Guest Author - Lorel Shea
The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Young Readers series of online courses are designed to teach gifted readers how to analyze literature through guided reading, writing, and discussion. The Young Readers courses are offered at two different levels: grade 3/4 and grade 4/5. There are three courses currently offered for grades 3 and 4. These are Horse Stories, Dragon Tales, and Dog Stories. Each course requires reading of a particular set of books, related by theme. Dragon Tales has the following reading list:
Kenny and The Dragon
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
Dealing With Dragons
The Dragon Slippers
Horse Stories also has four books:
Misty of Chincoteague
Barbaro America's Horse
The Black Stallion
The Wild One (Phantom Stallion)
Students in this level class should be comfortable reading at a grade 5 level or higher. Students must qualify to take a course, via participation in the JHU/CTY Talent Search, and obtaining a qualifying score. Gifted children in grades 2-6 take the School and College Abilities Test (SCAT) for the talent search, and parents are then informed if the students meet criteria for summer programs and online courses. Students usually apply for the talent search with evidence of academic excellence such as a standardized test score, but may also be admitted to the talent search with a parent recommendation.
The grade 4/5 options for Young Readers are On Our Own, Magical Life Lessons, and Quests and Challenges. The book selections for this level are quite appealing, and aimed at kids who read proficiently at the middle school level. Books for Magical Life Lessons include:
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Now, on to personal experience! My daughter chose to take Quests and Challenges, despite the fact that she'd already read two of the featured books. I was very pleased with the interaction offered by her instructor. Artemis received a personal phone call before the class began, a well written syllabus and welcome letter, and instruction on how to log in to the CTY course bulletin board as well as the informal “pizza party” board provided for students to talk off topic. She took part in an introductory warm up session that helped the students get to know one another, and become comfortable with the discussion format.
The course did not “meet” online at an assigned time. Students could post their comments and short essays any time before the deadline for each required submission. So kids were able to work on Young Readers whenever it fit into their schedules. Ample time was allotted for reading of each section of the book under discussion. Assignments were clear, and instructor comments were well detailed and delivered in a professional, yet warm manner. I'm really delighted by the feedback, as my kids have participated in other courses with barely a peep from the course tutor. This very specific and targeted personal feedback is extremely helpful. The reading list for Quests and Challenges is:
The View From Saturday
First Test (Protector of the Small)
The Mysterious Benedict Society
At this level, all of the books have content that may be upsetting to a very sensitive child, so parents should make an effort to prescreen before choosing a course. Though all have bits and pieces that are dark or disturbing, I can say with authority that these are fantastic reads that kids really tend to enjoy.
In addition to the Young Readers series, CTY offers a plethora of other classes for pre-k through high school. Follow the links below in order to see what they have to offer!