Considering Asynchronous Development in Book Selection

Asynchronous Development: Mental and physical maturation that occurs at different rates, the mental capacity (in the case of Gifted/Talented children) distinctly outpacing the chronological/emotional age. An example of this would be a fifth grader doing tenth grade reading. 

When I was in second grade, my family was packing everything we owned into boxes because we were moving to a different state. One morning, wearing my yellow pajamas with the feet, I went into my father’s study to ask him a question. He wasn’t there, but I knew he’d be back and sat down to wait. Although most of his books had already been packed, there were still a few stacked up on the table next to me. Bored, I picked one up. It was interestingly small, with a blue linen cover. I opened it and proceeded to read a story about a man who stayed overnight in a haunted house to prove that ghosts were a myth. After watching a child’s footprint form in the dust and enduring other equally terrifying incidents, he realized that ghosts weren’t a myth at all.

So did I! I understood every word perfectly, but was it appropriate for a second grader to be reading Edgar Allen Poe?

Similarly, should a nine-year-old be required to read a disturbing story involving a boy who bleeds to death after falling on an axe? Many gifted/talented teachers commonly select books for the classroom that were never intended to be read by children of the ages they teach, in an effort to provide a challenging read with appropriately complex vocabulary. Emotional age is rarely considered in the selection process. As a result, students are regularly exposed to content that is developmentally inappropriate and/or psychologically disturbing. 

Where the Red Fern Grows is a classic, and if an eighth grader picks it up, he’ll have a thought provoking read. A gifted fourth grader, however, is more likely to have nightmares and develop a mysterious aversion to axes.



Filed under Critical Thinking, Gifted, Reading, Uncategorized

10 responses to “Considering Asynchronous Development in Book Selection

  1. Good point layinda. I generally have to consider emotional age with my son as well. I think in some ways he is academically advanced, but a little emotionally stunted. I sometimes have to remind myself that he’s only 12 at this point. Thought provoking article.

  2. Charlie

    Hey Layinda,
    I think teachers should be required to consider all aspects of a child’s development when choosing reading materials. There is plenty of wonderful, challenging stories that would be perfect for kids that are a head of the game without leaving them with emotional scars. Great food for thought, thanks for the post!


  3. Hi, Layinda.

    Nice post and beautiful header. I love the old books…

    Anyway, I was ahead on my reading like you. I think back in the day, it was a little easier for things to go “over our heads” because we were not so visually stimulated. Kids now-a-days are innundated with images that I would have been terrified to see at a tender age.

    When they read, they have a whole library of disturbing pictures to pull from.

    I read alongside my kids for this very reason. We then discuss at great length the pro’s and con’s of each book.

    Nice thought-provoking post. I’m glad I found you!

    • I agree! Once a picture is in your head, it’s there forever, and TV is full of disturbing images.

      I hate when I am watching a perfectly pleasant show with my kids and then some horribly disturbing commercial comes on.

      The worst thing is when kids become blasé about it.

  4. “Where the Red Fern Grows” is one of my favorite kids’ books. I remember having it read to us by our third grade teacher, Ms. Parker. Most of the class cried at the ending. But it encouraged us all to read a lot. So thank you for bringing back a lovely memory.

    I’m not the best judge of the topic, though. I was reading adult literature and non-fiction by age 11, even though many topics were considered beyond my emotional maturity. I think it depends on the child as to what he or she can handle in terms of reading material.

    Thanks for the good read.

    • Hi, Olivia,

      I do agree that kids mature at different rates, and that some children are more comfortable with graphic or disturbing content at an earlier age than others.

      However, I think that when giving ‘whole class’ assignments, teachers should be mindful of the entire group. No one is ever going to complain that a book is missing violence or gore, but if an obligatory read is disturbing to a student, he or she is likely to not get as much out of the lesson itself.

      Glad to have taken you back to WTRFG. My third grade teacher read books aloud to us, as well — one of my favorite memories from school.

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