Sunday, June 25, 2017

Books : The Mirrors and Windows of Diversity

Many of today’s picture books contain powerful messages that apply to today’s world and can be used to stimulate critical thinking, reflection and discussion. Books can make you feel valued by providing a mirror, or introduce you to alternatives by offering windows on diverse views.  My contention is that sophisticated picture books can provide us with curriculum etcetera for our gifted students.
E… Empathy
T… Tolerance
C… Connection

E Empathy and sensitivity in gifted go hand in hand with emotional intensity, and stories about characters dealing with anxiety and compassion help the student with exceptional ability in reading and working with text information to make sense of the world. With higher ability comes greater awareness and understanding of the bigger picture behind the text. It is not always easy to find stories that provide young gifted readers with lots of opportunity for further research, but   I can heartily recommend Emily Gravett’s book ‘Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears ‘ because it not only gives the reader a chance to reflect on his/her own fears but provides wonderful ‘big words’ to find out more about and relates to experiences that a child is likely to encounter.

Do you know what these phobias are? Read Little Mouse's book and find out!
Rupophobia. Entomophobia. Teratophobia. Clinophobia. Aichmophobia. Isolophobia
And no, I didnt know all of them either! :-)

T Tolerance  

Tolerance can be defined as an interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices and viewpoints that are different from our own and books can definitely help to increase awareness and serve as motivation for change. . In a world where it has become increasingly harder to find agreement on decisions about the future, it is necessary to generate as many alternatives as possible and to look at how these decisions will affect others. The ability to switch over and look at things in a different way is termed ‘insight.’ De Bono defines it as a shift of emphasis from proving the logical ‘rightness’ of your own point of view, and therefore the logical ‘wrongness’ of the other person’s, based on the questionable assumption that you are both looking at the same thing. Looking at things from other points of view may even cause us to refine our own ideas.


C. Connected yet disconnected
In her research into the friendships of profoundly gifted children, Miraca Gross notes that gifted children look for friends to develop close and trusting friendships at ages where their age mates are looking for play partners. Their advanced intellect may result in difficulties where there is little or no access to like-minded peers. Some react by having imaginary playmates, while others may need help to practice social skills. Books can offer insights to help young students to support the message that everyone is unique in their own way and no matter how different you are there are others in the world like you. It helps for parents and teachers of gifted children to have an understanding of age related issues to do with friendship because students who are operating at a level in advance of their chronological age will have progressed beyond their age mates but may not have the maturity to recognise what it is that is setting them apart and making it difficult to create connections. Adults need to be prepared to offer a sympathetic ear but not try to solve these problems in order to build resilience and a tolerance for frustration.
Before the age of 4 a child is egocentric.
Between 4 and 7 they become more co-operative in play and prepared to a greater or lesser degree to share belongings.

The book ‘Feelings’ by Aliki is useful for helping young children understand about the feelings they may have associated with interacting with others. It has lots of little vignettes in cartoon form.
Between the ages of 6 and 8 children begin to realise that being a friend is having similar interests and they share likes and dislikes.
Older primary age students (8-10) focus on helping each other to foster friendship.
Between the ages of 11 and 15, most students understand that there needs to be an element of give and take in any friendship and they start to build affection and support for each other.
At ages 16+ friends look for commitments to each other based on trust and acceptance.
The way in which many gifted students cope with these differences is to gravitate towards older students who are like minded peers, and to build on similar interests. One way to foster this at school level is to allow opportunities for students to get together on a voluntary basis to discuss philosophical questions. Tiffany Poirier’s book ‘Q is for Question’ provides a whole alphabet of idea starters and ideas for follow up.

There you have it.
Gifted readers have a unique ability to perceive relationships and solve problems.
As a pre-schooler I had a family of pegs and would tell stories about their difficulties with life in a peg box. I was thrilled when I found the story of the Borrowers when I got to school.

Gifted readers demonstrate keen observational skills and a unique child’s view of the world.
Conversation with a two year old…
Do trees look the same under the ground as they do on top of the ground? The tree in my book has roots that look like branches.

They are able to grasp abstract ideas quickly but their conclusions might be more in keeping with their experience of the world.
Conversation with a two year old…
Do babies have blood inside them?
Well, how come you can’t see their veins? You can see my veins. And you can see your veins. Do they get more blue when you get old? Yes. That must be it, because babies are new. And I’m not new because I’m not a baby any more. And you can see your veins easily because you are old!

You suspect a gifted reader when a student in your class complains that he has read everything in the school library, and he may be right! Our gifted students have a lot to be thankful for with the increase and ease of technological access.

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