Reading List for grades 1-4 to be used with Bibliotherapy

The following is the beginning of a bibliotherapy list for gifted children grades first through fourth. My hope is to add books as I, or others, identify good ones for the use of gifted children. The list should evolve and grow as more people read it. The goal of the list is to provide a start for teachers, counselors and parents who want to engage their gifted child in reading books that will benefit the child beyond the reading achievement. The real purpose of the reading will be to help gifted children learn about themselves while learning about other gifted children, learn social and problem-solving skills, and be able to prevent some of the common socio-emotional problems that gifted children develop. The list of books below is broken into three categories: problem solving skills, social problems and personal problems. Listed for each book is the reference information, page count, type of book, Lexile reading level and, when possible, the Guided reading level and an appropriate age range for the reader. Following this information, there is a summary, explanation of the gifted character and an activity to do using this book. My suggestions are only that, suggestions. If you do have additional ideas on activities, please feel free to submit them or join the members so that you can add ideas to the page as well as other book suggestions. The more feedback, the better this resource will be for all.
Remember that before selecting a book to give to a child or use in a class, the adult needs to read the book and evaluate the appropriateness for the reader(s). Bibliotherapy is more than just reading a book, it is vital to do the discussion during and after the reading. After the discussion, you can use one of the activities listed to help the child synthesize and apply the new information gained. The activities vary in order to give different ideas for each of the different multiple intelligences. Any of the activities can be used in combination or personal activities can be assigned to allow for customization for the individual student’s interests.

Fiction –
Problem Solving Skills

This first section of the list offers short chapter books that involve the main character in solving mysteries. Each book series offers the reader the opportunity to:
  • use their own skills to solve mysteries,
  • learn problem solving skills,
  • read about a gifted child,
  • form a connection to the gifted character, and
  • learn about oneself and their own giftedness.

Nate the Great and the Monster Mess: Nate the Great Series, Book 21
Nate the Great and the Monster Mess: Nate the Great Series, Book 21

Nate the Great and the Monster Mess by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and illustrated by Martha Weston. Yearling; New York, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0-0440-41662-3 Pages: 48, chapter book series
Lexile Level: 340L Guided Reading Level: K Age: 5-8
“Nate the Great” is a series about a boy with a keen sense for investigating. In this book, Nate and his dog, Sludge, help mom find a missing recipe for monster cookies. Nate uses his investigating skills to retrace his mom’s steps to locate her recipe. Nate uses problem-solving skills to help to put together the pieces of the mystery in order to find the recipe.

The book character, Nate the Great is a gifted child who uses his skills, imagination and smarts to help solve mysteries. The steps that Nate goes through in order to help others are simple problem-solving skills that other children can learn by reading these books. Nate fits in with other children in the community and school by using his talents to help others.
While reading this book with a class of gifted students, the teacher can pause and ask readers to think of the steps needed to find the missing recipe. Students can name the steps (like retracing steps, asking questions, looking again, etc.) or they can act out how they would help someone find a missing item. This process gets the children thinking on their own of problem-solving skills. The teacher can stop several times during the reading in order to allow the students to share their idea of what they would do next. By putting the student into the character’s place in the book, the students are able to examine the character’s point of view. It is important to point out that the author could have written this book in a myriad of ways and just because the student’s thoughts are not portrayed in the book, the student is offering some great suggestions. Each person would solve the mystery in a different way if they there the author and so every answer is good to share.

The Mystery Writer Mystery (Cam Jansen Series #27)
The Mystery Writer Mystery (Cam Jansen Series #27)

Cam Jansen and the Mystery Writer Mystery by David Adler and illustrated by Joy Allen. Scholastic Inc.; New York, 2007. ISBN-13:978-0-545-11036-5. Pages: 58 chapter book series
Lexile level: 450L Guided reading level: L Age: 7-10
The “Cam Jansen” series is about a young girl who uses her visual memory to help solve mysteries. Cam’s real name is Jennifer but when she was younger, people started to call her “the Camera” because of her vivid memory. Pretty soon “the Camera” got shortened to just “Cam”. Cam says click when she wants to remember something that she sees as if her mind were a real camera. In this book, Cam’s school is holding a book fair and a famous mystery detective author is there signing books. Two cars go missing from the school’s parking lot during the book fair and Cam wants to help. The author is sure he can solve the mystery and does not need help from a young girl. Cam watches the author and when the author gives up, Cam steps in to solve the mystery.

Cam is an example of a girl with a gift, a great visual memory. Cam’s visual memory, her problem-solving skills and her attention to details allow her to put together pieces of a picture in order to help others. Young girls will be able to relate to Cam and her family and friends. Cam attends an elementary school and has a few close friends that share some of the same interests. Each friend brings something different to the group and so they each rely on the other for different things. Cam’s family and friends depend on her for her memory and problem solving skills.
Since the Cam Jansen books are a series, the teacher could pass out several different books from the series. Each small group would read a book together and create a new solution to the mystery and act out the story with the new solution. Small groups would be responsible for reading the book together, identifying the problem, summarize the current solution and then write a new solution or several different solutions. Each member of the group can offer a solution, write a solution and then the group can act out each solution or vote on one. The group will need to write and act out the solutions that they choose and be able to answer questions from the audience about their solution. This activity will help with problem-solving skills and life skills of working with a group. Working in a group is a great skill for all persons and gifted children often need more assistance in this area. Many gifted children are leaders and strive for perfectionism. When there are more than one leader-type personality in the group and when students have to compromise, all group members learn life skills.
Watch and listen to a student read a "Cam Jansen" book in this youtube video:

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (Encyclopedia Brown Series #1)
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (Encyclopedia Brown Series #1)

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol and illustrated by Leonard Shortall. Batnum Books; New York, 1963. ISBN-13: 978-0-553-15724-6 Pages: 111 book series
Lexile level: 560L Guided Reading Level: P Age: 8-12
“Encyclopedia Brown” books are made up of ten or so different short stories. Each story is about a boy named Leroy Brown who has been nicknamed “Encyclopedia Brown” because of his encyclopedia-like mind for information, details and memory. Encyclopedia’s father is the chief of police and so Encyclopedia has the opportunity to be involved in many of the town’s mysteries. Encyclopedia solves mysteries ranging from missing belongings to possible kidnapping. At the end of each story, Encyclopedia solves the mystery but does not reveal how he was able to solve the mystery. Instead, the author poses a question to the reader to see if the reader can figure out how Encyclopedia solved the mystery. In the back of the book, the author discloses the truth and all the details that Encyclopedia used to solve the mystery.

The main character, Encyclopedia, uses his visual memory, wit and intelligence to outsmart bullies and criminals. Encyclopedia Brown is a gifted child who loves to use his gifts in order to solve mysteries, and help others. Encyclopedia has a few good friendships and interests outside of solving mysteries. The way the book is written, the reader actually can solve the mysteries without being told the answers. It is a great challenge for young detective readers. The book would provide great inspiration to a budding writer to also write some short stories that add details to help the reader solve the mystery along with the characters in the book.

A great activity for gifted children after reading an “Encyclopedia Brown” book would be to write their own short story. Each student could write their own story making sure to include details so that others can really solve the mystery. The characters in the stories will have to include a least one gifted child and then other personalities. The students could share their stories with the other class members or with another class to see if anyone can solve their mystery. The activity would allow the student to develop characters in the story and really think about how to portray a gifted child as well as the other characters. This process would really force the student to think about the character traits that gifted students possess compared to character traits of other students.

Social Problems
The following books explain a social problem that the main character, a gifted child, is experiencing. The books selected offer a character of similar age range to the reader and real life problems that gifted children face. The stories offer a solution to the problem that may not be realistic but give a sense of how the problem could be solved and the result of the solution chosen. If the reader connects to the character in the book or the problem posed, the reader learns about other children who are like them or who face the same problems. This connection will allow the reader to learn more about themselves and about their own giftedness and problems. The following books are short stories and can be read aloud by a teacher, in a round-robin-style, or in small groups. The discussion could take place in a group setting or one-on-one if the subject is too sensitive for the student to share in a group setting.

213 Valentines
213 Valentines

213 Valentines by Barbara Cohen and illustrated by Wil Clay. Redfeather Books; New York, 1991. ISBN-13: 978-0-805-02627-6. Pages 55, chapter book
Lexile Level: 630L Age: 7-9
Wade Thompson is a young, black fourth grade boy from the poorer section of town and he was selected to attend another school that offered a Gifted and Talented (G&T) program. Wade tries to think of every way he can to convince his uncle not to send him to the new program. Wade is afraid of losing his friends from the neighborhood and of changing schools. Wade knows that he is smarter than his friends and most of the other kids at school. He is ok with that and his friends were good with that, too. Wade did not want to leave his friends or attend another school. In the G&T, he is one of four black students in the class primarily made up of white middle- to upper-class students. Wade and another girl from his old school are not accepted by the majority of the other students. As Valentine’s Day approached, Wade wants to make sure he receives not only one Valentine, but the most in the class. He hatches a plan to send himself 213 Valentines. While attending the new school, Wade learns that he likes to be challenged by the curriculum and enjoys competing with other students. Wade is a mathematically gifted child. At the new school, Wade is able to participate in math competitions and learn more about computers. He still misses his friends, but Wade learns to be in both worlds (his neighborhood and G&T) successfully by just being himself.

213 Valentines is a great book for students who are going into a new gifted and talented program. Many students are reluctant to change schools or to be pulled out of their regular classes for gifted programming for fear of losing their friends of being teased. This book demonstrates how the change may be hard, but that the gains are great. It also points out that people can be hard to deal with and how sticking with it, and a little humor, can help. Another lesson in this book is about how the character is able to make new friends. He is a good role model to show that friends can be from different interests, intelligence level, and neighborhoods. Often times, adults and researchers feel that gifted children should only be with other gifted children. In this story, Wade shows us that people from different intelligence level can be friends. Wade is very aware that he is different from everyone else in the book, but that it doesn’t stop you from being friends.


Weslandia by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. Candlewick Press, Massachusetts, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0-763-61052-4 Pages: 40 picture book
Lexile Level: AD820L (adult-directed) Age: 4-9
Wesley is an inventor, a creator, and a gifted child. Wesley is just a boy who wants to be himself, which happens to be different from everyone else. His parents, however, want him to fit in and be like the other kids. Wesley loves to read and learns from what he reads. He learned about how civilizations are created and now on his summer break, he decides to create his own civilization so that he has a place to belong. Unbeknownst to his parents and his neighbors, Wesley creates his own food crop, clothing, and everything else needed for life. Wesley’s civilization elevates him with his classmates from “unliked” to “solver-of-problems”.

Gifted children often feel alone and that they don’t have a group where they belong and can be themselves. Wesley’s character demonstrates how one’s creative imagination can take us anywhere we want to go. This story shows that it is ok to let your imagination take you away either through acting, playing, writing, drawing, or in other creative outlets. Wesley is a gifted child who doesn’t fit in, but he uses his imagination to create a place where he is in charge and others need his help. Weslandia is a great escape-from-reality book giving gifted children the ok to run-away with your imagination and be yourself. Although Wesley’s solution to his problem seems unrealistic, it is a story that gifted children will relate to and enjoy. On the last page of the book, in the section about the author, the author tells about his games of imagination where he and his friends would play in lots of different imaginary worlds. I think that this note will give the reader great inspiration to see that not only a character in the book created their own world but that the story is actually based on the author’s own experiences.

Personal Problems
Being gifted can be wonderful, but it also comes with its own side-effects. Personal understanding and problems are common themes for books about gifted characters. Like the social problems section above, the gifted characters confront a personal problem and work to resolve that problem the best they can. Sometimes the solutions are not realistic, but in fictional writing, the reader learns from the escape from reality. The following books are much longer than the previous books and can be used for book reports, book clubs, and one-on-one discussions. Another activity that the teacher can do is to read the book in small sections with the class each day. Students can then record their interpretation of the events taking place in the story along with their feelings. The formats for their recordings could be composing a song, music or poem, journal writing, drawings, comics, audio or video diary, or a blog space. The list is endless of how the students could share their responses. The discussion portion is still necessary as well as regular follow-up to the students’ responses since this type of activity could span the entire semester.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, written and illustrated by E.L. Konigsburg. Scholastic Inc., New York, 1967. ISBN-13: 978-0-545-04173-7 Pages: 167 chapter book
Lexile Level: 700L Guided Reading Level: S Age: 9-12
Claudia is the oldest of four children and tired of everything being the same. She gets all good grades, her parents depend on her to take care of things around the house and she feels she gets no respect. She feels like she needs to make sure her parents appreciate her so she decides to run-away for a while. Most importantly, she wants to be different or feel different. In her plan to run-away, she takes her second-to-youngest brother, Jamie, because he has all the money and she doesn’t want to go alone. Claudia is a very bright girl and plans things out for the two to run-away to New York City. There they will stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While the two are there, a new art piece, a white statue of an angel, is on display and Claudia is fascinated by it. The creator of the statue is unknown, but Claudia is determined to figure it out. The adventure brings the two siblings together and introduces them to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Mrs. Frankweiler almost immediately senses something special about Claudia that is similar to her. Unbeknownst to Claudia, Mrs. Frankweiler knows just what Claudia needs to feel different and is willing and able to provide it.

In this book, the main character, Claudia, is bored of her life. Claudia is an example of an unchallenged gifted child who feels that she wants more or to be distinguishable from others. Claudia feels she needs to achieve more and be part of something bigger, but at age 11 there’s not much to do. Gifted children, boys and girls, might relate to Claudia’s doldrums and see that using your imagination to create wonderful stories of escape helps to deal with everyday life. In the story, Claudia expresses her feelings of wanting to talk, wanting to explode, or wanting to pout. Claudia displays a greater awareness of her feelings than most girls age 11 but is very common among gifted children. This is an aspect of her gifted character that other children might connect with and understand. Also, what Claudia learns from Mrs. Frankweiler is that what has given her a sense of success throughout this ordeal of running away was the thought of keeping a secret. Claudia really thrived on being responsible for the whole scheme: the planning of how to leave, where to live, what to do while there, etc. Having this secret and being in charge made Claudia feel different, but when she actually got to NY the feeling went away without making her feel different as she guessed it would have. Now the mystery of the angel statue became her new purpose and then, with the help of Mrs. Frankweiler, Claudia obtains a new secret that she can keep to herself forever and always hold that feeling of being different and responsible. While no one wants to encourage children to run away from home, gifted readers of this book can identify with Claudia. This connection will allow for gifted students to be able to share more of their own feelings about being gifted, daily life, and personal feelings. Running away from problems is not going to change the problems. In this story, the readers learn that they must first identify the true problem in order to be able to find an appropriate solution. In the book discussion, readers may refer their own feelings onto the character so that it is easier to share personal information. This book may open a lot of emotions for gifted students and having a discussion period during and after the reading of this book will be vital to the understanding and growth of the gifted child.


Matilda by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake. Scholastic Inc., New York, 1988. ISBN-13: 978-0-590-99683-9 Pages: 240 chapter book
Lexile Level: 840L Age: 8-12
Matilda is a precocious four year-old that belongs to a horrible family. Her parents say she is “nothing more than a scab”. Matilda plays extravagant pranks on her family to get back at them for not understanding her, and because she can. Matilda is much smarter than her parents and brother. She is no ordinary four year-old. Since she is so bright and capable, Matilda’s family wants her to do all the work so they can attend to their own interests. However, Matilda reaches out for more. When she finds the local library, she teaches herself to read and applies what she learns from her readings. When she does start school, she falls in love with her teacher, Miss Honey. Miss Honey represents the first adult in Matilda’s life that accepts her and is nice. The school is run by a monster of a head mistress named Miss Trunchbull. Matilda has many encounters with Miss Trunchbull and Matilda’s quick wit gets her in trouble every time. Now Matilda is determined to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and to get rid of her once-and-for-all. Only a genius like Matilda can think of a plan to save the children and Miss Honey. Roald Dahl’s quick-wit, quirky humor, and extraordinary imagination would appeal to most gifted children.

Matilda’s character is very humorous, brilliant, and outlandish. Matilda has a very sad start to her life where she is not liked or understood by the people around her. I think that many gifted children can relate to Matilda. Adults can be intimidated by gifted children and therefore do not understand them much like the adults with Matilda. People do not expect for children to be gifted and can be intimidated by gifted children. Matilda tries to set her own course in life by reading and learning. Matilda betters herself through reading and going to school even though her family doesn’t think she will use the knowledge. Matilda is trying to understand her own giftedness and yearns for someone to understand and accept her. Gifted children sometimes struggle to understand their own talents as well as be who they are and to be accepted for who they are. A gifted child reading this book will learn more about their own giftedness and talents. Through guided reading and discussions, gifted readers can be led to explore their own understanding of themselves, their gifts and their relationships with the people around them.

Non-fiction –
Nonfiction books about famous or noteworthy people provide gifted children even more opportunities to learn about other gifted people and their lives. With nonfiction stories, the reader often already knows that the main character is successful, but does not know that the main character may have experienced similar feelings or events as the reader. All the books that I have listed below are about gifted people who were not understood or well liked as children because of their giftedness. In the stories, the reader learns how these people were able to overcome these events and feelings in order to become successful. There are wonderful resources available in multiple reading levels on each famous person that I could think of. The following are just a few that were presented in a way that was appropriate for young gifted readers and were short enough to be used in class discussions or to introduce new topics. I have used the book about Thomas Edison to introduce our unit topic on electricity and also to open discussions about gifted children. The entire day centered on this book, but from many different angles and allowed me to include a much needed discussion while not taking away from our grade curriculum. The same discussion questions and activities from the above list can be used with nonfiction books.

The gifted reader can learn from these books that even very successful people who we know are brilliant did not always have an easy life. That people did not always understand them or accept them. That their giftedness was not always apparent or accepted, and that hard work was the key to success. One common thread to each of these biographical stories is that there was an important adult in the life of the main character that encouraged him or her. Without this adult, the main character’s life would be very different and society would be very different today. These nonfiction books are very important to the gifted reader because many times they know the success of the character without knowing that the character is really not that different than them (and perhaps even more like them than others).

A Wizard from the Start: The Incredible Boyhood & Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison
A Wizard from the Start: The Incredible Boyhood & Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison

A Wizard from the Start: The Incredible Boyhood & Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison by Don Brown. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, New York, 2010. ISBN-13: 978-0-547-19487-5. Pages: 32 picture book
Lexile Level: AD940L (adult directed) Age: 6-10
This personal portrayal of Thomas Edison begins with Edison’s different perspective of life. It shows Edison, age 8, one-hundred feet in the air, standing on a tower his father built in order to earn extra money by charging people who wanted to see what it looked like from up there. Edison did not fit in well at school and so his mother home-schooled him. Edison, as we know, is a gifted person, but was not being challenged in school and so he did a lot of daydreaming. His teacher thought that Edison was not very bright. At home, Edison was allowed to build, take-apart, and explore. At age twelve, Edison started working on a train as a “news butch” which took him to the city each day. While in the city, Edison read every book in the library. Then Edison took to up writing his own newspaper and then led him to learn about telegraph machines. Edison’s inventions and other adventures are recounted in this book that proves how smart and talented he really was. Just think of where we would be without him and his inventions?

Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Who was Martin Luther King, Jr? by Bonnie Bader and illustrated by Nancy Harrison. Penguin Group, USA, 2007. ISBN: 9780448447230 Pages: 112 picture book in the “Who was…?/ Who is…?” series
Lexile Level: 750L Ages: 7-11
Martin Luther King, Jr. was raised during a time when people of color were treated differently than white people. King was not allowed to receive the same education as white children and was not given the same opportunities. King’s parents were very influential in his education and were very supportive at a time when his peers were not always so welcoming and understanding. King was not like his peers. He talked differently than they and did he have the same goals as they did. King was perceived to be too different and did not feel that he fit in anywhere. It was not until King was much older that his peers began to look to him for help. King always had to goal of achieving equal rights for all people and he knew that his best weapon was to become educated. King persevered and was able to earn his doctorate. King also became a minister and called for peaceful protests to acquire change.

Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Freedom and Equality
Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Freedom and Equality

Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Freedom and Equality by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Craig Orback. Picture Window Books, Minnesota, 2007. ISBN: 978-1-4048-3104-9 Pages: 24 picture book
Lexile Level: 620L Age: 6-9
Susan B. Anthony grew up in a time when girls were treated much differently than boys and she was raised that this was not fair. When Anthony complained to her father about the unequal education she was receiving at school because she was female versus male, her father built her a school in their house. Anthony became a teacher at a young age and realized that she was paid less than male teachers. As Anthony grew older and took on more professional roles, the more she learned about the vast disparities between men and women. Anthony joined movements to make a difference in the world and also met Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Together they began the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss
The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss

The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss by Kathleen Krull. Random House, New York, date. ISBN-13: 978-0-375-82298-8 Pages: 36 picture book
Lexile Level: AD950L (adult directed) Age: 6-12
Ted Geisel did not fit in with his peers. He was not accepted at school and no one in his community understood him. Geisel was known for “fooling around”. He was always reading, singing, acting, or drawing (and he never grew things that people understood). Geisel’s father was a zoo keeper and would tell stories about his day at the dinner table. Geisel would love to turn these stories into wild tales and draw pictures to go with them. Geisel did not fit in with his peers not only because of his quirks and interests, but also because he was German. He was teased and bullied at school. Teachers often thought he was not very smart because all he did was doodle and not pay attention in class. Geisel often felt that he did not fit in at home either. One of Geisel’s teachers did see talent in the young man and so helped Geisel get into college. Geisel started writing professionally at age 22, but did not become Dr. Seuss until age 33. However, his books did not become popular until much later.