Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Middle School Monday – The Joys and Benefits of Rereading

MSM1I’ve been thinking a lot about Harper Lee’s masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird since news of her passing was announced. I actually read it in middle school, for my 8th grade language arts class, although I understand many people didn’t read it until high school.

Well, that was the first time I read it. It was a revelation. When I put the book down, it was hard to describe just what was so amazing about the story. When I picked it back up I was absorbed, living in another world – completely unaware of my own surroundings. Eventually, this experience greatly informed my understanding of what qualifies as a well-written novel. I read it again the following summer. And again, and again, returning time after time to live in the world of Scout, Jem, and Atticus. Each time I read it, I fell deeper in love with the book. Each time I read it, something new was revealed. It wasn’t a static work of fiction, but a living, breathing entity. I remember finally understanding the point of Jem reading to Mrs. Dubose during a reread in my twenties. My twenties is also also when I stopped counting my rereads (of everything.) For To Kill a Mockingbird, I got to 30.

715VLP6M-OLYou see, when I was a child, an adolescent, and even into my early adulthood, I was a chronic and joyful rereader. Each time I picked up a familiar title it was like having a good long visit with a friend who’s moved away. I sometimes refer to it as ‘comfort reading’ because that’s part of its appeal. And what I learned? So very much. I learned to appreciate the depth and complexity of good literature. I learned to understand my fellow human beings through empathizing with fictional characters. I learned so much more than simply going over the same plot repeatedly.

This is why I urge you to encourage your rereaders. The student who is on his or her 5th, 8th, or 20th reread of the Harry Potter books is learning no less than the student who picks a new novel every week. In fact, I’d surmise that they are learning more. Be generous, be kind, be thoughtful. Help these rereaders to experience the joy and benefits of rereading.


  1. I don’t think I really understood what was going on in The Age of Innocence until I read it the third time. The emotions are so subtle as to be telegraphic.

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