“Why can’t I just choose the book I want to read? Why do I have to read what you want me to read?” the student asked. “I think this book is just right for you in your reading group” the teacher replied. The student took the book, stomped back to his desk and put his head down in frustration.
I’ve seen this scenario far too many times. What is it about reading programs? Gifted children often have early and excellent reading skills. They may read above grade level and stories beyond their age. Because of this, traditional reading programs in school can be tedious for gifted children.
Choice is very important to children because much of their world is beyond their control. The ability to select their own reading books allows choice and empowers the child in ways that impact learning across subject areas. Gifted children often want more choice than other children because of their insatiable appetite to learn. Having a teacher or parent tell them which book they must read is frustrating. Would you like to constantly read books that someone requires you to read, rather than books you want to read?
It is a difficult situation because teachers must cover such a wide-range of curricula, and although differentiation is encouraged, even required in some districts, they often have no choice in what their students read. Worksheets about reading comprehension or vocabulary development, also required in many classrooms and districts, should be very minimal for all children, but especially for gifted children because they use low-level skills. In addition, gifted children should not be doing more work, but different work. My mantra is always “Different, not more”.
What are some solutions? Differentiation may help. Talk to the teacher and work together to develop a reading list that provides challenge. If the students are required to read certain stories try to develop alternative activities so the gifted child can explore the story more in depth or from a different angle, or other ideas you, the student, and the teacher may come up with. Another way to engage the gifted student is to allow the student to use electronic books with the many ways to interact with the text. Electronic books are often far more useable than a traditional book in that the annotating, note making, dictionary/thesaurus, and other tools are ready and easily accessible, rather than searching through the entire hard copy chapter or book for the one notation the student needs at that moment. There are many apps, plus native tools for reading available on technology devices. There are many ways to differentiate reading texts and activities for gifted children. The important thing is to allow the gifted child to guide his/her own learning.
The following is a list of resources regarding gifted children and reading. As always, these are shared so you may explore the content and use what is appropriate for you, your child, and/or your students if you so choose. This is far from an exhaustive list, so be sure to search yourself, or better yet, have the student search for ideas to help make the important skill of reading fun again.
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