Parent Question: My 12-year-old child is reading at an advanced level. Many of the books at her reading level do not present appropriate content. How can I find reading material for her that is appropriate both in challenge and in content?
Expert Answer: You are not alone. The question arises in the elementary years, but it comes to the fore in middle school. The problem is the discrepancy between the child’s intellectual and her social and emotional development. She can read the words, but does she understand the content? Is her imagination so lively that she creates mental images of violent scenes that are overwhelming to her? Is her knowledge of human sexuality sufficient to prepare her for what she might find in a book written for adults or older teens?
You may want to provide her with advanced nonfiction for challenging reading experiences but limit the fiction she reads to her age level. Booklists for gifted children, like those on Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page, suggest appropriate material in all genres. In my book, Some of My Best Friends Are Books , you will find over 300 books selected with gifted readers in mind. However, I recommend that you evaluate whatever she chooses to read according to your own criteria, since you know your child best.
To begin, find books with suitable content, then select those that will challenge your child.
Selecting for Content
To learn which books experts in children’s literature recommend, consult these resources:
Selecting for Challenge
When you examine a book from one of these sources, read several pages or a chapter. Look for special characteristics of language, style, plot, and setting.
By using these guidelines, you can help your child find appropriate reading material without having to read every book yourself. But I hope that you will occasionally join her in reading the same book, both for your own enjoyment and for the pleasure of the conversation you can have with her afterward.
Judith Wynn Halsted recently retired from her work as an educational consultant in Traverse City, Michigan. Author of Some of My Best Friends Are Books, second edition (Great Potential, 2002), she has worked with gifted children for over 35 years as an educator, librarian, counselor, and parent.
This article is reprinted with permission from the Duke University Talent Identification Program.
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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