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5 Books Every Educator Should Read Concerning Gifted

I love to learn through reading books and so over the course of my 22-year career in education, I have read lots of them; some good, some bad, and some that are so important that everyone should be reading them. There are some general education books that fall under this category, such as “Most Likely to Succeed” by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith, “The Courage to Teach” by Parker Palmer, or “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. What follows are the 5 books that not only educated me, they enlightened me to a whole different way of thinking about gifted education.

And Still We Rise – Miles Corwin

Even though this book is over 20 years old, it still remains very powerful and relevant. It follows the journey of 12 inner-city gifted students and how they must contend with much more than just grades and school. I cannot tell you how many times my heart broke while reading this book, knowing that the only way for these students to have a better life was to stay in school, but dealing with issues that your average person is not burdened with. It really gives you a glimpse into the lives of smart kids who, because of the environment they live in, are not provided the same opportunities as others.

The Overachievers – Alexandra Robbins

This book follow five high school students who are considered “overachievers”. These students who have been given the gift of learning, struggle because of issues that plague many students such as underachievement, overbearing parents, perfectionism, or peers. This is a great book for educators to read to remind them of what it is like to be in the shoes of a student. The pressure they put on themselves, the pressure from parents, and the pressure from school amounts to a lot of stress and anxiety for this generation of learners. This is also a good book to recommend to parents of gifted to help them gain a perspective of what it is like to be a high achieving student in today’s school.

Dumbing Down America – James Delisle

Delisle has written over 20 books on gifted education. More importantly, unlike some university academics who write about how to best teach gifted children without actually teaching gifted children, Mr. Delisle has always made an effort to work with gifted children as well as preparing teachers of gifted at the university level. This book is his treatise about gifted education and how he has spent a lifetime supporting this special group of children. The central message is that there need to be advocates for gifted education and how we cannot let districts dismantle their programming at the risk of not allowing these children to reach their potential. It is surprisingly easy for districts to overlook this population of students due to focusing on problems they deem more pertinent. This book seeks to show you how to shine the spotlight on these students so that they are not forgotten.

Grit – Angela Duckworth

Not necessarily specific to gifted students, but its message has great resonance for that group of children. Gifted kids are born with the ability to achieve at a high level, but this does not necessarily mean they are going to have the perseverance to use this when things get tough. In fact, in all of her research, Angela Duckworth has discovered what those who work with gifted have known for a long time; that a bright child who works hard will often go farther than a gifted kid who tries to get by on his smarts and not his effort. What is important about this book is that Duckworth provides strategies for how to overcome this lack of grit that can be used with your gifted students. This is a powerful tool to develop with them so that when students meet a challenge, and they will, they have the coping mechanisms for pushing past and succeeding.

The Smartest Kids in the World: and How They Got that Way – Amanda Ripley

This book follows three American students who decide to get their education overseas, one going to Finland, one South Korea, and a third Poland. You get a real perspective on the global community students in today’s day and age are contending with. You are no longer competing with people from your town or even state for a good job; you may be going up against young adults from all over the globe. One message that seemed clear to me was that no matter how different the schools in these different countries are, the problems the students face are pretty much universal. It is also interesting that some of these countries, such as Finland were not that successful a couple of decades ago, made changes to their educational systems to elicit reform. This means educational philosophies need to change if we expect success to follow suit.

If it were up to me, I would have every teacher, not just gifted ones, read these five books. The reason being that colleges and teacher training programs spend little to no time on how to work with this special population of students. More important is that these books humanize these students so that they are not just a type of kid, but you actually see them for what they are, which is kids.

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