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Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between – a podcast for educators, librarians, parents, and everyone who loves middle grade books! My goal is to help you connect kids between 8-12 with fantastic reads because I believe that a book can change the trajectory of a child’s life. And I want to help you introduce kids to those amazing, life-shaping books and bring you inspiring (and fun!) conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.
I’m your host, Corrina Allen – a mom of two tweens, a 5th grade teacher, and just back from an awe-inspiring visit with my family to Niagara Falls. If you have ever have the opportunity to go, there is nothing quite like standing on a rocking boat within the mist of the roaring horseshoe falls and gazing up 170 feet at over 3,000 tons of water thundering over those cliffs every second. Do go you if you can – it’s impressive, we learned a TON, and it’s one of those things that should be experienced at least once in your life.
A quick reminder to help out your future self and set yourself a reminder for Monday nights at 9pm EST so you can catch the #MGBookChat Twitter chat – we have scheduled some great topics and hosts later on this summer and fall. So I will see you there.
This is episode #75 and today’s show starts with a discussion about the benefits of rereading and then I bring you a conversation with Scholastic librarian Deimosa Webber-Bey.
Main Topic – The Benefits of Rereading
Let’s start with the top 20 books that my 5th grade students loved and recommended this school year. Because it’s one thing for an adult to enjoy a book, but for it to really make an impact, it has to connect with its intended audience. There have been plenty of books that I loved, but for some reason didn’t seem to resonate with middle grade readers. Honestly, I think THIS list is way more valuable than ANY list that any adult puts out.
Our main topic today is a discussion around rereading books. Over the years, my own thinking in this area has evolved a lot. As a young teacher who wanted to make the most out of absolutely every precious second of classroom time, I had a rather negative view of students reading a book for pleasure that they had already read before. If a kid was picking a novel for a book club or a book report, I wouldn’t let them select a book they had previously read. Thinking back, that really did seem to be the norm among my colleagues. Like them, I viewed it as cheating a little bit! As if they wouldn’t be as engaged in the text a second time around or they weren’t challenging themselves enough. Basically – I considered rereading a book in school as a waste of a learning opportunity.
It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that a friend had a conversation with me that changed my mind. We weren’t even debating the merits of allowing kids to reread books, we were just chatting. She asked me, “Corrina, what’s your favorite movie?” And I said, “Oh! The Princess Bride! I’ve watched it like 50 times…..” Oh. Ohhhhh…….
And that’s when it hit me. It was that one friendly person inadvertently holding up a mirror to myself that made me reconsider the misconceptions I held and start to realize there are huge benefits to experiencing a text, a film, multiple times.
I mean – if you think about it – watching a movie or tv series over and over again – is a commonly shared and even celebrated social phenomenon. I hear lots of people talking about how many times they’ve watched The Office or Black Panther or Star Wars. In my house, it’s a running joke how many times my husband’s Facebook status is “watching Casino Royale”
So today, I’d like to explore with you some reasons why rereading is so satisfying, some academic benefits, and a few ways to enhance the rereading experience for the kids you work with.
Why Rereading is so Satisfying
Let’s start with why rereading is so satisfying.
- First – it’s fun! If you love a book, you get to spend more time with favorite characters and relive those climactic moments in the story. It’s like going on your favorite roller-coaster again. Yeah, you already know when the twists are turns are, but also – here come those twists and turns and I can’t wait for them!
- Another way that rereading can be satisfying is that there’s less pressure to finish the book. Maybe you just want to skim it or reread your favorite scenes. It’s a lower commitment situation than starting a new book.
- Having books around that you enjoy rereading or reading parts of, can enhance your overall reading life. Because dipping in to a favorite book when you are in between other reads or you don’t have have a big chunk of time to start something new is a good way to keep reading momentum going through those tricky times in your life. Or when kids are struggling to find that next book they really want to read. Often, my students will pull out those tried and true favorites like Sunny Side Up or Guiness Book of World Records or the Minecraft Handbooks when nothing else had really hooked them yet.
- Another excellent reason to reread a book is to prepare for the next book coming out in the series. A parallel to that is the binge-watching that happens when a new season of a favorite TV show starts. When season three of Stranger Things dropped on July 4th, my family spent a few weeks prior rewatching the previous seasons to catch us up to speed on the plot. And also because being familiar with the back stories of the characters made watching season three so much better.
- And finally, when I consider why a child may be rereading a book again – or maybe over and over again – I have to think that there may be something comforting in that text. It might be providing a sense of stability and order and a sense of knowing what’s coming next during a time in their life when they need that.
Aside from simply making you happy, rereading texts multiple times does have academic benefits that can boost reading skills. For example –
- Reading a text a second or third or fourth time can really increase one’s fluency. Even if that rereading is just in your head and not out loud, you’ll start to have a smoother experience without halting on tricky vocabulary or getting lost in complex sentence structures. You might start to mentally add more expression and read with tone in mind now that you aren’t spending mental energy figuring out who the characters are and what’s happening. Last year, I read Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always out loud to my class, which was about the fourth read for me – and it had taken me that long to start to pick apart the different speech patterns and personalities and emotions of the characters in order to even start to read that out loud well.
- Another huge benefit to children when they reread is that they will notice far more on the second or third time through the text. I’ve already mentioned picking up more vocabulary, but catching on to the author’s foreshadowing or their use of symbolism or how they are developing a theme across chapters is one of the joys of rereading. And it’s also fun to pick up those little clues along the way of character development. To use a common example, when you reread Harry Potter a second time, you realize – Oh! Harry could talk to and understand the snake in the zoo – that comes up later when they realize he’s a parseltongue. And knowing the motivations and backstory of Snape makes for such a rich reread of those earlier books. Aspects of the story that you are never going to appreciate or even understand unless you reread it. To throw in an adult example, I recently rewatched The Good Place with my husband and whoa – knowing what you know now and going back and watching the interactions between the characters and picking up on all the references and appreciating that Yogurt word play is just… perfection.
- The other noticing that can happen on a reread – is that you start to pick out problematic aspects of a book that might not have been in your realm of awareness the first time you read it. For example, when I reread Harry Potter with my class last year, I noticed those early chapters were full of offensive references to character’s weight. In a way where fatness was used to elicit disgust with certain characters. Lately, in order to get a better grasp on the society we live in and the challenges we’re facing, I’ve been reading some adult nonfiction books that have impacted the lens with which I view all stories and well, life! Just to name two – first, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne, and I just finished Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility (which is amazing and please, please go read that book next if you have not.) What I’m getting at is that your perspective and what you notice in rereading a text is influenced by the learning you’re doing in other areas of your life.
- Another way that rereading can have the power to improve a child’s reading is that those skills and observations they are honing during their 3rd read of New Kid or Front Desk transfer to other new books. Once they’ve started to notice what foreshadowing looks like or how the author uses language to set up a certain mood, or the way infographics in that shark book give you more information, they’ll catch on to those maneuvers as they work toward comprehending more unfamiliar or complicated books.
- And – of course – reread can boost their own writing. When they start to notice and identify more of those author’s techniques through multiple rereading of a text, students can try out those writerly maneuvers in their own writing. This reminds me of when Kate DiCamillo was on the show last year and she mentioned (as she has elsewhere) that she rereads Charlotte’s Web every year. Both as a fan and also to orient herself to how that story is constructed.
How to Enhance Rereading for Children
Clearly, there are some huge benefits when children reread, and I think with the right approach we can enhance that experience for them.
- One way to do that is to simply ask them about that book they are reading over and over again! Acknowledge it, let them know you get it, and let them talk about why they love it so much. Honestly, most of the time, people love to be asked about the TV shows and films and books and fandoms they are into. Right now, I am slightly obsessed with Good Omens and I would love for someone to say, “Corrina, why are you so into that show?” and have an excuse to talk about Aziraphale and Crowley and how their relationship evolved over 6,000 years. So – just start by asking them about it.
- And then… go a little further and angle some questions toward those deeper elements. Some of the questions I like to ask when a child is reading a book for the second time are: What are you noticing that someone reading this book for the first time might not catch? What characters have you changed your mind about? When you reread that first chapter again, what do you notice the author doing that sets up something later on in the book?
- Another thing that I like to do when I notice a student reading a book over again is to introduce them to other similar media. For example, if they like Wings of Fire, I’ll share with them the graphic novels based on that series or we might explore an author’s website, or I’ll share some fan art with them or some fan fiction pieces. (Although a quick caveat there – I would not let a child loose on a fan fiction site because things can take some unexpected turns.)
- However, if possible – connect them to other fans either in person or online and encourage them to create some fan art or fan fiction. And if you are looking for a safe place to publish that, MGBookVillage does have a Kids’ Corner where we share book reviews and fan art and fan fiction created by children.
As I wrap up my summer and think ahead to how I want to support readers this school year, embracing rereading and helping students harness the power of experiencing a text more than one time is going to be a larger part of that.
I’ll end this section with some wise words from Dav Pilkey, author of Captain Underpants and Dog Man who has said,
“Nobody complains when musicians play the same songs over and over or when basketball players run the same plays over and over. So why do we complain when children read the same books multiple times?”
Deimosa Webber-Bey – Interview Outline
Our special guest this week is Scholastic Librarian Deimosa Webber-Bey! We chat about encouraging kids to read more over the summer, what books she’s been loving lately, and what Scholastic is doing through their Summer Read-a-Palooza challenge to get more books in more kids’ hands. And there is absolutely still time for you and the kids in your life to help out with that. I will drop a link to the 2019 Scholastic Summer Read-a-Palooza in our show notes and right on the MGBookVillage website so you can check that out. Also – a big part of the conversation that I have with Deimosa is around the results of the latest Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report and the link to that is right there as well and definitely worth your time to explore.
Take a listen…
How did you come to work for Scholastic?
Something that has been on my mind lately as I’ve wrapped up the school year with my students is the knowledge that if they don’t read over the summer, they are going to lose so much of the progress they’ve gained this past year. And what has helped me articulate that “Summer Slide” research to our parents is the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report. Could you tell us a little bit about that report and share some of the findings that really stood out to you?
Scholastic has done so much research in this area! From your point of view, what do you see as the main things that educators and families can do to keep kids reading over the summer?
I love that Scholastic always has a fresh reading campaign for kids every summer – and I love that this year the campaign is supporting a great cause. Can you tell us about the Scholastic Summer Read-a-Palooza?
What are you reading right now? And what are some titles that are on your TBR list for the summer?
Deimosa’s website – http://runawayquiltproject.org
Deimosa on Twitter – @dataquilter
Deimosa on Scholastic – http://oomscholasticblog.com/post/summer-reading-imperative-commentary-deimosa-webber-bey
Books we chatted about:
Five Nights At Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes (Scott Cawthorn)
Transformed (Megan Morrison)
Internment (Samira Ahmed)
Puerto Rico Strong: A Comics Anthology Supporting Puerto Rico Disaster
Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963 (Sharon Robinson)
Miles Morales (Jason Reynolds)
Alright – that’s it for our show this week. If you have a question about how to connect middle grade readers to books they will love or an idea about a guest we should have or a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at email@example.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.
Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at MGBookVillage.org. And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.
Talk with you soon! Bye!
Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.