Engaging Gifted Boys in Reading and Writing

By Pennington, Leighann | Parenting for High Potential, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Engaging Gifted Boys in Reading and Writing


Pennington, Leighann, Parenting for High Potential


Unlikely Candidates

The Skateboarder: The required wardrobe is black skinny jeans, skater shoes, and a black Volcom T-shirt. His appearance suggests a rebel rather than candidate for reading a poem written in the voice of an adorable puppy.

The Math Genuis: He is the stereotypical math genius, with blackrimmed glasses slipping down his nose. Although his most voracious interest is in the realm of numbers, he comes to class willing to give writing a try. How did this boy fall in love with reading and writing poetry?

The Slacker: When the school year began, he bragged that he'd never read an entire book straight through before. Now he is making grand pronoouncements like: "Writing with a structured assignment is like a geometry painting, but free-writing is like an abstract painting," and commenting that he feels "intellectual and grown-up.

The Class Clown: And finally, the one who "acts up," throwing erasers and pencils around the classrooms-yet now he's writing imaginative extra-credit journal entried avbout how aliens prevented him from doing his homework.

The boys above are real kids, ages 10-13. Maybe your son is one of these boys, or maybe he's all of them? These boys are interested in many things: action movies, math equations, the latest iPod, sports, comedy videos on YouTube, comic books, skateboarding, sci-fi, surfing the Internet, the newest cell phones, and acquiring friends on MySpace. Now they're interested in reading and writing, too.

Hmmm ... as a parent, you ay wnder,(TM) What happened here? And how can I recreate this experience to help my son to actually like (maybe even love) reading and especially writing?"

As a teacher, parents often ask me: "How can my son improve his writing? How can I engage my child in reading?"

As parents and teachers, we don't want underdeveloped verbal skills to become a barrier to success. In order to achieve eminence in any field today, reading and writing are integral. Academic careers will run smoother when reading and writing aren't painful experiences, but appealing ones.

Let's begin by discussing why writing is important, especially for gifted boys, and factors that influence their disenchantment with writing. The methods included in this article can support and challenge them. Also included are creative tips to help you create experiences at home to positively promote writing and influence your son's experiences at school.

Why Gifted Boys Need Writing

Often writing is not an end in itself. It is not only an academic skill, but a route to developing identity and self-actualization. Gifted boys who are frustrated by a prevailing spirit of competition in academics, sports, and peer relationships may find an expressive outlet in writing that will benefit their social and emotional well-being along with positive outcomes for academic writing, and critical and independent thinking skills. For some boys, writing fiction, poetry, or a song allows for the expression of feelings, alleviation of isolation, or a connection to others. Finding out who you are and determining how you can influence the world around you is an empowering experience, especially for socially and politically aware gifted boys.

Connect Writing to Your Child's Specific Interests

Gifted boys may avoid writing because they are simply more passionate about a particular area of interest. Like many gifted students, they often pursue these interests exclusively, with intense focus. Some common interests include: astronomy, inventing, mathematics, dinosaurs, comic book heroes, architecture, or even designing computer programs and video games. What is your son's obsession of the moment? The key is to use these outside interests as an entry point into reading and writing.

The Power of Parents

The influence parents have on their son's desire to write cannot be overestimated. In Real Boys' Voices, teenager Caleb writes:

Writing is hard because you never know if something is good or if it's just a waste of time. …

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