For several days the folks at child_lit have been discussing child prodigies. Can children excel at writing at an early age? How old do you have to be before you are no longer considered a prodigy? And more! Much more!
The discussion (which really is interesting) reminded me of an incident at my local elementary school. (Forgive me if I've told this story before--not much happens to me, so I tend to repeat myself.) The challenge and enrichment teacher called me to ask if I would meet with a particularly gifted second grade child who just loved to write. I was never sure what I was supposed to do with this kid, and I couldn't make a commitment to meet with her regularly. But I did agree to talk to her a couple of times.
Well, she was a very attractive child with an excellent vocabulary whose writing probably was very good. However, because I watch television, I could tell that a lot of what she was writing about wasn't original.
Now, I don't think small children should be pressured to be original. If they want to learn skills by practicing them on story lines from their favorite TV shows or books, that's fine by me. I think they probably can learn a lot that way. But I don't think that's any sign of genius, either, and I don't think it's a good idea to be encouraging such children to think they're doing something unique when they are, essentially, practicing drills. Though, once again, drills are very good.
This experience and the discussion at child_lit has led me to wonder if we adults aren't overly fascinated with brilliant kids and want to find some sort of unusual brilliance in children who are "merely" intelligent.
Really, it is enough for children to be smart. They don't have to go overboard with it.
Think of all the children's books about gifted kids. I don't want to suggest that gifted kids don't make good subjects for books. But adults write those books. Adults are the ones who find them so fascinating.