Sophia, a Hoboken resident, was chosen this year to take part in a special test administered by the Center for Talented Youth, an offshoot of the renowned Baltimore university.
About 84,000 students are involved in the CTY programs, according to the website. Passing the test gives these gifted student access to multiple programs run through the university, like a summer camp.
"We'll consider the camp in the future," said her father, Robert Florida, a writer and adjunct professor of literature at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. For now, Sophie is involved in a distance-learning course about reading. The theme of the class is dog books like "101 Dalmatians" by Dodie Smith and "Ribsy" by Beverly Clearly.
"I feast on good books," said Sophia last week. "With real life, you can't have magic. But with fantasy in books, almost anything can happen, which is a bit more exciting."
Each year, the Johns Hopkins test is given to exceptional students to see how they handle higher-level math and reading. Second graders like Sophia are given fifth and sixth grade level tests to see what their capabilities are.
Students can qualify for the gifted program in many ways, most likely if they score in the 95th percentile of a state or national standardized test, like the one Sophia took.
"I was excited ... and nervous," Sophia said last week about the test, which was administered in West Orange. She was the only young child at the testing center. "In the beginning it was easy; then it got harder," said Sophia, "The math was hard."
Her teacher at the Hoboken Charter School, Mr. Madelung, said that Sophia has excellent concentration.
"I've seen few students who devote so much time to reading," Madelung said.
After an hour and a half, Sophia finished the test, and on her way out, she told her father that some of the words in the test were over her head. However, the 8-year-old fielded words like "attorney" and "manipulative."
"I think another was 'mechanical,' and I had no idea what that word meant," Sophia said.
"We discuss books above her level," said Madelung. "It's fun to be able to discuss more sophisticated books with her."
Sophia has read all of the Harry Potter books and re-reads most of them. She received "The Chamber of Secrets" over the holidays and read it in three days straight.
"She didn't change out of her pajamas the whole time," said her mother, Virginia Daut, a part-time editor at The Wall Street Journal.
Sophia waited for the results of the test until one day, "I had come upstairs from my bedroom and saw an opened envelope from Johns Hopkins on the table. I asked my father what it was, and he said, 'Sophia; that's for you. You passed the test.' I felt calm and relieved and excited all at the same time." She aced the verbal part of the test and survived the math.
Beside the Harry Potter series, she enjoys Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, especially "The Amber Spyglass." She doesn't like to watch the movies. She prefers the books because, "I can sort of imagine."
Her parents, both wordsmiths, discourage television for all three of their children: Sophia, 6-year-old Luca, and 3-year-old Tessa.
"We're against screens. No video, no TV, no Wii," her father said.
But they do allow DVDs on the weekends and the occasional YouTube session, which the kids love. "Introducing technology is dangerous," said Daut, "but it seeps in."
Sophia has also played the piano for three years and takes dance lessons and art classes.
As far as musical interests, Sophia says that she is a bit tired of the Beatles.
"Now, I like the Rolling Stones," she said, as well as Mozart.
Sophia has many favorite spots for reading.
"In the summer, I like to sit on the Big Barney Doll in my room," she said. "It's next to my window, and I read there with the window open. In winter, I like to sit on the armrest of the couch that is close to the radiator. The heat feels good."
Sophia wants to be a teacher when she grows up, emulating her favorite teacher, Elicia Goldberg, who taught Sophia in kindergarten and first grade.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dr. Anthony Petrosino said that he and Superintendent of Schools Jack Raslowsky have traveled to Johns Hopkins in Maryland to check out their programs.
"Johns Hopkins is a very important part of the accommodations for our gifted students," he said, but "it's only a portion of the gifted and talented programs in our district."
Parents interested in the Johns Hopkins program can get more information by calling (410) 735-4100 or visiting their Web site, http://cty.jhu.edu.
For comments on this story, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.