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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Giving all children the chance to learn and achieve to the very best of their ability is a worthy mission for any early childhood program; it is our job to support the learning and development of every child, with an understanding that each child has different strengths and weaknesses and each child develops at a unique pace. Yet most of the time when we talk about a child’s “potential” in early childhood education, we are most focused on the children who are falling behind, the ones who are struggling to meet even the most fundamen- tal learning outcomes. It makes sense that we would pay close attention to these children and continually remind ourselves of their potential for success and achievement. But the opportunity to reach full potential is something every child deserves: every child who struggles and falls behind, every child who is doing just fine and meeting expectations, and every child who is excep- tionally bright. If the needs of exceptionally bright children are ignored when they are very young and just entering the academic world of learning, they may begin to believe that school is a dull place where they will receive very little attention from teachers. They may become bored or disengaged. The iconic motto “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” is just as true at the preschool level as at the college level. Imagine a child with musical talent who is never given a chance to sing or a child with athletic talent who is never allowed to run. Now imag- ine a child with an exceptional ability to think who is never asked a difficult question. Challenging exceptionally bright children gives them an opportu- nity to develop their talents and strengths, fulfilling their individual potential as well as opening doors for future academic and professional achievement. The Braided Thread This book emphasizes three broad strategies (see table 1.1) for meeting the needs of exceptionally bright children. The first strategy is differentiation. To differentiate means to change the pace, level, or method of teaching in response to the needs of individual children. The phrase “One size does not fit all” is often used in relation to differentiated instruction. You are prob- ably already practicing differentiated instruction in your classroom in your everyday decisions about how you select materials and how you divide your attention among the children in your class. The strategies in this book will help you differentiate more intentionally, in your curriculum development, your instructional practices, and your learning environment, with an eye to making sure you are challenging all the children to meet their full potential. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Introduction | 3