Monday, 17 April 2017

The Power of ‘Again’ • Lucy Rowland

Our guest this week at the Picture Book Den is Lucy Rowland, who is both an exciting new picture book author and an experienced children's speech and language therapist. So far Lucy has picture books coming out with Bloomsbury, Macmillan and Nosy Crow.

One of the best moments for me as a writer so far was reading my first picture book to my friend’s little boy. William was just over two at the time and he was like a sponge - soaking up new words like water. We were sitting in the park and, just as I closed the book, William turned to me and said one word: ‘Again!’

Well, obviously I was over the moon. This was the first book I’d ever written and I felt it had just passed the MOST important test. However, we had places to go and lunches to eat so unfortunately, William had to make do with a piggy-back ride to the café instead.

It got me thinking though. ‘AGAIN’ - it’s such an important word. A word parents often dread as they play the same game for the 15th time or have to endure the ‘Frozen’ Sound Track on repeat. ‘AGAIN! AGAIN!’ is what the Teletubbies cry before repeating the exact same video clip that we’ve all just seen!

But children love it. They love repetition. As a Speech and Language Therapist, I talk about repetition a lot. Children have to hear a new word many times and in many different contexts before it is firmly cemented in their vocabulary. Books are therefore fantastic language-learning tools because they allow children to hear new words in a variety of different sentence structures throughout the story.

I love some of the old traditional tales that I was read as a child, like The Gingerbread Man and The Three Little Pigs. With their repetitive refrains, is it any wonder that these stories are still popular today? From the first time they hear the story, many children can join in with the wolf by the time he has reached the third little pig’s house, shouting ‘Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff…’

This kind of repetition helps children to actively participate in the telling of the story. It’s probably one of the reasons why We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is so successful. It’s certainly a huge hit in our language groups at school and works brilliantly with children who may struggle with language in other situations.

Finally, with repeated readings of books, children are offered the opportunity to hear new words over and over (and over and over)… and this is exactly what we want. Not only do children get immense enjoyment out of repetition but it is also educationally effective and, for an author or illustrator, what higher praise is there for a book than a child asking for it ‘AGAIN!’

Lucy has several picture books coming out this year, including The Birthday Invitation. Written by Lucy Rowland and illustrated by Laura Hughes, it will be published by Bloomsbury on 4th May 2017.


Pippa Goodhart said...

You are absolutely right. That instinct when talking with small children to repeat things ("It's a dog, yes, a dog!") follows through with their stories for a reason. And you're also absolutely right that there's no greater compliment for a picture book author or illustrator than the sound of, "Again!"! A lovely blog.

Lucy Rowland said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Pippa.:)

ptnozell said...

So true, Lucy. I think the repetition helps explain why fractured fairy tales are so popular, and it's sage advice for all picture book writers.

David McMullin said...

Thank you, Lucy. I knew repetition was important, but seeing the why and how here has been very helpful.

Lucy Rowland said...

Hi Patricia, yes I agree. I've started writing a few fractured fairytales myself recently. I've found you can take some more risks with them because of children's familiarity with the basic story.

Lucy Rowland said...

Thanks David

Jane Clarke said...

Yes, absolutely!