Guest Author - Lorel Shea
Many gifted children at one time or another seem to get stuck in a reading rut. They may be such avid fans of fantasy, science fiction, or graphic novels that all other genres are neglected. Their parents may wonder what they can do to encourage their child to read different types of books. Specialization isn't a bad thing, but it is a good idea to seek balance in reading material as in other aspects of life. Children who are raised to appreciate all sorts of literature are clearly at an advantage in high school and college, where they will be expected to analyze and compare various types of books.
SAT writing prompts often request that students use examples from literature to support their opinions on various topics. Obviously, a broad reading base can be an asset here. Maybe you can learn everything you need to know about life from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, but I wouldn't bet my life on it. A student who is applying to college can make a good impression better with a well rounded reading list that includes biographies, historical fiction, philosophy, mysteries, political science, classics, plays, poetry, contemporary fiction, and all sorts of non-fiction. This may be especially important for a homeschooler, who usually has to showcase achievements and mastery in a more overt manner.
A friend of mine recently shared that her ten year old was a regular bookworm, but that all of his selections in recent years seem to be fantasy books. He'd dabbled a little in mythology, but for the most part, he was stuck in fantasyland. Once I started to think about it, I realized that my own ten year old was reading Terry Pratchett and Tamora Pierce pretty exclusively. I'm a big fan of both authors myself, and I often recommend their work for gifted kids. All the same, I would like to see my son exploring more diversity in reading. Fantasy is wonderful, but there's great reading to be had in other genres as well.
It's terrific to have kids who love to read, but my friend and I hope that we can entice our kids into diversifying a bit. They are both pretty logic oriented, so maybe it won't take more than a short talk to do the trick. Our sons are both involved in scouting, and they enjoy setting goals and working toward predefined objectives. Perhaps a BINGO style board of genres or a simple checklist will be all it takes to get them excited about varying their literary diet.
Of course, parents should be sensitive to their own children's learning styles and temperaments when searching for a method for broadening their horizons. Another friend has found that her child will listen with rapt attention to just about any audiobook she plays. Although his choices for printed materials are much narrower, he is exposed to many literary styles this way. He is also able to listen to material above his present reading level. Consequently, his reading comprehension scores are far above the level he ordinarily chooses to read himself, and in line with what he is used to listening to on tapes and CDs.
There are some very helpful resource guides available that parents and children may utilize to find recommendations for different types of books. An excellent guide for children's literature is Some of My Best Friends are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers from Pre-School to High School, by Judith Wynn Halsted. For older readers, there is Peterson's Reading Lists for College Bound Students. This book encourages the reader to, “read as many kinds of books as possible.” It also includes a sample personal reading list, and the top 100 most recommended titles.