Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Are all gifted children early readers?

True or False: You can tell if a child is gifted by how early he or she starts to read.

Answer: True and False

It's true that many gifted children read at a remarkably early age, amazing family and preschool teachers alike with their almost eerie knowledge of language. Many of these children are also highly verbal, possess a large vocabulary, and seem to grasp humor, subtlety and other nuances of speech well beyond their years. These become the kids who drag home wheelbarrows full of books from the library, walk into walls because they are always reading, and keep a book hidden on their laps during school to cope with boredom.

But not all gifted children read early. Silverman found in her study, and in a review of other research, that approximately half of gifted children start reading on their own before they start school. Those who do not read prior to kindergarten may be visual-spatial learners, have mathematical, artistic, mechanical, or spatial abilities, may have a learning disability, or may have been raised in an impoverished environment. Or they just could be late bloomers.

When children don't read at an early age, parents and teachers may overlook other outstanding abilities and assume they are not gifted. Strong verbal abilities stand out, and when children are shy, less verbal, or have a learning disability that masks giftedness, other signs of high aptitude are often ignored. Parents need to be aware of other gifted traits, request IQ testing, and advocate for gifted services.

Some children may never learn to love reading, though. Competing interests, learning disabilities, a visual-spatial orientation, or the ever-present lure of electronics can make reading a chore. One blog offers guidelines for encouraging reading when it is not your child's greatest interest.

Most gifted children who are not early readers catch up quickly, though, start reading on their own in kindergarten or first grade, and learn to love reading. Rather than decoding phonetically, they frequently surprise their teachers by devouring chapter books that interest them, and skip the "Dick and Jane" books completely. Intrinsically motivated, these children read because they want to, because books captivate their attention. Reading fuels their imagination and can become a safe harbor from the stresses of life. For an excellent article about how gifted students absorb reading material, see Catron and Wingenbach. But simply put: "they read faster and understand more."

As a parent, you can foster this love by offering as many opportunities as possible where your child can read for fun. And advocate when necessary to ensure that your child's reading needs are addressed at school. Even if your gifted child did not read at an early age, chances are he or she will become an avid reader, collect mountains of books and walk into walls, just like all the others.

Final words: A gifted eight-year-old (not an early reader, but voracious by kindergarten) tells his parents, "I know what I want to be when I grow up - a librarian. That way, I can read books all day!" What a disappointment when he learned that librarians don't get to read all day and actually have to work! 

Please let us know about your child's reading experiences in the comments section below.

This blog is part of the Hoagies Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on Summer Reading. To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_summer_reading.htm.


38 comments:

  1. Hello!
    Stopped by to read your post for the blog hop hosted by Hoagie’s Gifted.
    Enjoyed reading your perspectives about early reading.

    Hope that you will also visit my blog hops post on the topic of Summer Reading. I shared about Summer Reading Nooks.
    Have a happy rest of your week!
    Colleen
    Sunrise Learning Lab
    http://sunriselearninglab.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks, Colleen. Looking forward to reading your post and others at the blog hop.
      Gail

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    2. To help make learning to read fun and engaging, our reading program includes lesson stories that are matched to the progress of your child's reading abilities.

      These lessons stories are part of the learning program, and comes with colorful illustrations to make learning reading fun and engaging for you and your child.

      These are the exact same stories and step-by-step lessons that we used to teach our own children to read!

      Find out here: Teach Your Child To Read?

      Best rgs

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  2. My daughter read very early, but her cousin did not. He caught up with her by third grade, but I know his parents doubted his abilities for a long time. He could run circles around her with Legos, but never had much interest in reading. He still doesn't, but is very advanced verbally. She loves books and always has.

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    1. Anonymous, Good example of how different gifted children can be, and how differently each child approaches reading. Thanks!
      Gail

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  3. Very true about early reading. Our youngest was a closet reader....the teachers at the preschool she was attending 6 hours a day for 5 days a week didn't even know she'd been reading until I told them weeks later!

    She is twice exceptional with a visual processing disorder, and I've heard from others with twice exceptional children who are either closet learners or have problems figuring things out due to their disability.

    You just can't go by single attributes or even a handful of attributes to determine giftedness. Has to be a whole picture kind of thing.

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  4. Braver, Completely agree about the "whole picture" thing. It is too easy to get caught up in a few attributes and ignore the complexity that encompasses giftedness. Reading differences are an example of this diversity. Thanks for sharing.
    Gail

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  5. You've talked about gifted kids who are (or aren't) early readers, but are all early readers gifted? My son could read fluently at three, but I hear the word "hyperlexia" more often than "gifted" when I talk to professionals about him.

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    1. Elizabeth, You raise an interesting point. Typically, very early readers are gifted. I am not an expert on hyperlexia, but if this is being suggested, I would recommend that you seek out an evaluation to see why this is a concern. Sometimes words are thrown about without substantial evidence (e.g., we've all heard of how many times children are mislabeled as having ADD), but other times there is a valid reason. There is a link about hyperlexia that gives a simple explanation: http://giftedkids.about.com/od/glossary/g/hyperlexia_def.htm. However, you have probably already done the research.

      Good luck with your child.

      Gail

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    2. Thanks, Gail. He does have some odd holes in his comprehension, but my gut tells me that he is not hyperlexic.

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  6. My youngest was almost placed in the resource room when he was in 1st grade because the school assumed he couldn't read. It wasn't that the couldn't read but that he wouldn't read out loud nor would he participate in typically pre-reading activities such as reciting his alphabet. In 2nd grade he was reading Tolkien. In his case, he didn't read out loud nor did he say his alphabet.

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  7. Rita, Thanks for sharing this amazing story of how gifted children can be so readily overlooked. I hope he is thriving now!
    Gail

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  8. Great post. My daughter is one of those verbally gifted children who read fluently by 4. She is now 7 and spends most of her free time reading, especially fantasy books, and then daydreaming about them. I wrote about her favorites in my contribution to this blog hop. She said many times that she wouldn't want to live in the world without books, and I am glad that she doesn't have to.

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  9. Natalie,
    Thanks so much for your comments. So wonderful that your daughter loves to read. Hopefully, she'll continue with that for a long time. I know that sometimes kids can get hijacked by electronics, but some transfer that to "reading" on the internet. Thanks again.

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  10. Hi Gail - thanks so much for this.

    Our older son is gifted but wasn't an early reader. I guess he was an accelerated reader. He started reading in mid-year in kindergarten and was reading himself Harry Potter a year later. Since first and second grades are so focussed on literacy, he was bored and started developing bad learning habits (like teacher-sanctioned book reading during circle time, 'because I know he will be able to follow along with the lesson and read at the same time.') That has been a struggle to unpack and likely could have been prevented if we'd knew then what we know now.

    I've never read that the rapid acceleration pattern exists with other gifted children or that other parents feel like their kids just started reading overnight without seemingly using 'reading strategies' or 'word decoding'.

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Anonymous, Thanks for your comments. With all of the information out there about early readers, I think most parents assume that gifted children learn to read at an early age and follow a similar course as others, just sooner. What many parents find (myself included!) is that many gifted children have their own pace and when they are ready, start reading with a sudden burst of energy, and it seems that they will read full chapter books almost overnight. It's as if they've just been too busy building, running around, doing other things, and then, oh yeah, time to read! There haven't been studies to my knowledge, but I wonder if there is a gender difference, because I've heard of this happening a lot with boys. Anyway, good luck with your child.
      Gail

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  11. Yes! My son started at 4.5 but the development after the initial reading was quickfire. He was a struggling reader, and then he was reading fluently, and then in a matter of weeks he was reading silently and voraciously. We cannot keep up with him. Everyone is different!

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    1. Great example of how every child is different. Thanks for sharing this.
      Gail

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    2. How do you handle the situation when your child wants to play animal jam and mind craft for long periods and forgets the dozen books they just brought home from the library?Their 9yr old.

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    3. Anonymous, It is difficult to offer advice about this situation online. What is apparent is that games are always compelling, and books often take a back seat for many kids. You may need to sort out what would help the books seem more interesting.

      Gail

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  12. Thank you for sharing, is amazing how different kids can be, both of my daughters are gifted , early and amazing readers, my 9 year old she read at college level.....
    My 15 year is amazing, but a difference of my.younger, she procrastinate, with her work to the last minute, it's like she push buttons, and then she does when in no time , but can spend hours with a book
    She is in 10 grade, and have on her many credits the basically will graduate next year. With first year college basically done too with early college credits......
    But I just like to said, I am firmly believer in our case my girls love books a very early each they have a big influence of a very gifted grandmother, uncles, navy in our family are teachers ( professor), so books are found even when you go to the bathroom literally speaking....
    Kids are so different and special everyone learn and developers on their own time....

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    1. It certainly is remarkable how different each child is, even in the same family. Thanks for your comments.

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  13. This is interesting to me. My husband and I both IQ test in the profoundly gifted range. He started reading at four, and I didn't read until after my seventh birthday. One of our sons was an extremely early reader, reading before he was 18 months old. Another son is nearly six, and struggles with reading. Both are extremely intelligent. Interestingly, the son who struggles with reading is like me: especially spatially gifted. His brother, the early reader, is especially gifted with manipulating symbolic systems. It is fascinating to see the development of both. Parenthood is fun!

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    1. Parenthood is fun - great attitude! It is amazing and fun to see how different abilities unfold at different times. So good that you are open to this.

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  14. My daughter has just had an IQ test which she did very well at. She tested as Exceptionally Gifted. She started reading before Kindergarten but as Kindergarten and First grade went on she continued to make progress and was reading above grade level but not huge leaps above like maybe half a year above. The thing that may have made a difference is that she was in a Spanish immersion school those two years. I took a job in a different school when she was starting second grade. So she went with me. Now she is at an English public school. The teacher still doesn't think she is a great reader. I am a Reader Specialist. I told the teacher "Yes she is." The running record that the teacher did to determine her level was wrong. Some teachers don't know how to determine student's reading level very well. But I am continuing to work with my daughter at home. She likes to read nonfiction and fiction stories about animals. She's more interested in animals, dinosaurs, and dragons. You have to find the things that kids like to read to get them to really enjoy it! So I am always looking for new interesting books for her.

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    1. Lots of great points. It is especially important to find what children enjoy reading, as you note. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Chanced about this page while looking for answers why my 8 year old daughter seems to prefer non fiction books (some still picture books), myths & legends and boyish dragons & dinosuar books than good old classics which i was trying to promote. I guess I have to stop and let her enjoy what she likes. She doesnt hit the wall all the time but when only when she is hooked to 1 particular book and want to finish it as soon. I dont know if that is giftedness but i will just continue to supply and let her do her reading whether its picture non-fiction books or not. However, even though she reads many non fiction books, she does not speak grammatically correct English all the time. This puzzles me a lot although i feel sometimes she is adapting to the different people she is conversing with. My daughter is now into "How to train a dragon" series after all the "Beast quest" & Roald Dahl so I will be consoled at least there are some fiction to help her on her essay writing in school. Thanks again for the article.

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  16. May I add she was whole word trained as i did flashcards with her since 6 mths and she started to read words by 12 mths and slowly moved to short sentences by 17th mths. However, there seem to be some spelling & grammatical issues here and there. Maybe it will all fall together nicely in time to come.. I shall wait..

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    1. Wow - reading by 12 months is very unusual. Again, children learn at the own pace, and develop skills at different points. Thanks for sharing.

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  17. My son (almost age 6) tested as exceptionally gifted and has always had an amazing ability with language. He is in a school for the gifted. However, he is barely reading the simplest of books. He's getting frustrated and doesn't want to try because he knows he's at the bottom of his class in reading (when his classmates are reading Harry Potter and he's struggling with boring repetitive books). It's been a very difficult time for him and I am not sure how to help beyond encouraging him.

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    1. It may be helpful to get a reading evaluation to see if he has some problems that are interfering. It may be nothing more than just that he is moving along at his own pace. But if he does have a learning disability, the sooner it is addressed, the easier it will be for him. Good luck.

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    2. My son who just turned 8 is the same. Im glad I found this article that identifies the term visual spatial. He has terrible focus and has some symptoms of ADD, but teachers are certain no learning disabilities exist and he is extremely intelligent. His articulation blows the school staff away. But he suffers immensely with reading and writing. He is also emotionally behind his peers and is overly affectionate. He stuttered between the ages of 4 and 6, which I believe was due to his brain working faster than his mouth. Science is his passion. I can only hope that I can help him enough to overcome his weaknesses to be able to apply his giftedness to his future.

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  18. Thank you for this post. My daughter will be 7 in December and is well below reading level at school. She loves books and will spend hours "reading" but doesn't actually read the words. We read to her a lot because we all love it, her especially, but she hates the school readers she has to bring home. Now she is starting to say she hates reading and the emphasis on this age to learn to read is so strong at school that she is starting to dislike school. She has not been tested for giftedness although her conceptual mathematics is very advanced and her language comprehension and vocabulary is well developed (in 2 languages). We wonder if perhaps our daughter is just lazy and doesn't want to make the effort to learn to read, since she has access to all the books she wants and we read to her a lot. Perhaps she has no need to read right now. I'm waiting for that 'click' to happen that people talk about, but many things I read talk about how even normal, well-adjusted, reasonably bright kids should be reading by now if they've grown up in an environment with books. Should we be investigating whether there are other issues that are preventing her from reading (dyslexia?) or just be patient a little bit longer? She writes a lot of stories and is fine with that, but she can't read back what she's written.

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    1. I can understand your concerns. I am not a reading specialist so cannot give you advice. It is puzzling that she will write stories, but won't read them back. There may be a variety of reasons for this. It sounds like there is a lot of pressure on her to read at school and there may be reasons she is resisting. This may or may not be due to a reading problem. Either way, there is probably no harm in getting an evaluation. Good luck.

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    2. Yes!! Investigate and if her teacher is a good one, she will recognize a problem right away. Usually, when there is a big discrepancy between math and reading, it points to something else. Now most people have a "stronger subject" BUT if your daughter is showing signs of gifted in math and is a struggling reader (a grade level or more behind) then the school definitely needs to look into learning disability or dyslexia.

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  19. Thank you so much for this article. I am currently pushing for my 5 yr old to be tested. She has a great vocabulary and has always loved words and can comprehend third grade level text when read to. She can infer and recognize thins in the stories that are surprising. However, she is still only reading dick and Jane books independently in kinder. A comment was made to me at school that they don't like to test kinder and that usually the kinder they test can read chapter books. It was very frustrating to hear that when she loves reading and has a level of comprehension so drastically different then fluency. My thought was how can you determine gifted was based on fluency when there is so much more involved!

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    1. Brina, I agree that there is so much involved. Depending on the rules and legal requirements where you live, you may be able to insist that she receive testing. However, if you don't have any leverage, you could get private testing, or just continue to advocate for either testing through the school, or more enriched instruction in the classroom. Good luck.

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  20. Frustrated Mum and 6 year old little girl.

    We found out our youngest monkey was "Highly Capable" at age 4.

    Long story short we started hearing "I hate school" towards the end of kindergarten.
    Our girls attend a public Montessori School, our eldest loves school and is thriving the youngest not so much.

    "There's nothing to do!"
    "I'm bored!"
    "It NOT FUN!"
    "I HATE READING!!!!"
    "I HATE JOURNALS!"
    "I HATE PHONIX BOXES!"

    We are having pretty bad "Tantrums"
    Her teacher says she is improving and expects her to reach end of year targets.

    I'm not sure how to help my little one
    I concerned about the frequency of tantrums and her growing anger towards reading.

    Any suggestions.

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