WHEN most one-year-old babies could only cry and giggle, she could count and read numbers. When she was 20 months old, she enrolled at pre-school where she was the youngest tot but the only one who could read storybooks.
Kitso Christelle Dube is indeed a whizkid in the making.
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At five years two months, her command of the English language is close to none as she is doing things her peers will only master at a later stage in elementary education.
Her mother, Mrs Pamela Dube (25), a training manager at Edgars Stores in Bulawayo, said she noticed that her daughter had rare capabilities of mastering whatever she was taught at home.
“When Kitso was about a year old, I noticed that she was able to do things older children were incapable of. If I taught her something, she would just master it immediately. We decided to take her to pre-school at one year eight months,” Mrs Dube said.
After enrolling at Amazon Pre-School in Parklands, teachers were amazed by Kitso’s talent when compared to her classmates who were older.
“School authorities contacted us and told us that Kitso exhibited a rare gift, young as she was, and told us to encourage her to participate more in class and from that time on, she has been excelling at school and is unstoppable,” she said.
When Kitso was given picture stories, she could make sense of the pictures and even tell a story which made them realise she had a special talent.
When she was four years old, she could memorise a whole English storybook without any challenges which left teachers perplexed as most children that age could hardly read. After realising Kitso’s capabilities, the school asked her to narrate a play during graduation day and she left parents dazzled.
“She narrated a whole play by heart and left parents impressed as those that were graduating could hardly read and narrate stories like she did,” Mrs Dube said.
Her grandmother, Mrs Pesiwa Dube, said she also noticed her granddaughter’s capabilities when she was still young.
“I was carrying her on my back one day and she started counting and identifying house numbers along the streets correctly and I was really impressed that at such a tender age she could count correctly and identify house numbers,” said the grandmother.
Mrs Pesiwa Dube said she would always read bedtime stories for Kitso but one day Kitso offered to read and she managed to read a whole storybook. She is also able to add and multiply with ease.
Although Kitso will be graduating from pre-school at the end of the year, she has not secured a place for Grade One as she is still under age.
“Schools all over are saying she has to go to Grade Zero but Kitso is ahead of the pack and sending her to Grade Zero is a drawback for her as she is a bright child. If only the schools could understand that she is highly capable and give her a chance because at five, she does things Grade Threes are able to do,” Mrs Pesiwa Dube explained.
The Dube family said they encourage parents to stimulate their children by reading to them and also giving them toys to play with.
“Reading to children and showing them pictures in storybooks enables them to understand a language easier and also enhances their capabilities. Do not just say these are children they do not understand English so you do not read to them,” the grandmother said.
Kitso surprised Sunday News reporters when she read a 26-paged storybook fluently, flawlessly and effortlessly which shows that she is way ahead of her age mates and her family hopes that her level of intelligence continue to be exhibited throughout her education.
Kitso also has the rare ability to memorise whatever she reads and can recite it verbatim without even referring to the text.
Child psychologist, Dr Michael Maphosa, said children like Kitso had high levels of intelligence which are exhibited in infancy. He said such intelligence could be genetically obtained.
“A lot of intelligence research has focused on trying to explain where intelligence comes from and it is suggested that intelligence is primarily inherited, meaning that children get the genes from their parents or instead, primarily something influenced by children’s environment such as parental teachings and by exposure to life experiences and opportunities,” he said.
Most researchers agree that a combination of both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of intelligence.
Research shows that profoundly gifted young children like Kitso often develop the skills of reading, writing, and numerical processes years before their peers. It is not uncommon for a four-year-old profoundly gifted child who has already learned to read, to be reading and comprehending books.
A child who has mastered the basics of reading and mathematics in the pre-school years will have little to do in a kindergarten or Grade One classroom where these basic skills are emphasised. Families and schools need to be prepared to enrich and or accelerate the curriculum, depending on the child’s interests and development in other areas.
Dr Maphosa said children like Kitso are then faced with a dilemma of being “many ages at one go”.
“The young pre-school child may be able to discuss certain things that are complicated for her age but can get frustrated when told to do simpler things. This is because the child’s intellectual development is proceeding at a much more rapid rate than physical, social or emotional development. Although this is perfectly normal for an extremely gifted child, it does present certain problems and challenges, especially in an age-segregated society,” he said.
Researchers also say profoundly gifted children may literally be able to comprehend intellectually what they are not ready to deal with emotionally. They may be able to construct a complex story with a plot and characterisation that is more typical of a middle school pupil while they are only at the tender age of four, but they still usually have the motor skills of a four-year-old and cannot write their story down.
They may have perfectly age-appropriate reactions to events, but because of their large vocabularies and ability to think abstractly in some ways, they find that adults expect them to act older than they really are.
Kitso’s grandfather, Pastor Mathamsanqa Dube, said she gets frustrated when she is told to do things that she knows well as she is more advanced than others. Her grandmother concurred, that at school she doesn’t understand why her age mates cannot read or use computers the way she does.
In June, a British paper reported that nine-month-old Adam, from Mitcham in south London, was reading and able to spell over 100 words. He also knew most of his times tables up to 10, could count to over 1 000 in English and up to 20 in Spanish and Japanese.