High-Level Readers Need Help Choosing Appropriate Books
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Helping gifted and talented students choose appropriate reading materials is a tricky road; gifted children tend to read voraciously and at high levels.
These reading habits are understandable characteristics of giftedness; gifted children are cognitively more developed than is normally expected. However, gifted readers need guidance in book selection. A child reading at a college level is not necessarily ready for college material. Just because a ten-year-old can comprehend Anne Rice’s writing does not mean that a ten-year-old is ready to meet the Vampire Lestat.
This, then, becomes a difficulty for parents. Students of all reading abilities tend to enjoy books about people slightly older than they are, so a ten-year-old will relate to and be interested in books about thirteen-year-olds more than books about twenty-year-olds. Finding books written at high interest, high ability level requires time and work.
Doing an advanced book search at Amazon.com and highlighting the appropriate age range is one tool. Amazon also provides book reviews, and reading those reviews is an excellent start. The reviews are usually written by adults, but sometimes there are child reviews. If there are no child reviews, beware: this is not a book for children.
Sorting through reviews can be time-consuming, and teen readers can finish books and return them to the public library before their parents see them. Reading the back of the book or the book jacket yields a lot of information, as does flipping through. However, the best approach is just to ask your child one question, “If this book was a movie, what would you rate it?”
Whatever the answer – even the safe “G” rating – should be followed up with the discussion. This widens those narrowing lines of communication, gives parents insight into their children, and helps promote communication skills in general.
High Ability Readers
Just because a child is involved in a higher-level book does not mean it should be taken away, of course. Knowing that a child is reading a book about death, violence, or illicit activities means that parents need to read the book, too. If that is not possible – and it often is not – parents need to open the door for conversations. Children may leave books with inaccurate perceptions, and it is not unheard of for children to have nightmares from the frightening book they fell asleep reading.
Sometimes gifted children need to hear, “We’ll put this book up until your life experience catches up to your reading level.” When parents say that, they need to drive directly to the library or bookstore and find a book that is of the appropriate interest level. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Series is more a more appropriate vampire series than Interview with a Vampire or Dracula.
Parents as Readers
Parents should not discount non-fiction as a reading choice. Adults have a blend of non-fiction and fiction reading; children tend to read non-fiction books as assignments and fiction as free choice reading. Parents may want to share their own reading choices, not as material to be read, but as examples of the genre. If parents are reading National Geographic, then National Geographic Kids is an obvious connection for children. Teachers can use parent newsletters to help keep parents up to date on books.
Often non-fiction, especially historical readings, are often as fascinating as historical fiction without the elevated drama that requires some life experience to appreciate. Helping gifted children pick out appropriate reading materials helps keep them in common experience with their peers and helps preserve childhood a little longer, which are admirable goals in themselves.
A Great Online Resource to Find Books for Gifted Readers
Instead of looking for books by grade level, students might be better served by looking for books at the Lexile reading level.
Gifted students and a love of reading usually go hand in hand, but gifted education teachers know that every once in a while, students who despise reading appear in the enrichment classroom. Finding books can be a challenge for those students because they need books that have content that is high interest, have a reading level that is a high ability, and is written for the appropriate age level audience can be tricky. The Lexile Book Finder tool is a great way for all gifted readers to find books.
What is a Lexile Level?
The Lexile Reading Score is an analysis of the student’s reading comprehension ability. This is determined through a standardized test. The Lexile Text Level is an analysis of a text’s accessibility level; the Text Level Score can match readers to books. However, the Lexile Book Finder goes beyond levels by sorting the results by categories of interest, page count, and more.
Getting Started With the Lexile Book Finder
Using the Lexile Book Finder takes a bit of time, even if students know their reading range. Teachers should allow students at least 15 minutes to use the Book Finder. If students have state tests that use Lexile measurements, they will have a specific Lexile score to look up. Otherwise, the Lexile Book Finder has another option. Students can search by a combination of grade level and assessment of reading. Gifted students should mark the choice that “I find the books I read for school easy.”
Using Categories to Search for Books
Once students have determined their Lexile level (which can be adjusted with the toolbar on the right side to raise it or expand the range, students can start choosing categories for books. There are many sub-categories within the genre choices, so kids can really find books that interest them. For example, a child can choose the genre of Animals, and specifically choose books about horses, dogs, dinosaurs, and cats.
Refining Lexile Search Results
Once the list of books appears, the results can be overwhelming for students, particularly if they are not familiar with terms like “Non-Prose” Teachers can give the general instruction to ignore the “Limit by Lexile code” feature, as most students will not need to separate books in that sense. They can choose to find just “award winners” or just “non-fiction”, and limiting the page numbers can help for students who are looking for a short book for a report or a long book to get through over the holiday break.
Using the Final Book List
The animal-loving, gifted 4th grader who wanted a short award-winner came up with Mark Teague’s Detective LaRue: Letters from the Investigation. It is about animals, is for 4th-8th grade reading level, it was nominated for the Colorado Children’s Book Award, and it is 30 pages long.
Then the student needs to write down the books from the list, and search for the books in the library. Barnes and Noble now have Lexile reading levels with their books, so parents, who often want a resource to help gifted readers find books, can search BN.com for books and look by level.
The Lexile Book Finder is a great tool for gifted readers. Books can be found on interest level, at the appropriate age level (through the separation of “juvenile fiction” and regular “fiction”), and at a challenging reading level. The additional sorting tools give reluctant readers a chance at finding books they might like, and they give kids who feel like they’ve already read all the books in the library a chance to read something new.