Monday, May 30, 2005

Picnic Book Talk

I was at the annual Memorial Day picnic yesterday, just shooting the breeze with my brother-in-law, when he starts talking about reading to his six-year-old daughter. He mentioned that they'd recently read one of the Magic Tree House books. Evidently it wasn't the first that they'd read because he said he couldn't help but notice that they were all alike. They seemed very much like the same book written over and over again.

I hated to be the one to break it to him, but that's the case with a lot of series books written for new readers. While talking about this...phenomena...I wondered if there was a developmental reason for it. Maybe these books weren't just quick and dirty ways to make a buck--hook the kid on a character and situation and keep them coming back for more.

So I posed that very question at Child_Lit. The response was pretty much unanimous. Kids do need repetition to become fluent readers. They need to see the same words over and over again in order to really know them. (Which may explain why Dr. Seuss worked with a word list when he started out in the 50s or 60s.) With every repetitious, predictable book in a series that kids read, they become more and more comfortable reading. Evidently not having to put a lot of energy into working out new characters and plots leaves them with energy to store away vocabulary and maybe just get the feel for how stories are put together.

I am obsessing on this, of course, because I'm still working on a book for that age group.

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