What Do Gifted/2E Readers Want to Read?

Keeping up with the demands of gifted and 2E kids is more than a challenge. It's an ongoing endeavor that demands time and attention -- never ending attention for those who rip through series, speed read, implement their photographic memories and other feats of wonder.

There is no formula for supplying an endless stream of engaging books that will delight a gifted reader. They know what they like, but they also need help choosing their own reading material and broadening their preferences.

Gifted readers are different than other readers because of their ability master language and complex ideas at an early stage. Many learn to read earlier than usual. Some are self-taught readers. Other possess the ability to process complicated text and multiple plots and subplots. They can read four times more than their peers and are likely to become lifelong readers.

So, what do gifted readers want? Do they love an underdog? Dark horse? Complicated plots? Unlikely heroes? Historical figures, biographies and textbooks?

Yes. All of those and more. Here are a few ways to tap into an advanced reader's drive for reading while providing age appropriate and challenging material.

  1. Help your child find books they want to read. Play seek and find in the library, challenging their ability to try something new. Start with a list of books that others have recommended, browse through them with your child, and whittle it down to the top choices. As with adult literature, an engaging and vivid first paragraph is essential to hooking a reader, so read the first paragraphs out loud.
  2. Steer gifted readers toward books that accommodate their sensitivity. Search for the blogs of reviewers who are familiar with the danger zones for sensitive readers, such as authors, teachers and websites like www.commonsensemedia.org. Hyper-sensitive kiddos may react to any hint of unfairness, which is a tough concept to avoid in any category. For these gentle souls, try poets with instinctual kid-like prowess like Shel Silverstein (if you can find recordings of Silverstein reading his works, it's all the more fun.)  Many other children's poetry books languish on shelves, so put them to work interpreting, illustrating and retelling the stories in poetry.
  3. Look for characters who are unique and challenged in similar ways as your child. Connecting with a character is like making a new ally. When kids see realistic (not just fantasy or futuristic) representations of themselves, they can engage with the story on a different level. The characters don't have to be exactly like the gifted reader, for example, a story of a child learning to function despite difficult circumstances can embolden them. Books like Lynda Mullaly Hunt's FISH IN A TREE about a dyslexic character, is a safe read for most readers. The list of books about kids who are twice-exceptional isn't a long one, so consider oldies like Helen Keller's Teacher and Follow My Leader, which portray children adapting to disabling conditions with positive outcomes.
  4. Use book group materials to extend the reading experience. Many authors will supply discussion questions for teachers to help kids process and demonstrate comprehension. These are also tools that parents can use to help facilitate thoughtful exploration of a book at a deeper level. Kids can be challenged to put themselves in the shoes of the antagonist or a minor character. The author's own questions can refine a child's ability to connect with characters, evaluate motives and outcomes, and slow them down long enough to absorb and appreciate storytelling from different points of view.
  5. Encourage them to try something different. If your child has blown through all the age appropriate fiction you can find, try offering non-fiction that is above their reading level. Gifted kids yearn for ideas and information, so biography and non-fiction titles may be an option, especially for kids who find it difficult to read fiction. Sounds crazy? Some kids are drawn to books that explain complex ideas to feed their intellect and encourage innovative thinking. For example, I have a reading-avoidant gifted child in my family who only reads physics books (which can be quite entertaining depending on the physicist).

When in doubt, ask a teacher, librarian, special ed professional or other parents with kids like yours. Always screen a book for inappropriate or upsetting material. Providing different formats like e-readers and audio books is an experimental way to determine what works best. Don't be afraid to ask other parents. You never know who else is struggling with the same demands. Plus, books make great company and sharing them builds camaraderie. Who doesn't need a little more of that?

Susan Larsen Krause is the author of BACKGROUND NOISE: A NOVEL ABOUT TWICE-EXCEPTIONALITY. She writes and blogs about raising gifted and learning disabled kids. 

Believe the Signs Your ADHD Kid is Sending


When Alex was three years old and in daycare, I was pulled aside by the caregiver and told that he was not behaving in circle time. No surprise. He was always in motion and never sat in one place for long. She told me that they had a talk, then she shook her finger in his face and asked, "Now, what did I tell you?"
He hid his eyes, avoided looking at her, fidgeted with whatever filled his pockets that day and finally ducked for cover and whined to be picked up. She persisted. Now curious, I asked him myself what she had told him. He whimpered and clenched his fists and runched up his little face and hid on my shoulder. Finally hiding his eyes, he haltingly pushed out a mere five words that still trouble me.

Stay where you get put.

If your head is spinning around all the implied meanings of "stay where you get put" don't frustrate yourself. On the list of things to NEVER say to a gifted child with ADHD, that one ranks pretty close to the top.

While ADHD was suspected, Alex was far too young to get a definitive diagnosis. Preschool through 4th grade, he performed on average, had friends, played outside, just a normal 9-year old boy. I was occasionally pulled aside to be told something that he did that was original or unexpected or disallowed, or that he was "really smart." Then 5th grade hit. I'd been warned that it would be tougher now. But I never dreamed it would crush my kid to bits.

In 5th grade, my son had experienced enough failure to leave him discouraged. He became deeply depressed. And I completely missed it. I knew there were school issues, but I didn't see the signs that he was in despair. A birthday came and went, and he did not want a party. He became angry and non-communicative. He banged his head on the wall.

All the signs I missed.

I've spent the last eight years or so learning about the implications of ADHD and it's comorbid conditions. Then the gifted portion came into play, but didn't explain his uneven performance in a college prep school. He had a drastic decline that led to failing classes. There had to be something else wrong. What was I missing?

When I think back to that day at preschool, I realize that he was communicating with me, but not talking to me. He's now almost grown, and I've finally figured out that my son communicates best in gesture or action, not language.

The way he draws in a deep breath and blows it out again means This is hard for me and I don't want to talk about it.

Absolute silence and refusal to answer means I am really tired and can't think right now. This is augmented by hiding behind his long hair.

Rapid talking about things that interest him (and bewilder me) is a good sign that he's feeling positive. When he is feeling positive, he's the most alive and happy.

He enjoys learning about things that intrigue him. Those things are not essays and lab reports and textbooks that drag on forever. I've made the mistake many times of reminding him, during those rare moments of glee, that he has homework to do.

All along, Alex has told me what he feels, what he needs and how he operates. I missed the signs so many times. If I could do it all over again, I would watch him for clues. I would not scold for doing things off-key. I wouldn't nag about homework or cleaning his room. I would try harder to see the world as he sees it.

Stay where you get put.

It was never about staying put in circle time. It's about escaping the box (or brain) that entraps you. Every child needs to be heard and understood, no matter how they communicate. Don't miss the cues.