Although it’s not always the case that gifted children read early, or that children who read early remain gifted learners, it is a common lament amongst parents of the gifted that they can’t keep up with their voracious reader’s appetite.
The other problem with choosing books for young advanced readers is that most often, their emotional capabilities are closer to their chronological age. Books at their reading level often contain age-inappropriate content or high levels of violence.
So how should parents of early readers satisfy their children’s demand for more and more literature? When choosing novels, you can follow some general guidelines:
- Books from other eras: Children’s books written before 1960 are more likely not to have inappropriate content. The Wizard of Oz series started in 1900 with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and extended past L. Frank Baum’s original 14 books to 40 books by different authors. Many young readers find that they can be absorbed into the world of Oz for months, and the scariest it gets is the Wicked Witch of the West. [Click here to see a full list of Oz books.]
- Read-out-loud books: Books that were written with the intent of being read aloud to younger children often are written at a level that will excite the gifted reader. The prose in Winnie the Pooh is fun and engaging, and is written at a high enough level that a gifted young reader will enjoy the age-appropriate story as well as offering rich language. Alice in Wonderland is fantastic for a child interested in wordplay.
- Trusted authors: Certain authors are more likely to write books appropriate to young readers. Beverly Cleary’s animal books are usually a safe bet. Dick King-Smith’s books are short and thus will be absorbed quickly by a voracious reader, but they’re fun and age-appropriate. Roald Dahl’s adult characters are often mean, but young kids usually love these books. [See Book list for young gifted readers for specific recommendations.]
- Safe science fiction/fantasy: Children who love science fiction but want to avoid more violent content are in a particularly awkward situation. The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane have strong, pre-adolescent role models. The Dragonling series by Jackie French Koller is a great fantasy book with action and adventure, but nothing too scary for a young reader. [See Book list for pre-teen gifted readers for specific recommendations.]
Children’s librarians and bookstore buyers can help you choose appropriate books for your children as well.
The Child Lit WIKI is a knowledge base compiled by adults who love children’s books. Though limited to what has been entered by participants, the books are categorized by all sorts of useful categories such as “stories without villains” and “kids with secret powers.”
Kidsreads.com offers book reviews with estimates of the appropriate age range for each book reviewed.
Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers from Pre-School to High School
Hoagies’ Gifted: Books for Young Readers and Longer Chapter Books for Early Readers
Wikipedia List of Classic Children’s Books
Don’t forget about your local children’s librarian (if your library system still has one!). Children’s librarians and children’s book buyers at independent bookstores can be great resources for you and your child.