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Are Newbery Award books better for gifted kids?

January 27, 2009

“The literary world is debating the Newbery’s value, asking whether the books that have won recently are so complicated and inaccessible to most children that they are effectively turning off kids to reading. Of the 25 winners and runners-up chosen from 2000 to 2005, four of the books deal with death, six with the absence of one or both parents and four with such mental challenges as autism. Most of the rest deal with tough social issues.”

Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post, 12/08

“Does it follow that books dealing with tough social issues turn kids off? Doesn’t whether a book is complicated or inaccessible depend on the age and experience of the reader?”

Newbery Medal winner Susan Patron, in The Dallas Morning News, 1/25/09

According to Dubrowsky’s theory of over-excitabilities, gifted kids may be more sensitive, more empathetic, and/or more engaged by or troubled by ethical issues. So, shall we conclude that Newbery Medal books are just the ticket for gifted kids or overload?

In the end, the best approach is to read the books before we give them to our kids. (But who’s got the time?!)

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