When my son began to read before he was 3 years old, I thought that he was a little different from the other kids I knew. When he was a fluent reader before he was 4, I knew he was different. I didn’t know about giftedness back then, but I later learned that early reading was a sign that a child was gifted. Recently, however, there has been some disagreement about it. Some people  are saying that because of the push toward teaching kids to read at younger and younger ages, early reading is no longer a sign of giftedness. Many young children, they say, are able to read. But hold on… there are good reasons to still believe that early reading is a sign that a child is gifted.

In order to be able to read, a child must have a good understanding of language. If a child is at the basic stages of learning language, then that child isn’t going to be able to read. He may be taught to recognize words, but that is not reading. For example, children need to understand parts of speech and sentence structure. The typical age for learning nouns and verbs and basic sentence structure is about 24 months. So a 2-year-old should have no problem reading, right? Wrong.

At two, most kids understand the very basics. That is they know the basic word order of sentences and can create sentences like “Me cookie,” which is their way of asking for a cookie. At around 36 months, children have a better grasp of language and can form longer, more grammatically correct sentences. For example, they can use the proper form of the pronoun to refer to themselves. They can say “I want a cookie” rather than “Me cookie.” So perhaps by age 3 a child could learn to read some simple readers. Not necessarily.

Unlike learning to speak, learning to read isn’t something that comes naturally. It must be actively taught – or actively learned in the case of self-taught readers. In order for a child to learn to read, his brain must be sufficiently developed. If it’s not, no amoung of practice with flashcards is going to get that child to read. This is where children can be trained to recognize words and appear to be reading, but they aren’t necessarily reading. Reading is a very complex process that requires quite a bit of brain power.

First a child must understand the relationship between sounds and symbols. That is, they have to understand the sounds represented by the alphabet. We simplify it for children just learning to read, making it seem like each letter has just one sound, or maybe two for vowels. The relationship between sounds and the alphabet is much more complicated. We have “ph” and “gh” representing the “f” sound as in “phone” and “cough.” But then “ough” can also represent an “o” sound as in “though” or an “aw” sound as in “thought.”  When children are learning to read, they have readers with short and simple words that don’t present these kinds of problems.

As children continue to learn to read, they have to tackle harder words, using additional information to help them sound out and read new words. That means that they expand their understanding of the relationship of letters to sounds so that they can read words like “though.”  This is all quite a mental feat as they must remember what sounds the letters and letter groups represent and also keep track of the meaning of the sentence they are reading. It’s one reason sentences in books for children are so short. In order to fully comprehend what they read, they not only have to be able to “decode” all the words they see and remember the other words in the sentence in order to understand the sentence, they have to remember what all the sentences were that preceded the one they are reading.

Most children don’t have a sufficient memory to even begin this process until they are around 6 years old, some not until they are older. Once they begin learning to read, it takes years to master the process. This saying helps explain: children learn to read until they are about 9 years old. Then they begin reading to learn.”

Now think about that. Think about the brain power that it takes to read and then think about the 3-year-old who is already a fluent reader, able to read books written for 6 or 7 year olds. And think about the 5-year-old who is able to read books written for 10-year-olds or the 8-year-old who is reading books written for high school level kids.

Then tell me how early reading isn’t a sign of giftedness.

http://giftsforlearning.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Toddler-Reading_c26162.jpghttp://giftsforlearning.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Toddler-Reading_c26162-150x150.jpgCarol BainbridgeAbout GiftednessDevelopment,Language,Verbally Gifted
When my son began to read before he was 3 years old, I thought that he was a little different from the other kids I knew. When he was a fluent reader before he was 4, I knew he was different. I didn't know about giftedness back then, but...