Parents love having kids who read. They fly through books and come back for more. Read their favorites over and over. Want to write their own books. Parents thank the stars their kids love books and not video games. Lucky parents.

Load them up with all the books they can carry. Choose a few titles you loved when you were a kid. Tell them how important reading is. Then send their little tushies to bed with a story. See how easy it is to raise a gifted reader?

Parents of gifted readers are laughing about right now.

Gifted kids who love books are one of the most complex consumers of literature. It’s not just how much they read. Their preferences, comprehension, speed, memory, emotional response, perception and sensitivity are all part of the mix. They don’t just read at a higher level, their entire experience with books transcends what any author could hope for. The best authority on gifted readers are the parents and educators who try to keep up with them. Here’s a few ways they describe the characteristics of their young bibliophiles.

Language proficiency. Exceptional vocabulary and reading comprehension sets the stage for readers who consume books rapidly, retain what they read, and are able to switch up the topics and keep it all straight. Sounds great, right? Apply this to a 1st grader who reads at a 12th grade level. You run out of appropriate reading material before morning snack.

Complex Emotional Response. There is no magic formula to determine when a child will outgrow the strong emotional turmoil they feel when reading about loss, loneliness, unfairness, death and grief — all things that make up most of the literature in the universe. Many parents are attuned to this emotional over-excitability (OE). I love this suggestion, because it pulls the child into a new way experiencing a book:

“Anticipate the writer’s craft. If the main character is very worried at the end of chapter 3, it’s because the author wants you to be eager to find out what happens next, therefore the main character can’t possibly die in chapter 4, or we wouldn’t have anyone to tell the remaining hundred pages. So, do you think she’ll escape somehow? Yes. What are some possibilities? Friends could rescue her. Evil character could have a change of heart. She might rescue herself by sneaking out or making friends with the guards or another prisoner.”

Sensory experience. Kids with OEs have super-sensitivities that can include physical sensation and emotional intensity: two things built-in to every book experience. One mother explains that her son enjoys printed books more than audio books or electronic versions. The act of turning pages helps him cement the story in his brain.

Books beyond their years. One of the big struggles I often read about is finding age appropriate material. I’ve always been a fan of “at least they’re reading.” Whether it’s a comic book, greeting cards, road signs, cereal box labels (I have a nutrition label fanatic in my house). All reading leads to a path of understanding, so let them evolve into the readers they want to be.

And that whole “loves books and not video games” thing? Yeah, that’s not true. We might wish that a love of books supplants fascination with entertainment tech. The truth is that reading is one way of engaging in language and learning. Technology yields another aspect of making connections through learning. Our kids are great and figuring out how to make reading and technology work together.

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” (James Baldwin, 1963)

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