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They've been really well looked after...

Updated: Jul 22, 2019


Books that are old, books that are new, books that remain unread, but most importantly, books that are repeated.

Today we took a walk to the local car boot sale. Once we got through the regulars - the garden tools, interspersed with china tea sets and old records - we reached the parents. Their stalls are full of toys, books and clothing and it's difficult for any parent to pass by with their child without a little pleading for the chunkiest, tackiest, toy they can find! Our worst picks in the requests made today included a Transformers full head mask and every Father Christmas themed item in sight! (In July!). We managed to escape with a 1980s Rubik's Pyraminx, a Rubik's Twist that the kind gentleman gave to our youngest for free, and a pair of boys' shoes.


The thing that stuck in my mind was a lady organising her books. I heard her say to a buyer that the books had been really well looked after. In fact, they looked like they were new. Had they even been read? As adults, we don't like every book we come across: sometimes we don't even pick them up, sometimes we read a little and give up. As children, most books, especially those with pictures, are worth a read or two. Sure, we have our preferences and can feel our inner groan when our darling son or daughter asks us to read the same old story again, but they're learning so much from the repetition and it's really worthwhile in helping their literacy development. Here are a few reasons why:


1. Comfort: like an old pair of slippers, a story they've heard before is comfortable, predictable and homely. Snuggling up at bedtime with a familiar story makes for a relaxed and happy child at bedtime (in theory!). The more they hear the story, the more connections they can make in their brains, deepening their understanding along the way.


2. Vocabulary: there are so many words in stories that we don't use in our day to day lives and so hearing them again and again reinforces the meaning of each in context, so that your child can start to say these words, too. Take a look in any story book and you'll see words you may never have used!


3. Sentence structure: repeating stories reinforces differences in sentence structure, especially if there's lots of repetition within the story itself. You might even hear your child use the sentences now and again. If you use a few of them in your day to day activities with your child, this is even better! My little one often asks for some 'bread and butter, a hard-boiled egg, a big cup of milk and some cornflakes!' This is a list she's repeating from My Naughty Little Sister, and she doesn't know it yet but she's paving the way to use commas in her writing by the time her teacher needs her to when she's 7 years old!


4. Sequencing: this is a hugely important aspect of language development and one that speech and language therapists often use to set targets for children with language delay. Knowing that stories have a beginning, a middle and an end is a good starting point, moving to ordering events from a story, which can be reinforced through repetition.


Research has suggested that children build stronger vocabularies by hearing stories again and again and I certainly believe this to be true. I am not a natural user of big words, nor am I an avid reader, but perhaps I could have been if I had read more as a teenager. I was quick to notice if my dad missed a page of The Ugly Duckling when he thought I was asleep so I know that he and my mum gave in to my requests for repetition when I was little.


Back to the inspiration for this post; the car boot sale: some of the books may have been really well looked after, sitting unread on the shelf before being sold to start the cycle again, and this is perfectly normal, as long as each child has a core of books that he or she can look at and repeat for many years to come.

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