Being able to read before peers has become a hallmark trait of giftedness. However we believe that early reading skills (albeit a sign of advanced language skills) is not a perfect predictor. Evaluating a child’s early reading skills should not be viewed as a yes/no checkbox; we need to focus on how they learn and what they are reading. Below are some more details on how early reading skills might indicate that your child is gifted.
Understanding abstract concepts
Early reading skills can be an indicator of advanced cognitive development. According to Piaget’s Theory of Development, children in the concrete operational stage (6 – 11 years old) can only comprehend concrete ideas. If your child asks you or discusses abstract concepts, this may signal that they are able to logically think about these issues. If you notice your child reading and understanding books that explore abstract concepts such as love, life, and peace, there is a good chance your child is cognitively advanced.
Learning a language only requires some exposure to the language. But this process follows a sequence of progressions and gifted children tend to skip some of the steps. A key sign that your child might have advanced language development is their use of sentence structures (ie. full sentences vs shortened ones). Gifted children at age two can use short sentence structures and by age three can almost have full conversations with adults. They will also have a wider range of vocabulary.
Learning to read
Regardless of whether it’s taught or not, reading is a skill that is difficult to grasp. Reading encompasses more than memorizing words, but also comprehension, sentences, ideas, meaning of words. This is why many children struggle to reach fluency before third grade. If your child is a self-taught reader (which is even more difficult), it is likely they are gifted.
Memory and reading
Rote word memorization is not the only form of memory that children need to holistically understand stories. Specifically, children need to have capable working and short term memory to remember what previous sentences and paragraphs were about. At a core level reading is dependent on brain maturity- if your child’s brain is not developed enough then they won’t be able to read. Conversely, if your child reaches fluency before 5 years old then there is a good chance they are gifted.