To Re-Read or Not to Re-Read, That is the Question

A friend of mine, mother of two young readers, called me the other day.cursed child

Her son, after getting his hands on J. K. Rowling’s newest book has decided to revisit the Harry Potter series. He is currently re-reading his collection, half-way through book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Mom is torn. We’re in the dog days of summer, and son is reading. Reading so much, in fact, that he has been neglecting his video games. He claims he will finish the entire series by Labor Day weekend. She is torn because, she told me, maybe he should be reading something else. Something he hasn’t already read before.

chamber“Is this okay?” she asked me.

I asked her, “Have you ever re-read a book before?”

Every now and then I hear about someone who never, ever has read the same book more than once; but generally speaking, lots and lots of readers take pleasure in re-reading a favorite story. I know I do.

Why do we re-read books?

Because we grasp new meaning with another read. Children, especially, I think can, with each reading of a book, obtain new meaning from the pages. You think about oh, say, the average 10-year-old. He is a solid reader, but he is ten. He might still resort to decoding a word or two (particularly one he has never seen or heard before), and he might still encounter pieces of a story that, because of his limited life experience, he must concentrate to understand. For example, if he is reading about a character who is climbing Mount Everest but the child has no former knowledge of the cold or mountain climbing, each word and just the description of the entire ordeal is going to require more concentration and energy as he reads than a story about a 10-year-old boy who attends his neighborhood school. Sometimes, the first read is for general understanding; a second read allows us to read deeper, discover that hidden clue, understand an emotion, and really absorb the story.

Because it is low-risk. If you enjoyed the book once before, you’re likely to enjoy it again. Who knows what might be happening in our lives. Maybe a beloved pet passed away. Maybe a child is anxious about going back to school. Maybe I just read a really intense murder mystery and my brain needs a break. Quite simply, there are times when returning to a favorite book is just what you need. Reading books is more than just reading. Books – and the stories within them – also provide comfort. Once published, they remain the same, day after day, week after week, year after year.PB

Because it is fun. I’ve seen the same movie more than once (and can unabashedly recite nearly every line in The Princess Bride). When in North Carolina in the summer, I attempt new hikes but return to some favorite trails every year. We bowl on Father’s Day. Why? Because we like to. If a child likes a book, reading it again might just be enjoyable, plain and simple.

So, to get back to my friend… Yes, I told her, yes. It is more than okay that he is reading those books for a second time. Good for him. Maybe we might take the time to recall books we’ve read more than once – or, for that matter, books that, someday, we hope to pick up again.

Keep Re-Reading,

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Contact me at fplweb (at) frontporchlibrarian dot com

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