Reading and gaming

Publishers are turning books into video games and games into books. Can gaming encouraging reading?

Some argue “that video games also may teach a kind of digital literacy that is becoming as important as proficiency in print,” writes the New York Times.

But doubtful teachers and literacy experts question how effective it is to use an overwhelmingly visual medium to connect youngsters to the written word. They suggest that while a handful of players might be motivated to pick up a book, many more will skip the text and go straight to the game. Others suggest that video games detract from the experience of being wholly immersed in a book.

Count me among the skeptics, both about the need to teach “digital literacy” and the likelihood that avid gamers will become avid readers. Robert Pondiscio also urges caution.

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  1. Can gaming encourage reading? Ah, that would be “no.”

    I understand that publishers believe they can make more money through video games. It’s a free market, and hey, more power to them. Video games are a lot of fun to play. Many kids are addicted to them, which is great for market share. Unlike crack and heroin, the suppliers of video games won’t be imprisoned, which simplifies the business model immensely, and cuts down on the budget for lawyers.

    However, video games suck up time. They also aren’t a “royal road to reading.” They’re a competitor to reading.

    I also now believe that one can assert that any human activity builds “critical thinking skills.”

  2. Warning: anecdote to follow.

    My son, age eight, and very ADHD, prefers reading the instructions for and on-screen errata on video games, most of them rated for teens. He asks for definitions and pronunciations constantly. He reads books occasionally, but loves games. He’s reading at about the sixth grade level, and will likely be a couple of grades higher at the end of the year.

    Many video games contain a fair amount of witty and complicated text. They’re by no means sufficient for turning out good readers, but they can be a useful tool to get reluctant readers to read more.