Thoughts on reading books on giftedness

I have now read too many books on giftedness.  Most of these books say the same stuff without any research backing up.  A lot of them make up little anecdotes to illustrate their points.  Many of them outline the problems we might face without offering any solutions, or if they do offer solutions, you have no idea of knowing what they’re basing those solutions on.  (Ignoring a bully will make him go away?  Reeeeally?  Have you ever succeeded with that strategy?)  I do not want to read any more books on giftedness.  I’m done, thanks.

A few of them do stand out.  I’ve already quoted extensively from this book:  Gifted Children: A Guide for Parents and Professionals ed. Kate Distin (2006).

This one is nice because it is like reading the distilled wisdom from a really really good forum that just happens to have some experts as members who are able to explain the research to the other members.  (Much better than the davidsonsgifted forums, which seem to be a mix of things that aren’t as helpful as I would have hoped, though searching the archives has found some useful things, like what a 3 year old reading at third grade level might be interested in.)  This one does a great job of addressing the emotional concerns that we as parents have.  Like I said before, this book made me feel “normal”… given the right population of comparison.

Another one I found helpful is:  Being Smart about Gifted Education: A Guidebook for Parents and Educators by Dona J. Matthews and Joanne F. Foster (2009).

This one isn’t perfect and is perhaps a little idealistic, but it is trying to sell a way that I wish giftedness were sold.  Far too many of these books completely ignore the nurture part of the giftedness equation.  This one actually integrates the Dweck and other research on mindsets, growing dendrites, etc.  This one talks about educational matches.  It supports a “mastery” model rather than a “mystery” model… which is difficult to explain but has something to do with focusing on the pragmatic needs and outcomes of gifted learners (indeed, all learners) rather than saying all gifted kids are alike and mystical.  It is anti-labeling for the reasons I’m anti-labeling (… or was anti-labeling… now I’m not sure, some of the other books have pretty convincing arguments about the benefits of labels).  It seems to have a healthy skepticism of test-scores, and only suggests using them as a diagnostic when we suspect underachievement.  I like it because it says things are true that I hope are true but don’t actually believe are true deep down.  But I’m an idealist that way… and, as we know (since 3/4 of the books mention it), idealism is correlated with giftedness.

A final one that isn’t actually helpful to us, but I wish were required reading for all K-8 teachers is this one: Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom by Susan Winebrenner (2001… though I read an earlier edition).

It talks about some excellent strategies for how to deal with gifted kids in the regular classroom.  It may not be as ideal as segregating all the gifted kids in their own schools (or classes or clusters), but most of us don’t have that option.  Reading through it I realize all my best teachers, the ones whose classrooms I actually *remember* because I spent all year *learning* things instead of being bored out of my skull, used some or many of these strategies.

I really hope the private school wasn’t lying about single-subject acceleration as needed.  We could probably cobble together a great education with single-subject acceleration until they run out and then the community college or university for the rest.

Oh, and in case you weren’t aware of the strong case for acceleration… check out the A Nation Deceived.  Even more confirmatory research on this topic has come out since it was published and there’s some good stuff on how best to facilitate acceleration so that positive rather than negative outcomes occur.  But most of that stuff is covered in the regular gifted books anyhow.

DH has been reading a lot of the books on activities to do, questions to ask, and so on, but he says they’re all things we’ve been doing *anyway*.  I had the same experience with the ones I read as well.  We must be naturally good parents or something.  Laziness wins!

19 Responses to “Thoughts on reading books on giftedness”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    I want to let you know that you inspired me to allow myself to buy books again. I miss reading actual paper vs electronic media.

  2. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    what a 3 year old reading at third grade level might be interested in.

    That booke aboute the people whose plane crashed in the Andes and they had to eat the dead bodies of other passengers! I loved that shitte!

  3. frugalscholar Says:

    A lazy parent here. Let the children teach you what kind of parent to be.

  4. Suzita @ playfightrepeat.com Says:

    I learned a lot that I didn’t know about testing for giftedness in the book Nurture Shock, by Bronson and Merryman. It’s got one chapter on this topic. In general the book looks at the science behind many current day parenting issues.

    It’s got chapters on how to praise (or not praise) your kids, sleep research and kids, kids and lying, kids’ understanding of race, language acquisition, the sibling effect, the skill of self-control…among others. Quite good.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’ve heard about that book but haven’t read it (yet). I loved Our Babies, Ourselves for information on sleep research etc., though that book is really focused on infants and toddlers.

      Btw, I know the son of the guy who does all the sleep research at Notre Dame and he turned out awesome. So with an n=1, he’s totally right.

  5. Jacq Says:

    I found most of the books I read on adult giftedness were too woo-woo / affirming and just not very practical.

    I dunno about having 4 year olds reading “Alive” – although I was probably morbid enough at that age to enjoy it.

    Are there serial killer steampunk novels? I could get into that…

  6. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I apparently have an extremely hands-off approach. I don’t read anything on giftedness or have had any of my kids tested even though at least one of them obviously is. It’s been brought to my attention the question of being pushed forward is likely to come up when he completes second grade. I have SERIOUS misgivings so I’m going to have to look into this acceleration thing. I *hated* being the youngest AND smartest in my class which is what he’ll be facing if that happens. I know we’re all different but still. TIme will tell but I really find your posts on this interesting and helpful.
    I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I gave my kid Alive? Hmmmm

  7. everyday tips Says:

    It is all so individual. I personally am not pro-acceleration, but that is just me. I am guessing if a child is ‘profoundly’ gifted, one year of acceleration may not be enough.

    I was already young for my grade. Had I accelerated another year, it would have been great academically, but a bummer socially. (I am small, so sports would have been a problem, along with driving much later than everyone, etc.)

    It is too bad that more resources are not provided for gifted education in the public schools.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I suspect that #2 and I would still have sucked at sports even if we had been red-shirted.

      Actually, my sport was swimming, which I did outside of school at the Y, so my grade didn’t matter.

      Re: driving, as soon as I hit high school freshman age I made friends with a group of AP junior boys, so my lack of driver’s license was irrelevant. Heck, the ability to drive was irrelevant to a few of them who didn’t have cars despite having licenses. We would all go cruising in S’s Saab or J’s Geo Metro. All I gained by getting my own license was the ability to drive my sister to her ballet and piano lessons.

      If you believe in different levels of giftedness, unless gifted kids are clustered together in a grade, PG kids need multiple skips to find social peers, EG kids need a year or two skip, and MG and HG kids do great socially on grade with non-gifted kids. I’m not sure how much I believe that IQ defines these things, but I do know that some children do better with older peer groups. (Something we have proof of for our own child.)

  8. Adventures in kindergarten choices « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured Says:

    […] I read up on tons of books about giftedness and early acceleration, because I’m a nerd and a wonk and I like to make informed choices.  […]

  9. preschool perfectionism « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured Says:

    […] tendrils of perfectionism, particularly the tantrums, are what started my reading of gifted books (I’m done now), years before we thought we’d have to dig into them.  Turns out some of […]

  10. Schooling update: Spring Semester « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured Says:

    […] of the type that a child trying to entertain hirself often gets into.  I read approximately a zillion books on giftedness for solutions to these problems, and they were pretty unanimous that starting K early […]

  11. Ask the grumpies: Best school environments for gifted children? | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] This one is easy… from a research perspective.  A Nation Deceived (soon to be updated with A Nation Empowered!) talks about the research base for the different options.  Also the Iowa Acceleration Scale that you can take discusses things that make acceleration a better or worse option (parents caring about sports being a big negative, for example).  (This post talks about my favorite books from the endless # I read when we were originally facing these problems: https://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/reading-books-on-giftedness/ ) […]


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