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Reading and rereading, rinse and repeat.

My thirteen year old daughter is a big reader. She reads everything from massive tomes, to short novels, to comic books, to short stories. Much like me, she always has a book handy and she is always happy to discuss it with anyone she meets.

But she has a reading habit that, honestly, I don’t get.

If she really likes a book, then almost immediately after she’s finished reading it the first time, she starts again. This second read through isn’t from beginning to end. Instead she skips around, rereading her favorite parts and skipping those that didn’t hold her attention the first time. She’ll read a book and then loan it to a friend for them to read. When they give it back, she goes back to it - laughing hysterically and sobbing uncontrollably at all the same parts. Then a couple days later she’ll tell me the same friend wants to borrow it again so they can go back through and read their favorite parts.

The first time I noticed her doing this was when she read Divergent about a year ago. We were at my parents’ house and she didn’t have another book with her, so I assumed she was just doing it to pass the time until we got home and she could crack open the second book in the series.

But her habit didn’t end there.

Currently she’s on a Rainbow Rowell kick. She borrowed my copy of Eleanor & Park, read it in a day in a half, cried uncontrollably when it was over, woke up the next day and read it again. That was in July. I still haven’t gotten my book back because she keeps reading it, loaning it, and rereading it. My friend Becky has been waiting to borrow it from me and I’m about to just buy a new copy for myself because I’m pretty sure my daughter has claimed the book as her own and I will never see it again except to glance it in her open bookbag. It will live the remainder of its life being passed from one middle school backpack to another until it crumbles and falls apart from being read so many times.

She received copies of Fangirl and Carry On for her birthday in October and she keeps telling me I need to read them because they are so good. I’d love to but I can’t get my hands on them because she insists on rereading all her favorite parts over and over.

This habit … makes me scratch my head. I can’t imagine reading that way. I’m a binge reader. I devour books, then move on and devour more. Yes, occasionally I will reread a favorite but typically there are years between when I read a book the first time and when I reread it. The book I’ve read most often is Flowers for Algernon, which I read every year or so, but the last time I read it … it felt too familiar. I need to step back for a moment and create some space. I think rereading the same passage over and over would make me loathe a book. 

There does seem to be an upside to her rereading habit. We read a lot of the same books. I don’t believe in censoring what my daughter reads, but instead try to read the books before her so if she has any questions about the content, I’m there to discuss it with her. We’ll both read a book, then talk about it, and during the discussion I realize I’ve forgotten as much as she’s remembered. Character names, towns, specific motivations and occurences. She remembers them all, while I only have the vaguest recollection. What I remember about books is how they made me feel. Did I like it, did it make me laugh, did I think the writing was good. Specific details? No, those are all fuzzy.

So at the same time that this habit makes me scratch my head and wonder what at it’s appeal, I’m a bit envious of the results. She is connecting with literature in a way I could only ever hope to by forming a reading habit that actually slows down her reading. A book that may only be on my reading radar for a day and a half - as was the case with Eleanor & Park (fabulous book, by the way) - will stay on my daughter’s radar for months. Yes, she reads other things at the same time, but she goes back a relives the characters and the plot over and over again until they are ingrained in her memory. Maybe I should take a lesson from her and give it a try.

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