Ask BookTrust - Why does my son re-read the same books?
Published on: 30 Hydref 2015 Author: Katherine Woodfine
In the latest instalment of our Ask BookTrust feature, we respond to a query about why children love re-reading the same favourite books.
Dear Book Trust,
I have a question I hope you might help me with. My son has always loved reading. By aged 10 he has read all the Septimus Heap books, all Michelle Paver and his favourite – all the Rick Riordon books. However he now seems reluctant to read much else and instead reads the same books again and again (Percy Jackson is on his fifth outing!).
I wonder if this 'phase' is normal. I remember my own parents' frustration when I (also an early reader) went through about 3 years of only reading Enid Blyton until they got frustrated too – probably fearing that I was going to enter university with nothing more than Malory Towers under my arm. They grumbled about it because they viewed me to be 'stuck in a rut' and said I wouldn't learn much if I only read one author. I saw this as nagging!
Now the tables have turned and my husband and I feel the same frustration my parents must have experienced. I wonder though if we should lay off him – maybe it is a natural part of his reading development and in his own time he will move on. I certainly don't want him to see reading as a chore. As parents I think we have been very proud of our intelligent son who read big books at a young age, yet now he seems to have 'peaked' – much to our dismay! Perhaps by re-reading the books he is gaining a greater understanding and will, in his own time move on? I don't know. I wondered if you might be aware of whether there has been any research on why it might be that children as old as 10 read the same books all over again and whether it is indeed a healthy part of reading development.
We aren't aware of any research specifically focusing on why older children tend to re-read the same books over and over again, but like you, we're aware that it's a very common phenomenon!
A piece of research focused on adults rather than children suggests that re-reading books can have some benefits: 'the re-experience allows them not only to refresh their memory of the past experience but the recollection is accompanied by the discovery of new details. Therefore, the experience is different, even though it is repeated. By doing it again, people get more out of it.'
Our experience is that children tend to respond very well to familiarity – which is why many series for children tend to repeat the same 'winning' formula time and time again. Enid Blyton's series, such as The Famous Five and The Secret Seven are the perfect example of this! Having found books and authors they love, many children will tend to stick with these safe choices, and will look forward to encountering the same favourite characters and familiar elements time and time again, rather than taking a risk of trying something new.
In terms of helping your son to explore a wider range of reading material, we would advise that you continue to gently encourage him to read other books, but don't push too hard. After all, the most important thing is that he enjoys reading and chooses to do it for fun, whatever the books he chooses.
It may be worth having a few similar titles around the house that might catch his eye – if he enjoys Percy Jackson and Septimus Heap, you could try Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus series, Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant books, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, Cornelia Funke's Thief Lord, or even the Harry Potter series which might prove appealingly familiar if he hasn't read them before but has come across the films. You and your husband might also try reading some of the books you'd like him to read yourself - if he sees you reading and hears you talking about what you've read, he may just be curious enough to join in. But whatever you do, make sure you continue to praise him for reading, even if it is the same old favourites – and rest assured that he'll come to discover a wider range of reading matter in his own time.
As a final thought, you might also be interested to read some comments from children and teenagers about what they think about re-reading the same books – take a look at this interesting discussion on the website Goodreads.