Reviewed by a Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
Guiding gifted readers is an ongoing challenge. Not only do they tend to move through material at a rapid pace, but they also tend to crave opportunities to learn and to find deeper meaning in what they read. The needs of gifted readers are often overlooked because oftentimes teachers and parents mistakenly assume that allowing independent reading at the level and pace the student sets, followed by standard comprehension exercises, are enough. Judith Halsted challenges this myth in the second edition of her landmark text, Some of My Best Friends Are Books.
Literature is a great way to explore one's feelings, as well as to help one better understand subjective experiences. A great book can facilitate insight and skill development, as well as provide opportunities for self-discovery. These are some of the goals addressed in Some of My Best Friends Are Books. Issues of emotional development, such as relating to others and establishing a coherent sense of self, are explored in the context of reading works that touch on aspects of who these young people are and who they will become. Intellectual needs and emotional needs are essentially impossible to address as separate aspects of development. Rather, they inform and complement one another, as well as create significant challenges along the way to healthy adulthood. Judith Halsted does a wonderful job of summarizing the main issues gifted young people face and gives the reader usable suggestions on working with these young people through the use of literature.
Halsted addresses the importance of developmentally appropriate bibliotherapy while maintaining the flexibility inherent in successful educational settings. She presents developmental bibliotherapy as a way for parents, teachers, librarians and counselors to guide gifted readers by assisting them with the developmental tasks appropriate to the life stage they are experiencing. This approach may serve as a significant motivating factor for gifted readers, particularly those struggling with trying to learn more about their individual roles in a complex society.
Intellectual, as well as emotional development, may be fostered by Halsted's thoughtful and well-documented approach to working effectively with gifted readers from preschool to high school. She addresses issues specific to particular developmental periods, as well as the special characteristics of gifted readers and the challenges of working with resistant readers. Halsted describes reading guidance as an active process of observation and feedback, accompanied by thoughtful interactions about the material presented and its various themes. Some of My Best Friends are Books is designed to assist in the process of choosing books and determining the logistics of ensuing discussions and other follow-up activities.
A significant portion of the book focuses on choosing books that challenge gifted readers. Halsted provides suggestions across developmental levels and literary types, in addition to opportunities for critical thinking with regard to what factors into choosing excellent reading materials for gifted young people. Over 200 pages of annotated bibliographic references organized by grade level groupings complete this text. In addition to plot summaries and discussion ideas based on the characteristics of gifted young people and the issues they tend to face, these bibliographies address categories such as achievement, differentness, moral concerns and perfectionism, to name a few. The effectiveness in different areas is discussed so that parents and/or teachers know when this book would be appropriate. This aspect is very helpful to those who are unfamiliar with literature for young people.
This work represents an exceptionally thoughtful and creative endeavor aimed to have far-reaching positive implications for the developmental trajectories of exceptionally bright young people. Judith Halsted has put together a comprehensive guide for parents and professionals to consult when supporting gifted young people through the developmental tasks they encounter. Committed involvement from an important adult can make a positive difference in affording a young person quality access to the abundance of resources available in the form of books. Some of My Best Friends are Books is an excellent addition to the family or classroom bookshelf for those who are encountering gifted young people on a day-to-day basis.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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