How to help advanced reader? — The Bump
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How to help advanced reader?

DS1 is an advanced reader. He's in 1st grade and currently reading books like The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge, etc. No, not genius status, but he's so far ahead of the little readers that his teacher has him doing.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can get him to be challenged more in school? His teacher hasn't been very helpful in this area -- he just gets assigned the same work as everyone else. There is no G&T program in the district. He loves, loves, loves reading.

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Re: How to help advanced reader?

  • So, he is reading on a 4-5th grade level.   He may very well be reading at that level but does he understand what he is reading.  How is his comprehension?   Some of those books are little more mature for a 6 year old even if he can read them, I can't imagine that some of its not going over his head.  Sometimes, there are very fluent readers that read 200-220 wcpm but have very little understanding of what they just read.  I know that our 1st grade teachers are not allowed to read the BFG outloud to the students due to content.  The character traits of "fudge" and his little brother are not compatible with 1st grade behavioral needs.  I would check for understanding. 

    What can you do?

    You can go to the principal and explain that you don't feel that your child's academic needs are being met, perhaps they can move him to 2nd for reading or do some paired reading with another high level reader. You really don't want your child in 5th grade reading with 10-11 year old kids (trust me, 5th grade is a little wild!!).  You could write a letter to the superintendent or school board requesting GATE classes.  You can find a school (charter, private) more suited for your child.  

    What can you do at home?  

    Expand vocabulary.   Make sure he understands what he is reading.  Make sure he has experience to relate to what he is reading.   Teach to read with expression.  Still have him listen to you read so he hears what fluent reading sounds like.  Work on any other areas of concern (math, science, etc)

    Good luck!  

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  • Thank you so much for this. I definitely agree that some of the subject matter is a bit mature for him. He's pretty capable when it comes to understanding complex material, but I'm having a hard time finding subject matter that's also appropriate for a 6-year-old. He wants me to get the next Fudge book, but the main character is in middle school by then, and I have a strong feeling it will have some innappropriate stuff for his age. (I haven't read it since I was a kid, so I don't remember.)

    We talk about the books that he reads, and I ask him questions to make sure he's actually comprehending them and not just flying through them. He does read other kid-friendly stuff -- he loves the Wiley and Grandpa books, and also loves Captain Underpants :-)

    Regarding all the other subjects, he does extremely well in school (90s and 100s on his tests), but I don't think he's really advanced in those areas. He seems to just be a quick learner when it comes to math and science, whereas he consumes books at an alarming speed.

    I feel kind of odd going over the teacher's head to the principal. Should I request a joint meeting? Try talking to the teacher again? I'm not even sure how to press the issue with her. She just tells me, "Yes, he's a very good reader," but that's about it.

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  • I'm a RTI teacher (its for children that are behind), so I don't have the experience of a classroom teacher, everything I do is small group.   But, from what I see, there just isn't enough time to reach every child as much as your try.  My low-leveled kids will have to take and pass the state exam, the same exam that your advanced child will take (in 3rd-8th).  At least in my school, there seems to be more of a focus on the kids that are behind (or because that is REALLY my focus and I portray it to everyone?).  The kids that don't pass the test go against the school rating.  I don't know that its any different in your state.   Also, some districts are hell bent on a certain curriculum (ours is) and perhaps she CANNOT go outside of that).  I HATE some of the material they make us do, its worthless but it all part of a bigger bureaucracy. It could be many other things, may be that she is a dud teacher.   It may be that fluency (a tiny component of reading), isn't the teacher's main concern.  Perhaps, it is comprehension or sight words or vocabulary.  I'd bring it up with her again before going to the P. I'd give her the benefit of the doubt. 

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  • I agree with PP. Talk to the teacher again before talking to anyone higher up. Find out why she isn't assigning harder levels.

    My 1st grader also reads at a 5-6th grade level but at the beginning of the year wasn't comprehending certain things so she had him doing 2-3rd grade books. He is now getting into 4th grade levels because his comprehension is getting better. The great thing about his teacher is that she realizes that he needs the harder material. She has also mentioned that he should be tested at the beginning of next school year and possibly put into a higher grade for just reading. He does great in other subjects as well but does not excel in them to be promoted all around.

    If his teacher is not willing to even try to work with him(just giving him higher levels) then definitely go to principal(or counselor) and find out what can be done. If he is getting bored he could very likely start to misbehave(not saying he will). I do know teachers have certain cirriculum(sp?) they have to follow but it can be adjusted to fit each child.  

    Hope you can get something figured out! 

                           SD(13) DS(10) DS(4) DS(3)
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  • Eh -- my kids were both reading similar books, and I am pretty sure their comprehension of them was mostly spot on.  I'm an English teacher, and I know how to check for this stuff, so if you say your kid is reading the BFG in 1st grade, I'm prepared to take your word for it that he's reading it and getting it.  Both my kids also read it and Charlie around that age. 

    But that doesn't mean that what they get out of reading more basic "readers" in school isn't important.  Once their reading group is past the "learning to read" phase, the teacher should begin focusing on higher order reading and thinking skills such as:

    --paraphrasing and summary

    --drawing inferences from text

    --making predictions

    --finding the main idea

    --differentiating between fact and opinion statements

    --evaluating relationships between ideas

    --learning to extract information from text features 

    --understanding literary elements and terms

    --determining saliency of information

    These are skills that voracious independent readers still need to refine.  I'd take a look at the written work that his reading group is doing on their books and check to see what type of higher order thinking skills they're working on.  If your son's reading group is focusing on these skills, I'd be satisfied for now. 

    If, on the other hand, he's stuck in a group that's still learning word wall words and how to sound out unfamiliar words, then he's not getting the higher order thinking/reading comprehension skills he needs, and I'd push for them to allow him to meet with a 2nd grade class for language arts or something like that.

    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • I didn't read the other relplies so this may have been said but my DD is in 1st grade and she is a good reader too. They read the same story everyday for the week and have a timed test and comprehension test on it on Fridays. That is the same for everyone. DD has it memorized by friday. She hates it but she understands that some children need the practice. But they also have other stories and sentences for different levels of readers. Below average, Average, and Above Average. The teacher puts the set for each child in their folders and thats what they get tested on seperately as well.
  • Thank you everyone for all the great ideas and insight. We are having a lot of behavior issues at school, so I need to talk to his teacher again anyway. He told me he hates school and it's boring. : We're also doing ADHD testing.
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  • I would have him tested for reading comprehension.  As a former child bookworm, I doubt many kids would chew through such advanced books without a good deal of comprehension.  Also, I'd definitely provide him with LOTS of nonfiction and reference materials.  In 3rd grade, I was reading at the college level, so my mother bought me a collegiate dictionary and picked up secondhand encyclopedias, atlases, almanacs, etc to keep me busy.  Follow his lead regarding his interests.  It also might be a great time to introduce music or art lessons--even self-taught from manuals.  As far as school, we had a gifted program that began in 2nd grade.  TBH, it challenged me very little and the students I attended a gifted HS with later agreed that basically only advanced courses will do that.  Otherwise, it was just an opportunity to leave the classroom for a more free-range environment.  In the short term, enrich him at home.  He might just have to learn to endure the tedium at school for now. 

  • Since the teacher is uncooperative, have you gone over her head to the principle? I would make an outline of things to address: reading level, his interests, your desired action and outcome, and why it is important for him to continue being stimulated versus bored in class. Then talk with the principle. It seems like a no-brainer that he should be encouraged and supported with literature that matches his reading/comp level.


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