Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gifted Readers

Just finished an article about engaging gifted readers, "gifted readers" defined in the article as kids who:

• Read at an early age.
• May have taught themselves to read.
• Require less drill to master the reading process.
• Synthesize multiple reading strategies.
• Possess advanced vocabulary knowledge and usage.
• Read 3 to 4 times more than their same age peers.
• Continue to read voraciously after the peak reading years end (4th -8th grades) and into adulthood.
• May prefer abstract genres like fantasy, read deeply from one genre or topic, or prefer nonfiction text to fiction.

This is a decent definition of something that is hard to pin down and can be complicated by a dual-diagnosis of ADD/HD, dyslexia, etc, and it also includes characteristics that are, at times, attributed only to girls and what they are pushed towards (hence the stereotype that girls are readers and boys are scientists). The article goes on to offer suggestions to continue to engage gifted readers, and my issues are with the first one on the list and one thing that is off the list.

The first suggestions is to "Offer a wide range of literature from reviewed district, state and national lists." This is definitely a suggestion from a teacher who is still working for The Man as she writes, and it is unfortunate. Why? Should you offer only reviewed literature so you can avoid litigation? I say offer a wide range of literature, period, and provide copious amounts of book challenge forms for parents. My favorite book challenge form is six pages long and asks the parent to really articulate why they object to the book, having read it, instead of just offering a knee-jerk reaction to something they have heard about it.

This is not to say that you should offer racy titles and off-color subject matter; there is obviously a need for common sense here. What I am saying is that restricting titles to a handful that some wonks in an office with no knowledge of kids have had time to flip through is short-sighted and ineffective. Does that mean that internet reading is off limits?

And speaking of internet reading, I come to my next point. There is nothing on this list about student-selected text, which can include a wide variety of media, including twitter, blogs, manga and other alternative forms of reading. These are the same forms of media that kids would be inclined to attempt to imitate in their writing, and yet that choice is also restricted. Isn't the point of educating a reader to keep them reading? Yes, offer challenging books to read with them, but also allow them explore and read widely in all kinds of genres, including social media.

If we want to produce readers, we need to let them read, and sometimes this means being flexible in our choices and tolerant of theirs.

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