Gifted Children: Myths and Realities


In this fascinating book, Ellen Winner uncovers and explores nine myths about giftedness, and shows us what gifted children are really like.Using vivid case studies, Winner paints a complex picture of the gifted child. Here we meet David, a three-year-old who learned to read in two weeks; KyLee, a five-year-old who mastered on his own all of the math concepts expected by the end of elementary school; and Nadia, an autistic and retarded “savant” who nevertheless could draw like a Renaissance master.Winner uses her...

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Gifted Children: Myths And Realities

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In this fascinating book, Ellen Winner uncovers and explores nine myths about giftedness, and shows us what gifted children are really like.Using vivid case studies, Winner paints a complex picture of the gifted child. Here we meet David, a three-year-old who learned to read in two weeks; KyLee, a five-year-old who mastered on his own all of the math concepts expected by the end of elementary school; and Nadia, an autistic and retarded “savant” who nevertheless could draw like a Renaissance master.Winner uses her research with these and several other extraordinary children, as well as the latest biological and psychological evidence, to debunk the many myths about academic, musical, and artistic giftedness.Gifted Children also looks at the role played by schools in fostering exceptional abilities. Winner castigates schools for wasting resources on weak educational programs for the moderately gifted. Instead, she advocates elevating standards for all children, and focusing our resources for gifted education on those with extreme abilities—children who are left untouched by the kinds of minimal programs we have today.

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Editorial Reviews

Education Week
Explains clearly and engagingly the many forces that shape the lives and minds of those at the far end of the bell curve.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Stephen, aged 5, fluently reads orchestral scores. Hillary, 12, ranked in the 99th percentile nationally in all subjects (math, language, reading, science, social studies) on standardized aptitude tests. Winner's case studies of exceptional children are as intrinsically interesting as her findings in this eye-opening study. Gifted children, we learn, are often socially isolated and unhappy. Having a high IQ is irrelevant to giftedness in art or music. Only a very few of the gifted become eminent, creative adults-and when parents are over-involved or push to excess, gifted children are especially likely to drop out or lose interest in their domain of talent. A Boston College psychology professor, Winner blames unchallenging, neglectful schools for wasting gifted children's time and potential. She recommends allowing exceptional students to skip grades and be given individualized instruction and advanced programs. Illustrated with remarkably precocious artwork, her survey throws much light on creativity, learning and personal growth in both normals and gifteds. (June)
Library Journal
In this examination of commonly held beliefs about gifted children, Winner (psychology, Boston Coll.) considers a number of questions: Are gifted children gifted in all subject areas? Are artistically gifted children gifted or talented? Does giftedness depend on IQ? What role do environment and biology play in giftedness? Are gifted children psychological and social misfits? In her analyses, Winner cites and explains a broad range of recent research, including extensive notes and references with each chapter. She then offers her recommendations for dealing with gifted children in America's educational systems-recommendations that are controversial and not necessarily supported by her research. She calls for elevating standards for all while cutting back on expenditures on those she deems only somewhat gifted. The value of this provocative book is in its comprehensiveness. Recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Kay Brodie, Chesapeake Coll., Wye Mills, Md.
Kirkus Reviews
Winner's ambitious study focuses on the hereditary, familial, and characterological factors shared by gifted children, and suggests ways in which American educators might help such students develop their special talents.

Winner (Psychology/Boston Coll.) notes that precocious youth differ from their peers in being "independent, self-directed, willful, dominant non-conformists," possessed of a raging desire to master new skills and an ability to improvise approaches to learning and problem-solving. Winner goes on to explode some myths about the gifted, including the belief that giftedness necessarily correlates with a high IQ, particularly among artists; some extremely talented young painters and sculptors have only average IQs, while others even suffer from learning disorders such as dyslexia. Gifted children also tend to have parents who provide intellectual stimulation and emotional support. Winner also points out the alarming fact that, while girls "make up about half the population in . . . programs for the gifted in kindergarten through third grade," by junior high school "they make up less than 30 percent." But it isn't only girls that society discourages: Our educational system lets down gifted children of both sexes, she asserts, by keeping them in classes with less advanced peers out of misguided egalitarianism, or by grouping them together in superficial programs that meet just a few hours a week. Winner's best section offers a convincing analysis of why some gifted children become highly creative adults—and why many do not. Gifted children must learn how to broaden, apply, and otherwise develop a talent that has come as a gift, transforming "sheer technical skill into something more conceptual, interpretative, and original."

Written in serviceable if unspectacular prose, her book should help parents and teachers to aid the gifted as they make the often difficult transition from being brilliant children to becoming genuinely creative and fulfilled adults.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465017591
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 5/28/1997
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 625,289
  • Lexile: 1330L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.08 (w) x 7.92 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Ellen Winner is professor of psychology at Boston College and senior research associate at Harvard Project Zero. She is the author of Invented Worlds: The Psychology of the Arts, and The Point of Words: Children’s Understanding of Metaphor and Irony.

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Table of Contents

1 Nine Myths About Giftedness 1
2 Globally Gifted: The Children Behind the Myth 14
3 Unevenly Gifted, Even Learning Disabled 35
4 Artistic and Musical Children 55
5 The IQ Myth 104
6 The Biology of Giftedness 143
7 Giftedness and the Family 181
8 So Different from Others: The Emotional Life of the Gifted Child 207
9 Schools: How They Fail, How They Could Help 234
10 What Happens to Gifted Children When They Grow Up? 278
11 Sorting Myth from Reality 306
Notes 315
References 379
Index 433
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2001

    Excellent Information

    Ellen Winner does an excellent job of separating myths from realities concerning gifted learners. She backs up her findings with dozens of case studies and clearly documented research. A great source!

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