Friday, November 18, 2011

Reading, Reading, Reading

My number two item on the top ten list of Gifted and Talented (GAT) Test Preparation is reading.

I learned this the lesson the hard way.   For the three months leading up to the test, I did some research to determine what could be on this super secret test.   I looked at a variety of tests that are known and used in GAT assessment.    It seemed to me that 4 and 5 year old would not be expected to read.  During the test, there would be a proctor that reads the questions to the children.   I looked at all of the different types of test questions and assessment strategies.   Reading might be present on an aptitude test, but not on a GAT test.

So for the three months leading up to the test, we focused on other activities.    This might have been fruitful work and I'll discuss the approach later.

The test came and went.   Little Billy (names withheld to protect the innocent) gave me a rundown of which type of questions from his practice tests were on the real test.  I never asked about word recognition, prereading skills, or anything at all in this category.

Four months or so later, the test results came.  According to the parents who post their scores online, a qualifying score was 150.   We weren't in the ball park.  

Over the next 8 months, I talked to many of the parents I know who subscribe to Competitive Parent Magazine, and asked how their child scored.   Answers varied.   Interpreting answers to this question is going to require a month of posts to explore.   But I learned that Little Johny down the street did much better than Little Billy.   My child, Little Billy, is a genius, and survived my special forces boot camp battery of tests.   So how could Little Johny have done so much better?    (I'm sure his parents would say because he's smarter, but I didn't ask.)

It wasn't until many months later that I put all of the pieces together, but according to my research, the missing piece appeared to be reading.   I cannot prove this statistically or scientifically.  Here's the evidence that I have.   #1   Little Johny had a top notch reading program.   (I am now adopting this for my 3 year old and it's going pretty well.)   #2   Other parents who have children in the gifted program seem to emphasize reading.   #3  I emphasized everything but reading.

I also found a neighborhood program for Mom's and Tots that has a high placement in GAT programs and classical schools.    This is the group that motivated rule #1 my 10 Ten List of GAT Preparation.  I'll have to talk to them more about the reading angle and get back to you, but my impression was that reading was central because some of them got into the classical programs, which test reading aptitude. 

It turns out that Little Billy did in fact get into the program and is doing quite well.   The kids hit the ground running with reading and writing.   I saw very little math in the first month.   So if the test is consistent with the material in the program, than somehow the test is designed to uncover aptitude or giftedness in reading.  I'm not sure how this is possible on a test where the kids are not expected to read.  

Right now, my working theory is that the activity of reading somehow unlocks a child's giftedness, launches a child ahead of his peers, or helps them take this mystery test.   I know of no way to teach a child to read without a parent reading and listening, so maybe this is a factor.  Maybe reading imbues the child with academic confidence or makes them comfortable looking at a test.  Regardless, it is now an important part of my next child's routine.

By the way, there is no such thing as Competitive Parent Magazine, as far as I know.  It was just a joke.  Just to be on the safe side, I just googled it  and found out it launched in England in April of 2009, but I can't find it on the web.  I think the article is satire.   You decide:  Article about Competitive Parent Magazine


  1. Do you know if the kids that did well were able to read or were just read to often and thus could understand the proctor better?

    1. Good question. Here we are 7 years later and I have a much clearer idea why reading has such a big impact. Reading expands vocabulary, and vocab is behind 75% of the test. Reading also expands working memory and conceptual vocabulary (think analogies), when paired with adult input and read to. If strong readers manage to get strong math training on the side, it's a winning combination.