Advanced Kids

When I was in sixth grade, the Visitation nuns sent me to seventh grade Literature, which meant I had to go up the stairs to the junior high hallway and sit with older girls who didn’t like me much.  I was scared of them and intimidated by the teacher, so I picked one of the desks closest to the wall, kept my knees together and my feet under my chair, and didn’t say much. We read David Copperfield, Treasure Island, Evangeline, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre that year.  The teacher handed out a dozen questions for each chapter of assigned reading and collected the answers the next day.  Every day.

I thought that’s what Literature class was and I liked the stories, so I read everything, answered all the homework questions, and prayed the teacher wouldn’t call on me.  It didn’t occur to me until years later that those books were a bit advanced for a twelve-year-old.  When I was twelve, I didn’t question much.  I did what I was told.  None of us had any idea then that reading would become central to my life, or that I would turn out to be a writer, a writer who writes for age 12+, no less.

For many, many reasons, I can’t imagine putting a sixth grader today through what I experienced in the 1970’s, but I’m intensely grateful someone had the savvy to recognize that I was a kid who needed a challenge and advance me in whatever way was available.

I am not advocating for a throwback to out-dated reading lists.

Instead, we need to support and expand our enrichment programs in elementary and middle schools.  The weird, quiet kids with unusual strengths who don’t dream of advocating for themselves need to be nurtured just as much as the kids who are trailing behind, endanger schools’ test score rankings.  For lack of a better word, “advanced” kids deserve to live up to their potential, too, and we, as a society, need for them to thrive.

Some other stories I liked as a kid outside of school:

Captain Blood
A Girl of the Limberlost
The Princess and the Goblin
Anne of Green Gables
The Call of the Wild
The Phantom Tollbooth
A Sword in the Stone
A Little Princess

5 Responses to Advanced Kids

  • The Secret Garden
    Billy Budd (kidding)
    The Old Man and the Sea

  • LOBS ~
    Yes! And Early Candlelight.

  • OMG, I must be really old. In addition to all the ones you mentioned, I adored Black Beauty, Beautiful Joe, The Bobbsey Twins, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Heidi, and every juvenile biography my public library owned. But then, I also loved comic books cereal boxes! In fact, just about anything in print. Sometimes I wonder if that’s just something we’re either born with, or not. I strongly suspect that it was because my mother started reading to me before I could walk. Wouldn’t it be grand if all moms had the time and opportunity for that!

  • McLibrarian ~
    You were fortunate indeed! I’d forgotten about Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. There was Bambi, too, which killed me. Do you remember the Apple Book Club? Did you collect Bazooka Joe bubblegum comics when the gum cost a penny? If only we’d had the internet then, too.
    All best,

  • Oh man – you got to read Treasure Island? That’s wonderful. RLS is a bit of a heavy writer, but his writing is just so incredible. I agree with your favorites. What I liked about 7th grade literature is that we read The Giver, by Lowry. It was easy enough for us, and instead of being a classic was something more of a change – science fiction/dystopian for many of us was a new thing. And it was at a level where we actually thought a lot more about what we were reading.
    Anyways – thanks for a fun post.

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