One of the simpler problems I have as a librarian serving preschool-age students is the tendency of some to check out the same book again and again. During my first few years in my current position, I was dismayed when I observed this habit. I questioned myself: Had I failed to provide enough variety in the collections for this grade? Were my displays missing the mark? Did the picture book collection need a good weeding?
Yet this phenomenon has persisted, and the pattern seems to be consistent among my youngest patrons. A quick scan of the research shows that a main criterion emerging readers use to make selections is to choose what is familiar to them. This refers to both familiarity of the specific book and the topic of the book. We may also conclude that students repeatedly select the same book for check out simply because they enjoyed their first (or fifth!) reading of the book. Moreover, the effects of repeated book reading on children’s early literacy and language development is indisputable. Repetition helps to foster an understanding of story-related vocabulary and boost story comprehension. So, while checking out the same material is normal and potentially helpful to young readers, a student’s tendency to do this can be alarming to the classroom teacher and the parent.
When a student of mine is stuck on a book, I use the following tactics to expand our offerings into his or her home. First, I applaud their selection! In building young readers, providing encouragement is vital. Then I let the student demonstrate all that they know and can read from the book. This affirms their role as an “expert” when it comes that title. I ask them to share what they like best about the book and suggest that we may find these attractive and engaging elements in other titles. When it is possible, I may invite the student to look with me at the titles on that topic that are available from my book jobber. They may share that they own a specific book or have seen a title at the book store. I then add their selection to my book order, making sure that is appropriate and of quality, and look forward to setting aside the book for the student when it arrives! When students participate in collection development, they have a greater sense of ownership in the library program and more importantly are invested in the library by their recommendation.
As librarians we know that the world of reading possibilities is infinite. As with many puzzling preschool behaviors, repetitive book selection is a phase that passes. As students get older and acquire more varied interests, I particularly like using the Brain Food Pyramid to highlight all there is to read and enjoy! For more on the Brain Food Pyramid I recommend Tammie Failmezger’s article Feed Your Brain! in Library Media Connection (November/December 2006).