Challenging Gifted Readers

Do you have a child who is an excellent reader, but is not picking up books on her own? Do you wish you had a way to help your student choose books that will enrich his life? Do you want to give a gift of a book to a precocious reader, but don’t know where to start?

In many districts, school librarians no longer exist. In efforts to cut costs, aids with little training often replace these import figures in student education. Yet librarians, parents, and teachers are so important in guiding precocious readers to appropriate choices. In order to maintain interest in reading, students often need help in finding books that inspire them.

Debbie Abilock points out in Lighting the Gifted Reader’s Journey—the Parent-Librarian Partnership ways in which parents can support and encourage school librarians and how the librarian’s knowledge of books can be used to point young readers in the right direction.

Do You Have a Precocious Reader? advises parents and librarians to find out areas of interest to the young person. Next, those interests should be matched to books that contain at least some of the following criteria:
  • Language that is rich, varied, precise, complex and exciting
  • A story that is open-ended and inspires contemplative behavior
  • A book that will leave the reader with as many questions as answers
  • Fiction complex enough to allow interpretive and evaluative behavior
  • Non-fiction that helps a student build problem-solving skills and develop methods of productive thinking
  • Characters that are portrayed as intelligent, talented, resourceful, and/or inventive

In Challenging Gifted Readers (note: this is a pdf file that takes a little longer to load), Patricia Austin discusses reading elements that challenge strong readers, including language, structure, perspective or point of view, ambiguous endings, and content. Reading well-written books about professional role models is also important, especially if the books enable readers to view the work of a scientist, historian, activist, or other contributor to society. In addition, books with gifted protagonists help bright readers better see their own lives, struggles, and feelings mirrored in the characters. While gifted readers may not naturally gravitate towards these books, adults can certainly steer them in that direction. Austin goes on to elaborate on each of these elements and also provides an annotated bibliography of suggested books. Suggested grade levels are provided.

Bertie Kingore has some excellent reading discussion questions for young people—even very young learners in Reading Instruction for the Primary Gifted Learner. These questions will help students to think about their thinking.
  • What can you tell me about your reading?
  • What did you think was easy to do and hard to do?
  • What changes would you want to make?
  • What is the most important thing you learned from this?
  • What do you do when you are reading and you find a word you do not know?
  • When might it be a good idea to reread something?
  • Why do you think that is so?
  • How did the author cause you to infer/conclude that?
  • What evidence can you use to support that?
  • If you did not know, what would you do to get the most information?

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