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Some of My Best Friends Are Books - review

Great Potential Press has just released an updated edition of Judith Wynn Halsted's manual, “Some of My Best Friends Are Books - Guiding Gifted Readers". The new release has been revised and expanded. Halsted's original book was published in 1988 with the title, “Guiding Gifted Readers”. In 1994, the book was revised and the title was changed to “Some of My Best Friends Are Books - Guiding Gifted Readers from Pre-school to High School". I own the 1994 edition and have been lamenting the lack of new books and resources in it. I've been able to compare the two volumes side by side. With the newest edition, chapters have been substantially reworked and given additional substance. The bones are the same, and the core message about promoting reading and bibliotherapy for gifted children has not changed. It is significantly longer (574 pages as opposed to 430 pages) and contains the latest industry terminology and information. The typeface is also cleaner and easier on the eyes. I love the new cover art- the last version had only text on the cover. The new book has a lovely color photo of a young girl reading.

The author builds a strong case for differentiation in reading starting as early as kindergarten. Those children who enter school already reading may lose their love of reading if forced to follow a typical kindergarten or first grade reading program. Children who don't get challenged in school miss out on learning study skills and perseverance. They may get to high school or college and struggle with actually having to work at academics for the first time.

There is a good deal of information on how to organize book clubs for gifted readers. The author states, “ Children should also be relatively close in ability level. As with academic programs for the gifted, a book discussion group that combines students in the moderately gifted range with those who are highly gifted will probably fail to meet the needs of the highly gifted members; it would be better to have a separate group for them if possible.” The ideal number of participants is noted as six to eight children.

The part of the book which I know I will return to again and again is the annotated bibliography. Of course, this section has been brought up to date and now contains information on all sorts of recently published books. The first Harry Potter book hadn't yet hit the shelves when the last edition of SOMBFAB was written! Books are arranged here by approximate grade level and noted for what issues it raises. “Shadow of a Bull” for instance, is described with a brief synopsis, and noted for the following discussion points: drive to understand, identity, intensity, using ability. Each of these points has a few lines of comments and questions to ask. I have listed a representative book from each level below. Grade levels are categorized as:

Preschool
for the very young / Goodnight Moon
age 2-3 / Owl Babies
age 4 / Anno's Counting Book

Early Elementary
grades K-2 / Weslandia

Upper Elementary
grades 3-5 / Millicent Min, Girl Genius

Middle School
grades 6-8 / The View From Saturday

Senior High
grades 9-12 / Three Cups of Tea


This is a terrific resource and I'm quite pleased to recommend it. Fans of the older editions should put it on their wish lists, as it has a great deal of valuable new content.













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