Home > School and Learning > Learning Differences > Gifted Education > Is He Gifted or Just Well Taught?

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Is He Gifted or Just Well Taught?

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D.

Q: My son could verbally identify 10 colors and lots of shapes at 18 months. At two-and-a-half years, I taught him to recognize the alphabet and letter sounds. A year later, he watched five episodes of a PBS show called Reading Between the Lions and after that he could read any three-to-five-letter-word and spell them, too. At that time he also "read" numbers as if they were letters. For instance, he would translate "5826" into the word "FETS." He'll also turn life into simple math problems. (5 jelly beans become 2+2+1 jelly beans to him).

But now that he's four, he's lost all interest in reading. He likes when I read both fiction and nonfiction to him (about dinosaurs and snakes) but he prefers movies, like Jurassic Park and Godzilla. Is he gifted or just well-taught? I've heard that gifted kids are instantly voracious readers and teach themselves to read.

A: You are describing a wonderfully creative and intellectually playful little boy. Not all gifted children are early and advanced readers. Your son's intellectual puzzlers and playfulness are quite indicative of a very bright child. At this point, why worry if he is gifted? Keep reading with him, talking with him, "playing" math and language games, and watching movies -- especially real-life documentaries that he would love, like those on the nature and animal channels.

Also, please remember that each child has an individual learning style. It seems like your son is highly visual and enjoys the visual stimulation of pictures, color, and movement. He may really enjoy animated computer math games, and reading software that has lots of color pictures. With new technology, "reading" can be more and more like going to the theater! Keep learning fun for your son and support his creativity. If at some point you want to determine if he should be formally identified as gifted, you can request that he be evaluated. At this point, enjoy him!

More on: Expert Advice

Mary Ruth Coleman is the director of Project U-STARS (Using Science Talent and Abilities to Recognize Students) at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Coleman has taught in both general and gifted educational programs in both public and private schools.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


Where Should Newborns Sleep?
We've rounded up all the alternatives and considerations to make a safe choice for your new addition.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

5 Tips to Help Make Your Child Self-Sufficient
Follow these tips to help your child become self-sufficient, and help him learn the skills he'll need to take care of himself.

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks