Story Time


Dr Margaret Sutherland

Senior Lecturer, School of Education
University of Glasgow



One gifted adult recently told me that until the age of 10 she thought she was adopted because she was so unlike the rest of her family and she always felt she didn’t fit in. At the age of 21 she read a book that seemed to describe her and for the first time she began to understand herself and her abilities. 


Experiences you have in early childhood can go on to influence and shape the adult you become. Helping gifted young learners understand their abilities and thought processes is important and something teachers and parents can help with. Equally, helping learners to understand, acknowledge, welcome and celebrate difference is important learning for all.


In my work I have used narrative to explore ideas of identity. There are a couple of books in particular that I would recommend. The first one, The Incredible Book Eating Boy tells the story of a boy who eats books and the more he eats, the smarter he gets. He wants to become the smartest boy in the world. This wonderfully illustrated book by Oliver Jeffers allows, among other things, for the exploration of feelings and offers opportunities to question what we mean by knowledge. I have used it with gifted young people to think about how they learn and acquire knowledge. I have also used it with the rest of the class to discuss what knowledge is, how you acquire it and what it might mean to be the “smartest boy in the world”.    


Another book I have used is Emily Gravett’s Meerkat Mail. This delightful book is about a meerkat who has had enough of living in close quarters with his family in the Kalahari Desert, and so he takes off in search of his mongoose cousins.  Throughout the journey he writes home to his family. There are so many ways you can use this book! But focussing on ideas of health and well-being, the text allows for discussions about families and family life. Understanding your place in your family, how you fit in and how you’re valued can help to create a sense of belonging. 


These are just two examples of how we can start in the early years to help young children to begin to get a sense of self. As the young adult I mentioned at the beginning said,


“I’m not at war with myself or others now, I’m at peace”.  


About Dr Margaret Sutherland

Dr Margaret Sutherland is a senior lecturer in additional support for learning at the University of Glasgow, Scotland and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She is the Director of Post Graduate Reseach in the School of Education and of the Scottish Network for Able Pupils. Margaret has written in the field of gifted education and is the author of a number of academic papers, chapters and books on the subject, including "Gifted and Talented in the Early Years: a practical guide for 4-6 year olds”. She is an elected member of the general committee of the European Council for High Ability and serves on the executive committee for the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children.




Posted as part of the 2020 New Zealand Gifted Awareness Blog Tour, run by the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.

The views and opinions expressed in the Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of NZCGE, their staff, and/or any/all contributors to Gifted Awareness Week.



Story Time

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