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I found (what I thought is) a really cool book to give my niece for her 7th birthday.

The book (The Ultimate Book About Me by Richard Platt) is all about what makes a person, genes, how your brain works, memory, senses etc. It's a picture/factoid book.

I figure that some of the material is actually pretty advanced, and I'm wondering if I'd be putting her off this kind of subject by overwhelming her early, similar to how a elephant learns to not try pull away from a rope, after not being able to get away from it as a baby.

Any thoughts here?

  • The publisher's webpage rates it for ages 9 and older, but I wouldn't worry about giving an "advanced" book to a slightly younger child. If anything isn't interesting or comprehensible to her yet, she'll be able to look back at it later :) – Acire Dec 4 '14 at 13:29
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According to my experience, you will not "put her off" if you remember a few pointers:

  • Any material, whether educational or otherwise, should be treated as an offer, not an obligation. Offer to read with her, but do not push her. Usually it's the "encouragement" that puts the child off, not the difficulty.
  • The level should roughly match the developmental stage and range of interest of the child. My son for example would not be tempted by a book about crafting or cooking, as good as it may be, as he's currently into science. Daughter is right in the dinosaur-phase and digging through all the books in our library.
  • If the material is too advanced right now, most likely she'll put it aside and come back at a later time. Often, when something triggers a question. Then remind her, she might find the answer there. (Of course, the book should be age appropriate, but some challenge is better that too easy/boring. It's like clothes: better to leave some space to grow into.)
  • Be prepared to answer questions that may come up, but don't be ashamed not to know everything. Books like these can be a great way to show your own limitations and how to overcome them by ckecking on the internet or going to the library.
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If you don't push particularly hard, it's unlikely to do any damage: either she will be interested in it and read it, or she will not and she will ignore it. I bought my nephew (then 7) a copy of D'aulaires Book of Norse Myths, a fairly advanced book of Norse mythology; he didn't think it was interesting at first, but then randomly read a bit, realized it was very similar to the Thor movies he was interested in (hence the purchase!) and read the rest of it rather quickly.

You never know what kids will find interesting, and in a lot of cases 'too advanced' really means 'higher bar for interesting'. If it is a subject she's interested in then I say go for it; if it's not, just don't be disappointed if she doesn't read it.

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A lot depends on how interested the child is in the topic, and how she responds to difficult topics. I wish I could find the reference at the moment, but I read an article a while ago about how children will persevere through very difficult material if it is personally interesting to them. For example, how Homer Hickham learned rocket science in October Sky.

I've seen the effect with my own son, who is seven but reading at a 5th grade level, largely because getting better at reading gave him access to more interesting superhero books.

I have seen research that shows the opposite effect you are concerned about, where it diminishes interest in a subject, but those are all when an advanced topic is forced on a child before she's ready, like kids thinking they're bad at math because for a while they were six months behind their classmates developmentally.

If the pressure isn't there, you might be surprised how much kids soak up. I've had my kids ask to watch with me when I'm watching a graduate-level lecture. It's interesting to me, so it's interesting to them, even if they don't understand it.

Factoid books are especially flexible, because kids can digest as much as they are able to handle, and revisit it later. They don't have to understand the entire book in order to understand part of it.

I would say go for it. The worst that would happen is you're out $15 for a book that's going to sit on a shelf for a few years.

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