There has been an ongoing discussion on the Well Trained Mind Accelerated Learner board about early readers and those who are gifted vs. those who are early readers due to exposure but eventually level out with their peers as they get older. The seeming "competition" to have the earliest reader in some circles annoys me.
I am all for teaching a child to read when they are asking and showing the signs of being ready to read but while working in homes where the TV is on in the mornings, I often see commercials for the Doman method for teaching reading where they parade tiny babies and toddlers raving about their early reading skills. Having raised bright kids, I know personally that a bright child will learn whatever they are exposed to. I just don't think being exposed to flashcards of words at 8 months old when there is so much more to do with your baby is ideal.
Here are some of my other thoughts on the topic (from the discussion on the board...with some added thoughts)...
I think there is a huge difference between being able to read...as in being able to decode words and understanding what is read especially when kids hit the age where they need to understand more than the plot of a story. I read about the Glen Doman method when my kids were little before deciding against it. I figured my kids would learn to read when they were ready and our time could better be spent exploring the world and playing.
I am not so sure methods like Glen Doman can help with the comprehension of what is read making the children who learn to read through the method more like hyperlexic kids who read much higher than their average peers without the comprehension necessary to read at that level.
Early reading is not an absolute indicator of high IQ. A "gifted" child may be more likely to read early but an early reader does not necessarily have a high IQ. So, I think like the previous poster mentioned, those kids who learn to read using that method (unless of course they were gifted) will eventually level out with peers in reading...eventually everyone learns to read (decode) and reads fairly well.
I imagine there are can be psychological consequences to being seen as gifted and to having people make a big deal about a skill like early reading only to discover in later years that you are no longer above everyone else especially if that one ability (being able to read early and better than kids your age) was a big part of who you saw yourself as being or the way you got attention from others.
As to the psychological consequences of raising a "real" child prodigy...I'm sure that could be another discussion entirely.
The discussion morphed by some into how to develop comprehension skills...
For my early reading kids, some of the comprehension type skills like inferencing and predicting seemed to need life experience to develop more than being something we could specifically work on. I saw this most clearly with my dd, who when assessed by a reading specialist (I think she was 6 or maybe a young 7 at the time...don't remember) was decoding at a 12th grade level but comprehending at a 7th grade level. The questions she was missing the answers to were those that required her to have knowledge outside of the passage itself.
If a very young child is decoding at a high level, they tend to end up reading books meant for a more mature child so they don't understand the inuendo or the figures of speech, etc... until they've been exposed to them. I found often she didn't understand that characters would have an ulterior motive or might be being dishonest. She was just too innocent to even think along those lines.
Some of the things we did/do to work on comprehension are to read and discuss deeply books way below their decoding level...along the lines of Classics in the Classroom and Suppose the Wolf's an Octopus' higher levels of questioning.
We intermingle well written picture books with chapter books and novels because there are so many great books out there to read. I tend to think along the lines of "so many books, so little time," so we didn't rush to chapter books and forget about picture books as soon as the kids were able.
I also had them work through a couple of the Reading Detective workbooks to learn to find the answers to questions with backup from the text. Learning how to take apart a story by discussing the parts of the story and outlining the action in a story seems to help.
But really those much deeper ways of thinking about a story still seem to need maturity and more exposure to life. Though I am saving many of those really great classics for when Haley is a bit older and will be able to fully enjoy them, we do pick some to work on now and then that I think she may enjoy reading more than once in her life. I still find myself appreciating a book differently when reading some books with her that I enjoyed in high school. It is really neat to think about how the change in perspective affects how you read a book.