Children love repetition because it gives them a feeling of control over an experience — they feel the joy of anticipation over what comes next and then the satisfaction of knowing the outcome. This is one of the basic tools of learning throughout the early childhood years. However, seemingly mindless repetition such as the same bedtime story every night can get tedious for you as a parent and more importantly, stall new learning opportunities for your child.
Here are some suggestions both for rereading that favorite book and for choosing new books:
Two for one. Suggest to your child that you read two books before bed, with the stipulation that he picks one (it is likely to be the favorite) and you pick the other.
When you reread the favorite, try to vary your focus or interactions from the night before. For example, if you talked about the main character on earlier readings, highlight other characters on subsequent readings. Use different expressions in your voice as you read and make comments that introduce new ideas during or after reading. Or focus on different aspects of the book. There may be colors or things to name in one reading, things to count in another, or special words like rhymes to focus on in still another.
When you introduce a new book, keep in mind your child's interests and tastes. What is it about the favorite that is so appealing? Often, choosing a new book by the same author will give a new twist on the positive experience your child initially had.
- The spice of life. It is important to expose your child to a variety of book experiences. The language used in stories is often different from other books. Stories contain flowing language ripe with imagery. Informational books often contain unusual vocabulary, and the reader may have to make mental connections between the concepts presented. You'll want to give your child plenty of experiences with both.
- Picture pages. Children's book illustrators are marvelous. They use a variety of techniques, such as paint, cut paper, and clay. Photographs are also powerful tools to convey concepts and ideas. By noticing and discussing these things, you help build your child's knowledge and creativity and enhance his understanding of the book.
Finally, remember that just as adults like some books more than others, children have definitive tastes as well. Some read-alouds will go poorly simply because the child doesn't like the book. Strike a balance between helping your child give the book a chance (read one or two more pages to see if it gets any better) and, if necessary, abandoning the book altogether.