On our bookshelf in our classroom right now we have several titles that the children read over and over and never tire of — Miss Nelson is Missing by James Allard, Dr. DeSoto by William Steig, and a well-worn copy of Small, Medium Large by Emily Jenkins.
One recent day, a group of boys were huddled together on the bean bag chair, turning pages, laughing and regaling each other with the story of the teacher, Miss Nelson whose rambunctious class is taken in hand by the terrible Miss Viola Swamp.
While this might look like “just play,” this repetition is an important building block for reading — at first children notice the basics: you turn the pages from right to left, the words are the same each time a book is read, and print travels from left to right. Then after a bit, they begin to “read” out loud, through memorizing the words they have heard over and over. And after a while, the memorized words are paired with the text and actual reading begins!
The important ingredients here are the stories that bear repeating over and over, that capture children’s imagination and attention, that use interesting vocabulary and are well-constructed. Keeping children well supplied with good literature is instrumental in developing a life-long love of reading.