Read it Again, Grandpa
by Rob Weingartner
Fresh off a wonderful weekend with our older son and his family, I find myself reflecting on our two-year old grandson’s request to read the same story over and over again. It wasn’t that long ago, or so it seems, that his daddy was making the same request.
Heather Turgeon explains, “Kids learn through repetition, so it’s not surprising that they tend to ask for the same books over and over – this is how their brains absorb the stories and language patterns within…. It’s likely that hearing the phrasing and structure of a story many times over helps children grasp and hold on to new vocabulary. It’s also exciting for your child to learn a book so well that she knows what’s coming and can anticipate or even repeat and chime in with the words – the same way we all love being able to know what’s coming and sing the words to a favorite song.”
“Little children are creatures of habit. It’s a principle that holds true not just for reading, but for other aspects of life too,” Turgeon observes. “The same fishy cup for lunch, the same walking route to the park … kids look for patterns and regularity to help them figure out how the world works, and they find comfort and security in rituals. This is especially important for younger kids, who are little scientists and feel reassured when they can predict what’s ahead.”
For people of faith there is also repetition that comforts us in the face of things we cannot predict, stories and songs that frame the uncertainties of life in the context of the sovereignty of God. I’m thinking of Fred Rogers’ song, “You Can Never Go Down the Drain” – an accessible framing of the Reformed doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Or the Shema, the famous injunction from Deuteronomy that urges parents to affirm and teach the faith to their children through repetition:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. (6:4-8)
This need for repetition – in the context of our Christian faith we might even say the need to be re-evangelized, to be continually touched and shaped by the Gospel – is caught by Miss Katherine Hankey in her famous hymn:
Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.
Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.
Today, as you pray for the evangelization of the peoples of the world, remember that there may be someone close to you, maybe it is you, who needs to hear again the old, old story of Jesus and his love.