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This week, we take a close look at the ways writers use repeated words or phrases for a variety of reasons. Repeated words give readers a clue that the words are important and an invitation to think about how. Writers use repeated words and phrases in a variety of ways to make sure their message comes through. The books shared this week can serve as invitations for these kinds of conversations with young readers and writers. Readers will have new strategies for deeper understanding. Writers will have lots of new ideas to try in their own writing.
Who Are Your People by Bakari Sellers is anchored on two phrases–“Your people were..” and “You are from…”. Each spread finishes one of these phrases. I’d start with a book like this because the repeated phrase is easily visible to readers because it is on every single page. This book invites readers to think about the meaning the phrases have the first time they hear them in the book and then how the meaning expands as they continue to read it over and over in new contexts. Often a writer repeats a phrase that we can think more deeply about every time it is used.
Butterflies are Pretty…Gross! is another book that has very obvious repeated phrases. So this shows the same idea in a nonfiction book. The phrase “some butterflies”/”some caterpillars” is repeated to let us know some “top secret” information about caterpillars. The repeated phrase reinforces that what we thought we knew about butterflies isn’t always complete. Each time the phrase is used, we learn something new. This book is humorous so the humor that goes along with the repeated phrase is worth studying too.
This newest book by Jacqueline Woodson, The Year We Learned to Fly is gorgeous and important. It is one that belongs in every classroom and library. Often a phrase is repeated by an older relative or friend and often that advice has meaning that is beyond literal. In this book, the characters’ grandmother repeats a phrase that begins “Lift your arms, close your eyes.” during difficult times. Each time she shares this wisdom, the children learn and grow. Through the children’s eyes, we can learn the bigger meaning of these words. The author’s note at the end is also important. This poetic book is filled with beautiful language and powerful words that can be studied as readers and writers.
Sometimes writers use repeated phrases throughout a book to give the reader a clue about what is coming next. Writers do this in both fiction and nonfiction. In What’s In Your Pocket? the author uses the phrase “Nobody knew…” to transition from each scientist’s childhood to their adult contributions and passions. In Bear Came Along, the word “until…” appears at the end of a spread letting us predict what is coming next. I like to show young writers how this move can be used in both fiction and nonfiction in different ways, but for similar purposes.
I just discovered Daddy Speaks Love and it is a new favorite. The repeated phrase Daddy speaks is followed by a word and an experience children have with their daddies. In poetic language the phrase plus the word says so much. The word speak is uses in a way beyond literal and each word choice is critical to the meaning of the book. Change Sings repeats a phrase “There is _ where my change sings” or something very similar throughout. Each single words adds new meaning to the whole. I think both of these phrases can be studied within the context of the text and can also be studied when thinking about theme and overall message of each book. These are more sophisticated uses of repeated phrases.
This week’s books were linked at Bookelicious. If you don’t know Bookelicious, check it out today. It is an online independent children’s bookstore with an incredible selection of children’s books and many supports for young readers. Lots of great free events for teachers coming up that you can check out and register here.
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