Finding Age Appropriate Books for Your Gifted Reader
Updated: Sep 10
By Angela Tanner, Ph.D.
One of the biggest concerns I hear from parents of gifted children is the constant struggle to find age-appropriate books at their child's, usually advanced, reading level. Friends you confide in may feel you are bragging when in reality parents of gifted children struggle to find the appropriate material for their child.
While not true for every gifted child, one of the early signs of giftedness is learning to read early. Often self-taught, these kids start reading earlier than their age peers and demonstrate deeper comprehension of what they read. Many of our gifted kids are avid and advanced readers.
This can pose a significant challenge for parents because very young children can have the ability to read books which are simply too mature for them topic-wise. It is an issue of asynchrony, an uneven development such as having cognitive abilities surpass motor or emotional development; the child may be able intellectually to understand abstract or sophisticated concepts but yet unable to deal with those concepts emotionally.
Lastly, even after children are reading well on their own, read aloud to your child - this is an excellent way to stay abreast of their interests and preferences or topic choices. The other benefit is that reading aloud is essential for the pronunciation of words and sharing more precise or alternate definitions than those gleaned from context. Lastly, the emotional bonding that occurs is priceless.njoys. For example, for the baseball enthusiast, biographies of great baseball heroes can segue into reading about a particular historical period. Suggest that your animal admirer try Jane Goodall's My Life with the Chimpanzees to introduce concepts of conservationism.
Tips to find your child's next book:
Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers from Pre-School to High School is a wonderful resource you can turn to again and again. This book contains a well-indexed annotated bibliography of more than 300 books for readers of all ages, carefully selected to promote intellectual and emotional development and listed by theme, such as achievement, perfectionism, sensitivity, introversion.
Use the publisher - We often rely on the same author to find similar books, but the publisher of your favorite books may also lead you to other treasures. Tumblehome Learning has wonderful books for advanced readers. You can find a selection of Neil Shubin's books as well as the Galactic Academy of Science series, very similar to The Magic Treehouse Books, about characters that experience time travel to solve mysteries.
Recommendation from a friend also parenting a gifted child - some of the best-tested ideas come from other parents. If you don't know any other parents of gifted children, look for a local support group or gifted speaker series to extend your circle.
Check a book blog - there exist so many blogs now on gifted readers, for instance Pauline's List of Chapter Books for Young Gifted Readers; you will have more ideas than you can research!
Indie Next List - If you haven't heard of this list, check it out!
Cybils book lists - Every book that makes it onto a Cybils shortlist or winners list has been extensively discussed by kidlit bloggers and is high in both kid appeal and literary merit.
Niche book awards - there are a number of state awards, library association awards, booksellers awards, and more. There are awards for audiobooks and for mysteries, for graphic novels and for books by debut authors. If you're looking for something that meets some specific criteria, look into the book award for that criteria.
Tune in to your child's interest: Let your child's interests guide your book selection. Is your child fanatic about baseball? Try the Ballpark Mysteries series by David Kelly or books by Mike Lupica. Is your child an animal lover? Try a book about Pale Male, the New York City hawk. Choosing by interest-area can also also encourage your child to expand his interests through reading about subjects he enjoys. For example, for the baseball enthusiast, biographies of great baseball heroes can segue into reading about a particular historical period. Suggest that your animal admirer try Jane Goodall's My Life with the Chimpanzees to introduce concepts of conservationism.
Author who blurbed a favorite book - Look at the back of your favorite books and see who endorsed them as oftentimes noteworthy authors within the same genre will pen these blurbs.
Lastly, even after children are reading well on their own, read aloud to your child - this is an excellent way to stay abreast of their interests and preferences or topic choices. The other benefit is that reading aloud is essential for pronunciation of words and sharing more precise or alternate definitions than those gleaned from context. Lastly, the emotional bonding that occurs is priceless.
Angela Tanner, Ph.D. is the Founder and Director of The Knox School of Santa Barbara, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting gifted students everywhere.