The gifted usually have reading and related language abilities one or more years beyond their grade placement. Students who are precocious in reading should be challenged by the use of materials as close as possible to their level of development. In or outside class, teachers can provide supplemental reading or assign special projects.
Importance of Reading Ability
Besides its intrinsic value, the ability to read has economic consequences. Adults who are better-than-average readers are also higher-than-average earners or are more likely to have high-paying jobs. The growing technicalization of society has brought increasing demands for literacy, which the schools are hard pressed to meet. A higher level of literacy is needed in business and industry, in the armed forces, and even in everyday life. The reading ability needed to comprehend materials important to daily living, such as income tax forms and newspapers, has been estimated to be as high as the 12th-grade level. Some efforts have been made to simplify forms and manuals, but the lack of sufficient reading ability definitely impairs a person's capacity to function in modern Western society.
Adult literacy programs can be distinguished by the stages of literacy they address. Programs to counter below-functional literacy stress the development of decoding and word recognition, similar to the goals of early elementary schools, but they use materials more appropriate to an adult age. Programs that deal with development at the functional literacy level stress the use of reading to learn new information and to perform job-related tasks. Advanced literacy programs stress the development of higher-level skills needed for high school equivalency diplomas.
The great importance of reading ability is underscored by the growth of literacy programs in some Third World nations, as, for example, in Cuba. These programs, which generally send young people to rural areas to serve as teachers for illiterates in a national effort, often combine the teaching of reading with political instruction.