Lately my daughter came home from nursery with her ‘Next Steps in Learning’ one of them mentioned retelling familiar stories. This is something she loves to do and that’s probably because she has always been read to. But did you know that it is the rereading of the same books over and over again which helps young minds to absorb the structure of stories so that it becomes part of their everyday vocabulary, then their play and eventually one day their writing? Which means it doesn’t matter too much if you have access to hundreds of books or a carefully selected few, if you read them together regularly this will have a positive affect on your child’s use of language. Great news, hey?
When I was a teacher of 4/5 year olds we used to have a part of the day where we would read our ‘5 a day’ and it would be the same books for a couple of weeks everyday. As adults, we often presume that children will get bored with the same books day after day but the opposite is true. They love the predictability of it all and feel comfortable and familiar with it. I am not suggesting this is something you do at home. Books at home are for pleasure and fun but some of the same principles can be applied. Choosing books with plenty of repetition and repeated phrases helps your child to join in, predict what’s coming next and remember large chunks of text. So below I have chosen some of my favourite books which have a strong repetitive element perfect for sticking in the minds of our children and helping them soak up all the lovely language so they can use it for themselves.
‘Little Rabbit Foo Foo’ by Michael Rosen and Arthur Robins
Little Rabbit Foo Foo is a naughty rabbit who likes nothing better than to ride round all day on his motorbike with a mallet bopping creatures on the head. Luckily, the highly unconventional Good Fairy is on hand to make sure he learns his lesson and isn’t allowed to terrify the unsuspecting forest creatures. It is arranged into four sections and only a couple of words change in each part so it is highly repetitive and perfect for joining in with. This book is pretty bonkers and really quirky and I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t find it hilarious. It also has the added bonus of really detailed pictures so there’s plenty to look at as you go along.
‘On the Way Home’ by Jill Murphy
My copy of this book has been with me since my seventh birthday when my best friend bought it for me because it had a main character called Claire. Claire has fallen and cut her knee and as she meets different friends on the way home she comes up with more and more fanciful stories about how she did it. Each page starts and ends with the same phrases and I’ve used it in class with children up to the age of 7/8 and they’ve all enjoyed it. Another interesting feature is that it’s set out a bit like a cartoon strip on each page so its really attractive to look at. I love the illustrations of Jill Murphy and looking at the pictures now makes me feel all nostalgic and I have that lovely sensation of being seven again.
(As I was writing this my little one swooped on this and begged me to read it to her right away. Surely proof of a good book!)
‘Wow! said the Owl’ by Tim Hopgood
This is a shorter text about an owl that decides to stay up during the day to see the colours. It’s got a really good balance of text and pictures and each page contains the phrase ‘Wow! said the owl’ which even the really little ones can join in with. The pictures are a delight, it helps consolidate colour learning if that’s the stage your child is at and the illustrations are really vibrant and eye catching.
‘Oh no, George!’ by Chris Haughton
Meet George, a dog that really wants to be good but finds it very hard to control himself especially around things like cake and soil. When he gets left alone he makes some very bad choices and ends up in big trouble. Everyone is sure to find this book hilarious, especially if you have a mischeivous dog of your own. The illustrations are amazing and unique, I love the way Chris Haughton uses colour to give each of his books its own personality. I’m a huge fan of this author/illustrator but this one has the bonus of having plenty of repetition in it too.
‘Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy’ by Linley Dodd
Okay, so I do have a bit of weakness for books about dogs but this one is a bona fide classic! In it, children are introduced to Hairy Maclary and his gang of dog friends- each one full of character and ranging in size from a Great Dane to a Dachshund. But the really clever part is the repetetion. Its a bit similar to that car game you might have played when you were younger where you have to memorise Grandma’s shopping list by adding one new item each time. So on each page it introduces a new character and adds them to a list and by the end of the story everyone is trying to join in and remember who comes next. The good news is that if you enjoy this book there are several in the series with the same cast of characters and we love them all.
I hope you find this useful. It really is just the tip of the iceberg. Hopefully you are reading this and thinking of lots of books that you already have at home which fit this criteria and if not now you have a place to start. It’s also worth mentioning that I have tried to choose books here that are purely repetitive (except Hairy Maclary) but there are many, many more that have both elements of rhyme and repetition. I’d love to know more about how you choose your books too. Do you find yourself reading the same books regularly that your children are beginning to memorise? Or do you prefer to read a wide variety because you think they get fed up of the same thing every day? Let me know what you think.