Tips & Advice

A Parent’s Survival Guide
to Reading the Same Picture Book for the 100th Time

by Rachael Cole

Photo credit: PeopleImages, E+ Collection/Getty Images

It’s the end of a long day of parenting, work, and several mystery spam calls, followed by more parenting. Now there is only ONE activity standing in the way of a small sliver of grown-up time — reading to my child. Part of me wants to rush through it so I can watch the latest dystopian television show while sipping hot tea, but like many parents, I try to savor this last bit of quality time with my kid for the day.

I am luckily a huge fan of reading kids’ books. I collected shelves full of books for my child years before he was born. I’ve spent the past 14 years working in children’s book publishing, and just published my second picture book, Mousie, I Will Read to You. Yet sometimes it’s truly hard for me to focus on reading with my son at the end of the day. It’s even harder when my kid wants to read the same book each night … for a month.

Fortunately, I’ve figured out ten strategies to make it through any book 100 times and still enjoy it afresh:

1. We made it! Take a moment to savor that the hardest part of the bedtime routine is over. PJs are on, teeth are brushed, and books are chosen. Phew!

2. Once we nestle down in bed, the first thing I do is take a few deep breaths and pause. It’s a way to make sure I am present and ready to read. My son might even copy me, if I’m lucky.

3. To stir things up, I sometimes make the reading of a favorite book into a game by asking my son to stop me when I’ve substituted silly nonsense words for the actual words in the story, or by starting a sentence and letting my son finish it.

4. Another way to keep things interesting is to search for a hidden treasure in the book that we haven’t noticed before. For example, I noticed that there were only three colors being used throughout an entire book, so we paused and discussed why that might be. Or we might realize, upon close inspection, that the same little bird appears somewhere on each page.

5. For a new perspective, I’ve occasionally changed all the pronouns in the story as I’m reading it. This works particularly well with animal characters, but can lead to an interesting conversation about any book.

6. Though it sometimes lengthens the bedtime reading routine, I occasionally ask my son to tell me the story without me reading the text. Warning: Be prepared for hilarity and crazy subplots.

7. I’m not a natural thespian, but I have overheard my husband jazz up well-loved bedtime stories using voices I never knew he had.

8. Make bedtime reading into a mini book club. For example, I’ve asked about different ways the story could have gone. How could the ending have been different? How would that have made the characters feel, and would it have been better?

9. When I have read a book JUST TOO MANY TIMES, I will compromise and — depending on the length of the book — agree to read part of it, followed by a book of my choosing. With any luck, and with all fingers and toes crossed, this might help us transition to a new book.

10. Last, it does help me to remember that there will be a last time my son and I read in bed together, his warm leg shoved under mine, his stuffed meerkat by his side, and his wiggly energy finally waning, just the two of us and our beloved books.

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