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Summer Reading for Gifted Kids
Do gifted children read differently? Most of those that I know personally are truly voracious readers, but they are intrigued by very different topics. One of Smarty’s best friends reads every book set in Star Wars universe, another one is not interested in fiction at all, but devours books about programming in Java and website design. Smarty, on the other hand, continues on her “I hate non-fiction” trail at the moment and reads almost exclusively fiction and comics. She defines her current reading interests as children like me who go on adventures and, apparently, she keeps developing their adventures further in her head.
When you have a child who is 7 but reads at the 11th grade level, picking appropriate books can be a big challenge. In some cases one of us reads her books before (my husband is a big fan of fantasy while I prefer science fiction), but sometimes we actually read some of her books later, since she was so enchanted by them. Here are 6 series about gifted children that really fascinated her this spring and summer.
1. The Genius Files
The Genius Files is a newer series by Dan Gutman. Currently 4 books are out, and one more is expected soon. I only read the first book while Smarty read all four and found them hilarious. Frankly, I think Dan Gutman could have done much better with his initial premise, and I found the story line ridiculous. However, the action develops on a road trip across the USA, so the book manages to slip in some interesting facts, especially about bizarre museums and roadside attractions. The main characters are 12 years old, and one of them has a photographic memory and attention for detail while his twin sister is extremely good at puzzles. Overall, it’s my least favorite from the list, but Smarty is eagerly waiting for the next installment in this series.
2. The Boy Who Ran for President
Strictly speaking, The Boy Who Ran for President (also by Dan Gutman) is not a series, since there is only one sequel to the first book. Still, I decided to include it as a much more interesting example of this writer’s imagination and a different example of giftedness for the main character who is extremely charming and socially adept. Just like in the first set of books, adults are mostly clueless and/or incompetent – something that you might want to consider while deciding whether to introduce these books to your children. I had multiple conversations with Smarty about both series helping her to sort out the truth and the fantasy in them.
3. Encyclopedia Brown
I am glad that the older series Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol was republished recently. Smarty’s school has a big collection of these books, and Smarty keeps taking them from her school library or from our city library and rereads her favorites. The stories are more like mental puzzles solved by a very talented young detective who loves to read and remembers everything he read. Some of the stories feel like a big stretch over the body of the puzzle itself, but it’s the series and the character that are probably closest to the “real world” out of all 6 suggestions that I share here.
4. The Mysterious Benedict Society
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart has a brilliant premise and a good execution to go with it. A team of kids (two boys and two girls) are selected through a series of ingenious tests to be spies in a special school run by an evil mastermind. One has to suspend disbelief from time to time when sci-fi inventions enter the story, but I enjoyed reading the first book, and my daughter swallowed all of them, plus a special book of puzzles with The Mysterious Benedict Society theme. I also really enjoyed strong female characters in this book, especially resourceful Kate, presence of responsible (and irresponsible) adults, and very intelligent humor. I highly recommend this series to your young readers.
5. Percy Jackson
My husband, a fantasy fan, stumbled upon the first book from Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan by accident. We both really liked the series and the consistent fantasy universe created by Rick Riordan. Smarty had an intense interest in Greek Mythology since she was about 5, and we thought that she would enjoy the series despite some very intense battle scenes happening pretty much in every book. We were right. Last summer was her Percy Jackson summer (she was 6 then), and since then she reread her favorite parts many times and could practically tell them by heart. I am impressed with the way Rick Riordan brought Greek Gods and heroes to life in the 21st century. I also really like the fact that he included multicultural characters in his second set of books about Percy Jackson – his key characters have Native American, Chinese, Latino, and African American heritage. The characters start their book life at the age of about 12 and become young adults through the series. They all have special supernatural gifts from their godly parents, but they are also smart, resourceful, brave, and supportive of each other – great qualities that we all want to see in our children.
6. Harry Potter
And here comes our family favorite, the best book ever (in Smarty’s words) – Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. We tried to hold out on Harry Potter for as long as we could. My husband thought that maybe Smarty will stop reading once the books get darker. She didn’t and she is now finishing the series for the first time. I expect that she will be rereading her favorite parts (we own these books both as hard covers and as Kindle books) all summer long, just as she did with Percy Jackson last summer. Even though Harry Potter and his friends also have gifts from the fantasy realm, the characters feel very real to me, and I am very happy that we have another Potterhead joining the ranks of Harry Potter lovers. I hope that Smarty will reread the books when she is older and will be able to understand subtle details then (she was able to tell which boy Hermione likes only in book #5).
Your TurnWe need help and advice in finding the next series that daughter will connect to. Which books about kids with special abilities did your children enjoy?
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