Perspectives in Gifted Education: Compilation of Thoughts Part 1

This summer I took “Perspectives in Gifted Education” as part of my masters in curriculum and instruction program. The course was held online, so all conversations took place on BlackBoard. Below is a compilation of my responses to various questions.

On following your knowledge not your fear…

In my years of teaching, I’ve found that I am not going to ask people what they think unless I value their opinion and know their intentions. Too many people are scared of the testing environment and the consequences of not doing what they are “supposed to”, such as following a district mandated pacing guide, a district mandated “curriculum” (and I lose that term loosely, because most districts have mandated a framework), a specific program and so on, that they have abandoned good teaching and best practice out of fear. I come to think we are quickly coming up on an tipping point in education where the majority of teachers no longer remember what it was like to teach before NCLB. How will we ever tip back or retrain teachers to teach well, based on researched practices and solid pedagogy? (But I digress…)

In my room, I’ve always done what I know to be best for the kids and dealt with the blows afterwards (and I’ve dealt with some crazy ones from parents), and never once, when i’ve been able to prove that my decisions were based on best practice and research, has an administration failed to back me up or at the very least, they couldn’t touch me. I know it is hard when you are a new teacher, but next year, don’t ask, just do. Both of those books would have been appropriate for a gifted middle schooler. You know your kids, often better than the parents.


NAGC Standards: Pre-K— Grade 12 Gifted Program Standards – Gifted Education Programming Criterion: Standard 6 Professional Development

“Quality professional development provided by the district, county, or school is wholly missing for gifted education. Quality PD seems to be wholly missing period, but I digress.

The first thing I noted in the standard was that it states ALL educators, not just gifted teachers, will undergo this training. This simply doesn’t happen, hasn’t happened, in my eight years of teaching. I can’t speak to before that time, but I’ve never seen evidence of or heard talk of any type of sustained, systematic PD occurring. I think in the current climate of high stakes testing, people would chalk it up to “not enough time” because this wouldn’t be an “immediate need” for helping students pass SOLs. This would be seen as “extra” for those students who don’t need extra services because they are already excelling.

Breaking down this standard –

1. Talent development: I’ve never seen any evidence of any of these things happening in any school I’ve worked in or the districts I’ve worked in at large. PD is rarely systemic or ongoing for anything. PD provided by the district is terribly limited and wholly unhelpful. At my school, we have one or two days in that first week back (school specific). We then get one day in October (district organized) and one day in February (school organized). Four total days. These days have never had a gifted focus, not even in the breakout sessions. “Providing human and material support” is available requires teacher initiative to find opportunities and participate. They are not disseminated or provided by the district and I’ve rarely seen teachers go out of their way to find these types of opportunities. This applies to the last practice, “educators use their awareness of organizations and publications” to promote learning, also requires teachers to seek out this knowledge, and this has simply not been my experience. I’ve seen a disturbing trend of teachers waiting until the last year to fulfill their mandated PD hours and cramming all 180 into one year just to meet the requirements for relicensure. This does nothing to enhance professional growth.

2. Social-emotional development: Doesn’t happen. Not for any student. Not after teacher prep where you take a course on human development and may or may not talk about it. Despite the turning trend to actually consider social-emotional growth, I’ve rarely seen training or programming that authentically meets these needs of students. Last semester, I completed an action research study that looked at student perceptions and definitions of teacher care. I did not ask students to tell me if they felt cared for in the survey, but the survey did lead to informal conversations and overwhelmingly, students did not feel cared for by adults in the building. I feel like this a basic first step in helping students develop in this domain. How can they learn to develop positive and rewarding relationships if they don’t have that modeled by their teachers?

3. Life-long learners: Again, I would love to say that all teachers are life-long learners, but that has not been my experience. More realistically, as I said before, teachers see PD as burden, they already consider themselves experts with nothing more to learn, and do not see the value in continuing to educate themselves. This is evidenced by the many, many teachers who wait until the last year of relicensure to take courses. And often, the courses they take are not tied to best educational practice. One teacher took an equine course this summer to fulfill the licensure requirements. He recieved his three credits “at Richard Bland College’s Stress Management for the Helping Professions The one week course offered educators the opportunity to use their experiences with the horses to improve their teaching approaches and relationships with students.” I would love to see how that gets tied in the classroom…

4. Ethics: I don’t think general ed teachers do much in the way of differentiating or ethically considering their GAT students. In fact, in the current climate of testing, I don’t think anyone besides the GAT teachers consider the needs of the GAT kids. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve not seen evidence of any gifted students’ needs being met outside of the GAT classroom. ”


Discussing “Creative Thinking in the Classroom” by Robert J. Sternberg

…But two things stuck out to me among many. These two quotes:

“These results further suggest the need for measuring not only a variety of abilities, but also for measuring these abilities through various modalities of testing.”

“(However, in a replication of our study with low income African-American students from New York, Deborah Coates of the City University of New York found a different pattern of results. Her data indicated that the practical tests were better predictors of course performance than were the analytical measures, suggesting that what ability test predicts what criterion depends on population as well as mode of teaching.)”

one from an internal validity study and one from an external, both suggest what gifted researchers and educators have been saying for some time: multiple means of testing are necessary if we are to fix the disproportionate number of students identified as gifted, and in this case, creative. There are so many factors that affect a students ability, intelligence, creativity and ultimately, identification. As long as we continue to use limited matrices for identification, or quite frankly, just as a means of assessment for any student for any reason, we will be limiting a portion of our population. Although discussions of differentiation are buzzing and have been for some time, the reality in schools tends to be that teachers feel limited by time and resources, as well as knowledge on how to effectively meet the needs of students. We go back to this a lot, but teacher training is a first step. Second, sustain, supported and effective PD is necessary – not only around differentiation, but also to help alleviate gatekeeper biases about who is (or has the potential) to be intelligent, creative or gifted. And lastly, there has to be some top down mandates around the types of assessments we use to identify and assess students. This means that the SOL or CC tests, in their single minded multiple choice format, can not be the only means of assessment in which we evaluate students and schools. Studies continue to support these ideas, but no changes are being made. Thus, the divide between research and practice grows…


On Sternberg’s Propulsion Model of Eight Types of Creative Contributions

With some self-reflection, I realize that I was only rewarding certain types of creativity in my classes, specifically forward incrementation, advanced forward incrementation and redirection. In defining creativity, I would argue traditionally we only normally identify those that are a departure from what we know. To be honest, I don’t know that I would have agreed that the other types of creativity, according to this model, are actually creativity especially replication. Yet, in reading the model as outlined by Sternberg, this makes sense to me. I need to reexamine the ways in which I encourage my students to be creative in class and the types of creativity I am rewarding. While this model outlines 8 types of creative contributions, I wonder if anyone has used these as a teaching model for creative process. If students have opportunities to practice each of the types of creative contributions, would they become more adept at being creative? I imagine that paired with the CPS model, especially in the solution finding stage.


On School Based Issues Common to Gifted Students

Students who are identified either officially, or by their peers, as being gifted or smarter than others certainly do struggle socially and I see all three of these behaviors in my students, but they manifest differently depending on the child’s personality. I’m a middle school teacher, so this is the basis of my experience, but during these tumultuous years, theories show that students are struggling with their identity, worry about being normal and are increasingly influenced by their peers (American Academy of Child and Adolescent’s Facts for Families, 2008). It would make sense then that a gifted child’s normal worries would be exasperated by the possibility of a stigma attached to being gifted, especially if this comes with an official label. I think this SGP can apply to ALL students, especially in the middle years.

I can think of several gifted students I taught last year – every one of them handled their giftedness differently. One female student I taught was clearly gifted in Language Arts but not identified. She was able to think abstractly and deeply analyze a text in a way that her peers were not.  She also was a highly driven student, who always completed assignments above and beyond what was required. Whenever our class would look at anonymous student samples of work, they all would call out this student saying “This must be M’s work!” whether or not it actually was. Of course, this was dealt with constantly, but it was clear that her classmates had a perception of her as being above them, smarter than them and a model of excellence. For this particular child, her “giftedness” was not seen as a bad thing and many children felt she was a model of excellence and held her on a pedestal. Underneath, there may have been harbored feelings of resentment towards her, but I was not aware of them. I can imagine that this perception from other students also created stress for her and a fear of failure, but if it did, she handled it with a level head and cool personality. She was well liked and well respected and I think in the long run, it didn’t cause her to change her behaviors in any way. Of course, I realize I have no idea. Perhaps that was part of the third part – in that she had become adept at modifying her behaviors so that she would not be stigmatized and those around her, including myself, didn’t even see the ways in which she managed information about herself (not comparing her grade when everyone else was sharing, keeping her scores to herself, not announcing when an excellent but anonymous student work sample belonged to her, etc).

I have another male student who was gifted academically and identified, and while he reported not liking English, he was in the 99%tile in all testing and was clearly gifted in the subject. He was also gifted in math and science, as evidenced by his interest and aptitude. He was also a very outspoken student, full of leadership ability, very talkative, very energetic, very aware of his differences. And the student body largely hated him. He struggled all year because people didn’t know how to interact with him. His peers also recognized his giftedness and it came with a very negative stigma, likely because he was more outgoing that the girl I mentioned above, who was very quiet. He certainly modified his behaviors in some ways to deal with this, but overall, I think he struggled with how to withhold information because of his personality type. He didn’t announce his grade to the class when kids made assumptions, he still didn’t share.

(Side note: Grade sharing is a huge problem at my school due to the competitive nature. Kids care too much about their grades and put to much stock in them without understanding what they actually mean. This leads to a lot of student to student comparison by the kids and can often be used as a way to stigmatize each other, both those who score high and those who score low. I address this early withs kids and throughout the year, that grades do not define them. It is an ongoing battle).

I think some of this goes back to the current culture in schools (and quite frankly, the same culture existed when I was a K-12 student) that school isn’t cool and learning isn’t fun. I’m lucky enough to be able to send my kids to a school where the culture celebrates learning and the kids enjoy being there every single day. There are no “i hate school” battles. There is buy in. But this is in a private school and I often wonder how to create this culture in a public school where the opposite attitude is already so entrenched. Every year, this is one of the goals and expectations I set for my classroom. We have ongoing discussions about positivity and work ethic, about how to foster a love of learning. My students and I have actually had frank discussions about this. They will tell you that they do in fact love learning. What they hate is the way that education is currently delivered to them, in a sit down and shut up approach that fails to hear their voice or allow them study what interests them.

Great article in The Atlantic about this very thing: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/03/why-im-a-public-school-teacher-but-a-private-school-parent/386797/?utm_source=btn-email-whts).

In other words, I think that some of this issue of giftedness being stigmatized comes from the competitive nature of public schools, but also from the lack of buy in from students and the community about the importance of school and the value in loving to learn.


On the CPS Model

What I liked most about this model is how fluid it was. Too often, prescribed methods are a rigid set of “rules” or steps that don’t always fit for every child leading to frustration and/or confusion. When the steps can be taken in different orders, students who think differently can move through them in a way that feels comfortable instead of moving through them in a linear fashion, which may actually inhibit creativity.

In reading this section, a light bulb went off for me. This could fit easily into many of the unit performance assessments my kids work on. For instance, when my students worked on their Purpose of Education unit last year (yes, I had 7th graders reading and writing about the purpose of education! Interesting stuff!), students were asked to create a new educational system or make suggestions for fixing the current one based on their own ideas about the purpose of education. But first, they collected information – they read about the different perspectives regarding the purpose of education in the USA. They read John Dewey, Martin Luther King, statements from the ASCD, historical and current Department of Education mission statements, and so on. Then, they had to free write about the things they felt were problematic in the current system and we had discussions about why these things were problems to them. From there, they had to pick one problem to fix. This is where the CPS model could come in. What I found is that many of my students couldn’t come up with creative ideas to solve the problems. They often picked solutions that were the most obvious or already instituted. Nothing creative came from their solutions.

As Dr. Edinger stated, this model is already differentiated. For my students who need the extra guidance, I can walk them through the steps and help craft the questions to guide them. For my advanced and gifted students, they can work through the steps at their own pace.

I’m excited to try this in my classroom this year.

As for the quote, I think it brings up an important point. The CPS strategy alone isn’t enough. It must be paired with creative attitudes and idea finding strategies. As a teacher, I will have to make sure that I am taking the necessary steps in my classroom to foster those creative attitudes. And certainly, a healthy dose of modeling idea finding strategies will be necessary. There are so many moving parts in our classrooms that no one silver bullet will work. This is the problem teachers often encounter. I could see CPS being presented at a PD and no mention being made of the other pieces necessary to make it work. Then, teachers get frustrated and decided things don’t work.


On the Identification Process: Myths and Facts

The first thing that caught my attention in this section was the phases of identification. Specifically, it talked about screening and identification needing to use assessments in the specific domain of giftedness. In my school, students are identified using a variety of assessments, but they are the same for every single student. According to the HCPS website:

“The following information must be gathered and reviewed: • Parent/Guardian Questionnaire • Professional Rating Scale of Gifted Characteristics/Recommendation • Classroom grades • Standardized test scores- One test score will be used as criteria • Three student classroom work samples in each area of referral”

and these are the only recognized areas of giftedness:

“Intellectual Identification – Five criteria supporting identification in English/language arts and Five criteria supporting identification in mathematics

English/Language Arts Identification – Five criteria to support identification

Mathematics Identification – Five criteria to support identification”

It seems we have left out a large portion of our gifted population in the identification process. What about our arts kids? Our leadership kids? How are we supporting their gifts and talents? The short answer is – we aren’t.

The gifted identification process also relies heavily in my school on parent referral. I’ve spoken at length with our GATE coordinator and he has stated that students are identified and placed through him. In theory, the admins all sit down with him during the evaluation process, but in practice, he has let me know that the admins typically trust his decision and rarely get involved. This is problematic because we have a gatekeeper making decisions that may be based on biased that he doesn’t recognize in himself. Looking at our identified gifted population at my school, we are largely white and Asian, but so is our school population. That said, I find it hard to believe that none of our African American students are gifted and that none of our students from lower SES families are gifted.

As far as I can tell in my three years at this school, the phases of identification are not being fully recognized at my school. The nomination process rarely happens unless initiated by a parent. There is no out reach to students or families. Teachers are not nominating kids for the program. The kids in the program (we have four to five sections of GATE classes) were identified in elementary school and continue in the program through middle school. Rarely is a kid identified in our middle school and when they are, they are usually new to the county and referred by a parent. Since the domains are narrowly defined, assessment is in the domain, but we are not recognizing the large variety of gifts that our students may have and we are no using a trained committee for selection and placement.

Overall, I wonder how other schools are doing in this area? Do others feel their schools are honoring the identification process with ffidelity? Going back to the other post about federal oversight, would that kind of regulation ensure better identification processes?


On Intrapersonal and Environmental Catalysts

I see these catalysts as a huge piece! I worked in a city school for the first four years of my career. These catalysts not only affect the development of gifts and talents, but also the very basic development of education. They can hinder a student who isn’t gifted/talented from succeeding on every single level. When a student is coming to us without their most basic needs being met, how can we expect them to concentrate or succeed in school, much less allow their gifts/talents to excel?

As educators, I think we need to be more sensitive to these catalysts and trained better to recognize them. Teacher prep programs and school PD don’t do a good job of helping teachers really understand the affect these things have on children. They are talked about theoretically, but I don’t think pre-service teachers and in service teachers get enough training and support to identify and understand the ways in which these catalysts harm or prohibit some kids from being successful.During my time in the city, I learned so much from my students about their personal lives outside of school. For many, they only ate while they were at school. School was an escape from an abusive or neglectful home life. Many had issues of drugs and violence in their homes. Many had lost a parent to death or incarceration. These same issues occur in my current school, but go  unnoticed because we are seen as a school with a high SES population, so the students we do have are seen as privileged (which they are in many ways) but this does not discount the environmental catalysts that may affect their lives. Their problems may look different but can still hinder their gifts and talents.

And, on the other hand, when we talk about disproportionate numbers of students in GATE programs who are white, Asian or wealthy, we need to consider the ways in which these catalysts and social structures privilege certain kids. Coming from wealth allows certain kids to have a wider range of experiences (imagine the kids who goes to Europe every summer versus the kid who has never left their neighborhood) and creates a skewed version of what gifted looks like. How do we as educators correct for this disparity?


Who are gifted and talented students?

So, interestingly enough, when I attended IB training five years ago, the trainers were adamant that IBMYP was best practice for ALL kids and that schools would not be able to re-certify without going whole school (no more school within a school) just like the IBPYP has to be. I’ve not seen that transition to all school programs in any of the local IB programs. They said over and over that the only IB program that should be “elite” is the high school program. Knowing what I know of IB, I believe that it is actually best practice for all kids. I don’t know when education moved to this idea that our struggling kids or our lower achievers need rote memorization, drill and kill, lecture style teaching that focuses shallowly on the standards. Yet,, when we go into struggling schools, the level of instruction is knowledge based, treats skills as knowledge, lacks connection to the world, is a fill the bucket model, etc, etc. And what I’ve seen is that scores in those schools continue to plummet. And we ask ourselves why…?

The best practices for gifted kids and IB are really best practice for all kids, but for some reason we only give them to the highest achieving kids and if it is certainly a passion for me, working in both a low-SES school community and a high, to make this change.

All of my classes were 30+ in my advanced classes last year and I was able to implement thematic/conceptual units that connected to the real world, included all the tenets of ELA, and ended with a performance based task. Was it a bit more work for me than doing worksheets and giving an SOL style test that I could run through a scantron? Yes, sure it was. It was also hugely beneficial to the kids. I had the same experience as a history teacher in Richmond City, when my final year there, I refused to do the drill and kill style teaching that was being forced on us. I implemented an integrated/cross curriculum station style method – where every unit was spent in a science, math, art, and language station (no mention of history in a history class!!) because it was all integrated.That year, my 88% of my kids passed their SOL and we never once talked about the SOL number or strand. The previous year they had passed at around a 30% pass rate.

This is do-able, integrating this kind of best practice with all of our kids but we need to have more faith in ourselves and not worry about the test and know that if we are teaching well, the test scores come without us ever once worrying about them.

Alternatively, is IB in HCPS supposed to be a gifted program? That has not typically been my understanding of the program. Much like the centers at the high school level are not necessarily gifted centers. Sure, you may get some students who are gifted in an area (leadership at Freeman or Maggie Walker, performing arts at Henrico, etc. ) but you also get some students who are hard workers and high achievers who are simply very interested in a topic and willing to work hard for it. My husband who works at a high school center in HCPS says he would argue that the majority of students in a center aren’t gifted – just overachievers. 🙂

and…

See, this is where I think acknowledging the affects of environment and experience on each child are so important. Was this child passed over for gifted services just because in a higher achieving or wealthier school she would not stand out? Even though her achievement would not be considered gifted in a different environment, does it not speak to her gifts and talents that she was able to achieve at the level she did in spite of her environment/experiences? I think these are the situations where a student scoring 75%tile in one environment has to be considered even if it isn’t a high percentile per say, but the fact that a child could score that high when they may be living in poverty, have many other impediments to success in their homes, schools and communities, is able to score that much above her peers…just imagine what the same child could be capable of in a different setting from birth. I’m not speaking just to your specific student, but this same thing came up when I taught in the inner city. Had we compared our students to Short Pump students, none of our kids would have ever been identified. When we considered them next to others with the same experience and environment, even thought their scores may not have ranked in the 90th percentiles, we were still able to see the potential for giftedness.

and…

I said it in my response above, but I absolutley do think you recognize “contextual” giftedness. When I was in the city, we had students who did not pass their double advanced math SOL. Does that mean they weren’t gifted? These were kids who continually rose above their peers in every subject (perhaps they weren’t gifted in every subject), but when compared to their peers, with similar experience and environment, they were able to make such great strides and clearly the potential for giftedness was there. Here is where I worry – one of these students was accepted to Maggie Walker. She will be a senior this year, but in talking to her, I know she struggled in those first years there because the level of rigor was likely not adjusted for those who came from schools in the city versus those who came from schools like Moody IB or SPMS. Therefore, when she entered into competition with those students, she had to work even harder to make up for any deficiencies that were present. And the proof is in the pudding – she has risen to the occasion and excelled. Imagine if Maggie Walker hadn’t given her the opportunity because her scores were not aligned with those kids who grew up in other environments or had other rich, cultural experience? She could have been easily overlooked because of just comparing her to other kids her age.

On Federal Government and Gifted/Talented Students

While the federal government doesn’t mandate a definition of giftedness, allowing states to create their own definition and therefore assess giftedness as they see fit, this is largely in part due to the fact that education is a state right, not a federal responsibility. No where in the constitution does it mention education and that is because local governments are better fit to determine the needs of the students they serve. We see a move from this to a federally encouraged standard of education and it will be interesting to see how it progresses and if gifted education falls under this. While it is not mandated (just as Common Core can’t be), giftedness is addressed in federal law, specifically in the ESEA in subpart 6, what may be referred to as the “‘Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 2001′” and attempts to initiate a coordinated program  It incentivizes districts to provide gifted education and as recently as December 2014, has increased funding for gifted education. Gifted education is again mentioned in IDEA under Subpart 4 where it states that the Secredtary can implement a plan that “shall include mechanisms to address early intervention, educational, related service and transitional needs identified by State educational agencies in applications submitted for State personnel development grants under subpart 1 and for grants under subparts 2 and 3.” and grant priority to gifted education programs, among others.

With this said, I’m on the fence about whether the government should step in an require services to gifted students in the same way they do students with disabilities. We tend to reserve federal intervention for those who are most in need (poverty, discrimination, etc), but does gifted education fall under this? Would a federally mandated definition and provision for services for gifted students eliminate the disproportions in gifted identification? Would we eliminate the gate keeper biases that allow a disproportionate number of white and Asian students to be identified? In a March 2014 report from the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, white and Asian students made up 70% of those enrolled in gifted education while African American and Hispanic students account for only 26%. These percentages are not representative of the general racial and ethnic makeup of students enrolled in schools offering gifted programs and show the growing gap in equitable opportunity. I’m not sure a federal intervention could cure this since much of this stems from gatekeeper biases about who can be “gifted”. I tend to be of the mind that the first place to start would be in a the teacher preparation programs. I don’t think we have gotten to a place where the federal government has to step in. I think we need to first address the large gap in education of teachers that fails to train them on what giftedness is and who to identify it. I think much of the problem could be eliminated with that small step. If we see sustained issues in the provision of services, then we can make changes to the educational system via the federal government.

In my school, I’ve had many conversations with the GATE teacher that others complain about how “silly” the gifted program is and how he doesn’t really have to do anything. I’ve heard myself I general disregard for differentiation and gifted services in the general classroom as well. When he has offered to collaborate with teachers to help them implement practices in their classrooms to help students, they often complain that they don’t have time to worry about the gifted kids when they have kids they worry can’t pass state tests. I know we have to change how we address the needs of our GAT kids, but I don’t know where to start on those shifts.


On Social Ideologies and Gifted Education in Today’s Schools by Barbara Clark

On page 85, it states “The problem for the gifted learner is that schools do not often present curriculum at levels of thought that are complex, advanced, or sophisticated beyond that considered appropriate for the age of the child. Yet, age has little to do with appropriate levels of learning; experience has, but seldom age (Vygotsky, 1974).”

This is a very interesting quote because so often this is the argument we hear for limiting topics in English classrooms, that things are not “age appropriate” because we are considering all children of one age to be the same, which is antithetical to the very idea that every child is different. If there is one monolithic set of standards, concepts, etc. that are appropriate for all children of a certain age, then considering each child as an individual or as having unique needs, interests, etc is no longer necessary. Of course, as the quote says, this is wrong, but it is still a prevalent myth in schools. If gifted students are able to think in more complex and abstract terms, it makes sense that we need to present them opportunities to use these abilities instead of always limiting them. Many times, this may mean they are grappling with topics that are advanced as well, and often above what would be considered “age appropriate” but if we do not present them with these opportunities, we are doing more harm then good.

For instance, with my advanced classes (and my general and collaborative classes), we often read short stories paired with other nonfiction pieces that are complex and controversial. Some parents have expressed concern that their child is not ready, at age 12 or 13 to talk about “real world issues” and they consider them to complex and abstract, with too many levels, for them to grasp. My argument back to them is that if never given the opportunity to think critically, how will they ever learn? Sure, they may not grasp all the subtleties of any particular issue at their age, but they might. And some students are in fact ready to dive into these complex and abstract issues, while others will not be able to go as deep. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be given the opportunity.

Another example is my own son. He is a very good reader and has read voracioulsy since age five. He had read all seven Harry Potter books before he was seven. The librarian stopped us when we tried to check out the last three for him because she said they weren’t age appropriate. She kindly warned us that we may want to read them first. We hit the same resistance from book store sellers and other libraririans when we have checked out or bought other fantasy books – including Lord of the Rings (which he read at age 7). When I look at the “age appropriate” books being assigned to other kids at that age, I cringe, because if my son were in a class that forced him to read those books, he would be bored, unchallenged, and likely to act out. Now at age 9, he reads what ever he wants (as he always has) and when we are met with resistance from well meaning people who tell me his books aren’t age appropriate, I reassure them that we have rich conversations about any issues that may be considered inappropriate, but also that a child can only imagine in their mind’s eye those things in which they have visually experienced. Any other description would be left to the imagination and the child will have to create something in their mind based on what they know exists. Therefore, I have no worried about excessive violence in books the ways I would if we were watching movies.

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