Psychology, World Economic Forum