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Read Them Again…And Again…And Again

Featuring Bo the Brave, by Bethan Woollvin


Read Them Again…And Again

Featuring Bo the Brave, by Bethan Woollvin

Are you a parent who has ever said to your child; You seriously want to read that book again? You’ve read it 1,000 times!!

Or, maybe you’re a teacher who has been told by another teacher; Don’t read that one, it’s reserved for our grade level.

We’ve all been there. I argue however, that reading beautiful picture books again and again, whether it happens within your classroom, in your child’s bedroom, or throughout a students’ ascension through the grade levels is a key component of language and literacy development. When we read books aloud to children repeatedly,  their language development accelerates. This is essential for all students, especially those for whom English is not a first language. Additionally, as students experience the same book again, or read it as they mature, their understanding shifts from literal, to interpretive, to analytical. We know that true processing of a text requires all three levels of comprehension.

When we repeatedly experience high quality text, it is like being on an archeological dig. The first time you enjoy the story, but might only come up with a small fossil or two. Then as you read the book a second or third time, you start to uncover some truly amazing finds…a large bone or partially completed skeleton,  the big picture starts to take shape. This is how we begin to understand text at increasingly complex levels and assemble meaning. Dig down a little farther (read that book again). Gently sweep away the dust (mine each line of text for detail). Not only have you have the complete skeleton, but you have unearthed nuanced details of that prehistoric creature. Just like archaeology, when we read texts again and again, we begin to understand how authors puzzle together each little detail to build the whole story. 

Take Bo the Brave by, Bethan Woollvin. At first read, students understand the plot. They read with literal interpretation. Our youngest children, understand that Bo is a brave character. She fights monsters. After a first read, our young students may even understand that Bo learns a lesson. She gets to know the monsters and learns they aren’t scary. She doesn’t want to fight them anymore! Check out the way that these first graders interpreted Bo the Brave after reading it once.

After a second or third read, children’s inferential skills kick into high gear. They begin to understand that there is a deeper message lying between the pages. They notice that as Bo takes the time to get to know the monsters, she learns that they have good qualities inside of them. They become friends instead of foes. They might think that maybe the message is It’s what’s on the inside that counts. Now, listen to the increasingly sophisticated interpretation after the same first graders have read Bo the Brave a second time.

When children read beautiful picture books again and again as they get older, they practice essential skills of understanding themes, symbolism and the author’s intent. When this fourth grader reread Bo the Brave, he took something entirely different from it than what the first graders understood. He thought, maybe the monsters aren’t really monsters…Maybe they represent something else. Perhaps this book is about the way that we fear those who we do not not understand. He interpreted the book to be about prejudice and racism. He noted that, like Bo, if people got to know people who are different from them, their stereotypes would disappear and we would see others for their human traits. Check it out!

Bo the Brave is one of those precious picture books that screams to be read again and again. It, like many other books, should be on display and revisited year after year. As we explore books like Bo the Brave repeatedly, we unearth the invaluable treasures that hide below the surface.  


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