In THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT, Bruno Bettelheim posited that some children want to hear the same fairy tales over and over again. He suggested to parents that they comply with these requests, suggesting that there is some inner need this repeated re-reading is meeting. I think this is what is happening with other books we feel compelled to go back and read again and again. But there is more at work as well.
In an attempt to try to read as many books as I can (and more about why I do this later in the post), I often go back and do a more careful second reading when I have the time. As a member of many book award committees, I also learned that what makes one book rise above others is that it stands up well to repeated re-readings. In those successive readings, I often notice more and more of the author's style and art and the "behind the scenes" stuff that is not obvious at first (and thank heavens it is not obvious or how awful that might make the initial reading).In the repeated reading I can see how everything is connected, how the book is unified, a perfect whole.
So, why, then, do the canned programs some schools use, either forbid re-reading or at the very least insist there is no read need for it. Why, then, do we assign a book to the canon for one grade level? Why do we label a book "eighth grade" or any other grade? For the life of me, I do not see these labels on adult books (though some of them should have labels warning that they are not as well plotted as those for teens and tweens and even children!). I do not ever hear someone being chastised for reading an old favorite book again in my adult circle of friends and colleagues.
This gets back to what we are teaching kids, however, subtly, when we do not encourage them to revisit old friends, to read a book more than once if they so desire.
Now, as for why I read at the pace I do. Recent stats for the number of books published for the youth audience lets me knmow that even if I read 300 or 400 or even 2000 books a year, I will alsways be behind. I want to be able to suggest several books whne asked, "can you recommend a book for me (or for someone they know)?" So I barrel through books (most of the time) and note the ones I wish to return to sometime down the road, when I retire.
Lastly, remember, I am blogging books here: