When a Child Wants to Read the Same Book Again and Again

 

I remember when my kids were much younger. They’d bring me a picture book and ask me to read it, and I would say, “Not this one again! Don’t you want me to read you something new?” They’d shake their heads and I’d sigh and begin the book for the 100th time, or so it seemed. Yes, sometimes children want to stay with the same book for a very long time.

The same thing happens with drawing. Gemma-Rose has sketchbooks full of mermaid pictures, pages and pages of them. She had a princess period too. “Why don’t you try drawing something different?” I ask. Something different? My youngest daughter doesn’t understand my question. What’s wrong with drawing the same thing over and over again?

And then there are obsessions with certain subjects. Dinosaurs is a famous one. What about games? The same computer game, day after day. Or I can remember the girls playing endless games of Little House on the Prairie. Every day they’d hitch up the horses and climb aboard their wagon, before setting off on yet another adventure out west.

I wondered why kids seem to get stuck, immersed in one particular learning experience. And then one day I got stuck myself. I caught a glimpse of what it’s like to be ‘obsessed’.

Some months ago, I had an urge to draw. I needed a bit of persuasion to get started: “I’m just no good at drawing,” I said, shaking my head. “But Mum, you won’t get any better unless you actually do some drawing.” So I decided to be brave and put pencil to paper, instead of just thinking about it.

For some reason, I wanted to draw a cat. It didn’t have to be a realistic cat. A stylised version would do. Maybe this was because we have three cats of our own. Anyway, Poppy, Sammy and Jenny, our long haired felines, were convenient models. I started looking carefully at how they are put together. How are their legs attached to their bodies? What folds up when they sit down? I think many people are rather unobservant. We see things every day and never look properly. So I began looking.

I got really excited when my sketches of cats actually started looking like cats. “Hey! Do you know what this is a picture of?” I asked my children. “Of course!” they replied. “It’s a cat.” Oh that made me feel all warm inside. Not that my cats were very good. They weren’t. But they were still recognisable cats.

I drew cat after cat and cat. I filled my sketchbook with standing cats and sitting cats and lying down cats. There were fat cats and thin cats, mean cats and happy cats. Some cats had spots and some had stripes. There were long-whiskered cats and zig-zaggy whiskered ones.

At one point I tried my hand at drawing dogs. But I soon returned to cats. I thought about drawing giraffes and birds too. Yes, birds tempted me very much. But it was cats I wanted to draw. I hadn’t finished with them. I still had so much more to learn before I was satisfied and could move on.

I haven’t really moved on even now (though I must admit I haven’t done much drawing recently). But when I do feel like drawing something else, I am sure I will take a lot of skills with me when I next attempt a dog or even an elephant. I will have a head start when I try to conquer those animals.

So I’m guessing children go through the same process. While they still have things to learn, they will be content to stay with a book or a drawing or a game. They are still processing it. But when they do decide to move on, I bet they make light work of the next learning experience.

Of course, it can be frustrating for a parent having to read the same book over and over again. I often thought I’d be reading particular books forever. Of course, that wasn’t true. I’m not still reading the same books I was reading years ago. (Perhaps I hid them!) My children moved on when they were ready.

There’s another thing I’ve noticed about children. They are more willing than adults to give things a go. We tend to get all embarrassed, and the thought of failure keeps us from starting: It won’t look good… I can’t draw…  People will laugh… You know the kind of things we imagine others are going to say. Well, all these thoughts are going through my head right now, as I’m sitting here considering whether I should share my cat drawings with you. Yes, it’s true: They aren’t very good. I am a writer, not an artist. But you know what? I had fun drawing them. And they might illustrate this story rather well. So yes, I am going to be brave and share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, I cheated. See those cats at the top and bottom of this post (the good ones)? I stole them. They’re not mine. They were drawn by my eldest daughter Felicity. She really can draw, unlike me.

Now I’ve reacquainted myself with my sketchbook I actually feel like drawing again. A few minutes ago I thought I might like to return to cats. (I know I still can’t draw cats properly.) But I’ve changed my mind. Sometimes we make unexpected and sudden decisions. Birds… I think I might be ready to move onto birds. Have you ever noticed how diverse birds are? There’s big ones and small ones. They come in all colours. Some have beaks: hooked ones, sharp ones, long ones… And some have bills. Some swim, some fly and some hover. Oh yes, I think birds are so complex they are going to keep me busy for a very long time.

So I’m going to be drawing nothing but birds for days, weeks, even months. And that’s quite okay. Don’t you think?
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Comments

  1. Reply

    I love your cats Sue!! And Felicity's cats. 😉 I think you are right, they still have something to learn.

    I always tell Keilee when I am old and feeble just to give me my favorite books over and over again. When Keilee was 3 she wanted to watch The Wizard of Oz over and over and over until I wanted to kill everyone in the film!!

    1. Reply

      Karen,

      Thank you for your kind words about the cats. I am encouraged to start drawing my birds! Actually I'm feeling quite excited about it.

      It's funny how adults get fed up with a book or a movie long before a child does, even great movies like Tangled. My girls still can't enough of that one. I can't wait until Frozen is released onto DVD so we can watch something else!

      Thank you so much for your comment. It's good to chat!

  2. Reply

    I love your cats, althoug they're not naturalistic cats (like Felicity's beautes) your cats have personality. Mean cats and kind cats. Didn't a lot of the old masters go throug periods as well, like blue periods, lily pad periiods and such. I think we have grown too used to be able to do anything in a jiffy. Let's get back to obsessions again – end of ramble, I'm off th draw some birds – and a Droplet or two.

    1. Reply

      Uglemor,

      Cats with personality? Yes, I like that! And I love your comment about the old masters. You are quite right. I have just passed out of my cat period. Now it's time for my bird period. Birds with personality, of course! You are going to draw birds too? Wonderful! I hope you'll post them on your blog. And I must check out your latest Droplet stories.

  3. Reply

    I really love this post. I don't have anything enlightening to add, except that I see this same thing in my house, and I think it's perfectly ok! My son is obsessed with Minecraft, and has been for over a year. He is constantly thinking of new things to build in it and discovering different ways to experience the game. My daughter loves coloring princesses and lately has been coloring in different designs instead of coloring the exact colors that Disney represents them as. Myself, I have been obsessed with crocheting for the last few years and I don't see it going away any time soon. I love that we are all able to experience our own hobbies and interests with passion, love and creativity.

    1. Reply

      Jacey,

      You said, "I love that we are all able to experience our own hobbies and interests with passion, love and creativity." Oh yes! When I immerse myself in a passion, the time just flies by as I enter a different creative world. It's a wonderful feeling (except when I'm supposed to be doing something else like cooking the dinner!)

      I think when we spend a long time with one thing it allows us to think more deeply about it, and to come up with additional ideas. It sounds like this is exactly what's happening with your children. I am interested to hear about your son's experience with Minecraft because my girls haven't yet tried it.

      No problem with the double posting. Easy fixed!

      Thank you so much for your comment!

    2. Reply

      Oops, sorry for the double post. Feel free to delete!

  4. Reply

    I happen to like your cats as much as your daughter's! Speaking of getting stuck on the same book- do you have advice on children who don't like to read at all? I'm required to keep a book list, and I'm afraid it's going to be quite skimpy for some kids this year. It's not as if I'm not modeling reading- I'm always reading, sometimes 2-3 books at once!

    1. Reply

      Shelly,

      I'm happy you like my cats! Thank you.

      I always find it hard to understand why a child doesn't want to read because I am an avid reader. I expect everyone to be exactly like me! But I don't suppose that is realistic.

      Do your not-so-keen readers like to listen to books read out loud? Or maybe they like to watch movie versions? Except for having to keep book list records, maybe it's not a big problem. I know my husband isn't a great reader. We joke that he only reads books that have lots of pictures in them! (He was a great picture book reader when our children were younger.) But he knows how to enjoy a book every now and then, and reads newspapers etc. He'd prefer to sit and enjoy a movie rather than dive into a book.

      How many books are your kids required to read? My husband is a primary school teacher and his students read very few books each year, maybe a couple each term. I was looking at the high school curriculum and the requirements there aren't big at all either: a Shakespeare, another play a couple of novels, some poetry… My readers would cover that in very little time. But if they were reluctant readers I think they could manage to fulfil the requirements without too many problems. They could always watch the DVD versions!

      I wonder if putting pressure on kids to read actually turns them off. They might come to enjoy reading in their own time if we step back. Sometimes it can be very frustrating having to balance the needs and interests of our children and fulfil state requirements at the same time, can't it?

  5. Reply

    It is so frustrating! The younger kids don't have a set amount legally required, but the evaluator is an English teacher, so she's very into what they're reading. I do feel like making them read makes it not fun. I really only push the issue with my kids who are in 3rd grade and above because they're the ones who have to register with the school district. My 14-year-old is going through a diploma program that requires 25 books a year, including 3 classics. It's not a problem with her because she loves to read, but next year my son will start the same program, and that's going to be a problem.

    1. Reply

      Shelly,

      Does the program require certain books to be read, or can your children make their own choices? Could they read non-fiction, something related to their interests and hobbies? I wonder if you could start with lighter reading like Asterix comics or magazines to capture a child's interest in reading.

      Maybe your son could watch a DVD version of the classics books before attempting to read the books. I was encouraged to read more of Charles Dickens' books after seeing the BBC mini-series. Even with lighter novels there might be movie versions that could be watched first.

      We sometimes all read the same book at the same time so we can discuss it together, and encourage each other along. Though maybe with lots of little ones you might not have time to do this.

      Or maybe the evaluator has some tips of her own for encouraging reading?

      I guess we can only encourage. We can't make our children read if they refuse, without threatening to punish and that would be so counter-productive.

  6. Reply

    I really liked it when my little ones wanted the same book read over and over. I still have many of their favorites memorized – I'll bet you do too! To this day, I can start the opening lines of one of their favorites and they will all go on with it. I was very into forensics when I was in high school, so I think I was perfecting my reading of the books!

    One thing I've seen in my older kids who reread certain books: the ones that do it are my fastest readers and I wonder if they aren't going deeper after skimming it the first time. I've not worried too much about kids' "obsessions" because I feel that those really gripping passions are filling some sort of need. I think that if those needs aren't allowed to be filled naturally, they tend to resurface in ways that are harder to fill later.

    I do have kids on the autism spectrum, so I guess I can't say I've not worried at all, but when they've been too narrowly focused, it hasn't taken much strewing to get them interested in other things as well. A lot of the broadening of interests has to do with having a lot of kids interested in a lot of things: no one wants to miss anything! 🙂

    I love your cats, Sue, and Felecity's as well. I always wished that I had cats like Felicity's (sleek, poised and elegant), but mine all looked more like yours, Sue (fun, sweet, and a bit silly)! I think you've both caught the essences of cats!

    1. Reply

      Wendy,

      I still remember many of the words of such books as 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt'. I am constantly amazed at what my kids do memorise. All kinds of quotes that touch them in some way become part of their memories without any effort.

      We often reread books that are rich and deep like Jane Austen or Charles Dickens because there is so much to enjoy, and we notice different things each time round. The same is true when we watch Shakespeare's plays over and over again. They become more familiar and we see new things each time. The better we know a book or play the more we love it because they seem like old friends.

      "no one wants to miss anything! " Oh yes! We always want to know what each other is doing: Can I try that too?… Can I read that after you?

      Thank you for being so kind about my cats! I have a good bird story I want to write, so I must draw my birds with personality to illustrate it.

      Have you ever posted your drawings on your blog? I'd love to see your cats!

    2. Reply

      Oh! We love "Going on a Bear Hunt!" And Jamberry, Goodnight Moon, A Pie Went By, so many others!

      I do post drawings, but not the way you are thinking. I meant that you drew cats the way my actual cats were! At one point I had three cats, all black and white (we couldn't afford color). 😉 One was an extremely large black tom cat with what looked like vampire teeth which you could see when his mouth was closed. He was the terror of the neighbor hood children because he looked so scary, but he was completely baffled by this reaction. He was just a big, affectionate, sweet cat who liked to be silly, and he liked kids! Sleek and elegant… not so much!

      I tend to draw and post things for particular purposes, like our Walking with Jesus poster (which will show up on the blog on Saturday – I'm going to see my parents again and so have loaded up a few posts). I do draw and doodle just for pleasure, but mostly, strange to say, during Adoration. Sitting, chatting with Jesus, I often draw whatever we're talking about in my prayer journal. It's pretty funny, now that I realize that's when I draw! Better than playing the violin then, I guess (at least for the other people in the chapel)!

    3. Reply

      Wendy,

      You couldn't afford coloured cats? That's funny! Talking of colour…I haven't used any in my drawings… yet. I shall have to experiment! I like the sound of your tom cat.

      I love the sound of your prayer journal. I'd like to feel so at ease with drawing that I could doodle down my thoughts. I'll watch out for your Walking with Jesus poster.

      Enjoy your visit to your parents!

  7. Reply

    I've tried comic books, Manga, non-fiction books about their interests…reading is still like a chore to some (most) of my kids. We've watched movie versions after reading classics. Doing it before is a new idea. I'll try that. Arianna did just get Little Women (DVD) from the library because I was telling her how much I loved that book. Maybe we'll watch it, and then I'll ask her if she'd like to read it. I'd even be happy with the abridged version at this point. Thanks for the great suggestions!

    1. Reply

      You might try audio books, especially full cast audios where the book is read by a team of actors. We have had success with them in the car, or at home playing the CD while the child is drawing or playing with Legos. It can be a good compromise where the child's mind is at a different level than their reading level. We mostly get them from our library, but there are many downloadable sites, some free, some for money. If you are just starting, it's worth paying for the full cast. Big Finish has Dr. Who audio adventures for sale. Lit to Go is free and almost all classics, but usually with one reader.

    2. Reply

      Thanks for the suggestions. It's worth a shot!

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