Reasons to Repeat

My daughter's personal copy of Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton.

Do you have your child's favorite book memorized? Kids love to hear the same story over, and over, and OVER again. And again. And again. (Do you see the pattern here?)

In our household, when my daughter was a toddler her beloved book was Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton You can tell from the photo that it was much-loved, and it was not a library copy. I can't swear that I recited it in my sleep, but I probably could have. I know that I performed it, verbatim, for pretty much whoever was willing to listen to me.

There is a reason why kids adore repetition. It builds their brains. Neural connections get stronger by being exposed to the same information time after time after time. A 2015 study at the University of Maryland showed better vocabulary scores for two-year-old kids who had specific words repeated to them when they were seven-month-olds than the outcomes for their peers who didn't experience the repeated phrases as babies.

This doesn't just mean books. It means rhymes, poems, songs. Recently, a ten-month-old named Derrick visited the Kansas City Public Library's Central Library. He lives in the Houston area. His mom told me that he loves hearing "Pat-a-Cake" and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." When I sang the second song with gestures, Derrick looked at me with wide eyes and a smile. I enchanted the fellow. He was far from home, yet the library lady knew one of his favorite songs!

The love of language and familiarity continues as kids age. Books that rhyme and that she can remember are among the favorites for for three-year-old Avery, according to her dad. She also is a fan of all things Doc McStuffins.

Favorite characters help bridge the gap between other media and books. They also can motivate understanding for how a story works. The concepts of beginning, middle, and end, rising action, conflict, and resolution are all easier to see modeled than to learn from a textbook. For my daughter, she learned these elements from Scooby Doo. Although the details changed, every plot was basically identical. When I told Sal, a five year old at the Central Library about this, he agreed that he likes Scooby Doo. He is also a fan of Pokemon and Lego.

Sal's parents do not stop there. His mom says that the read a section every night with him and his seven-year-old sibling, Josephine. A 2015 New York Times article speaks to the importance of this for family bonding and for fostering a life-long love of reading. What do they read? Sal's mother says that lately they have been enjoying Roald Dahl favorites like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Although these books can be dark, the kids are not reporting nightmares. If they do, the parents will find something else.

So, kids love the familiar. Be it the same rhyme or song, repeated picture books, beloved characters, the same series, or the same style- indulge them. Yes, it can make the grown-ups feel a bit nuts at times. The benefits outweigh that, and they will soon move on to a new obsession anyhow.