Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Get your video-kid reading

Kids can be into video games and enjoy reading, too!

Your child loves video games but isn't a big reader? No problem. Here are some tips that will get your video-loving kid reading.

1) GO WITH THE FLOW. Studies show that kids are more apt to read things that interest them.

If video games are a huge interest for your child, try to work with that:
*Subscribe to a gaming magazine. There are tons of them, and they contain what gamers crave-tips to help them unlock secrets in their favourite games.

*Suggest gaming websites that have a lot of written instructions, or which require the player to type instructions in order to progress in the game. For instance, Dungeon Scroll is a new kind of hybrid game combining a word game with a RPG (role-playing game).

*Kids who like video games may also like comics and graphic novels. At websites like Make Beliefs Comix they can create their own comics online.

*There are some cool online literacy and math games at Bite-Size Literacy.

2) THINK LIKE A GAMER. If your child has a Nintendo DS, get him to use the PICTOCHAT function to type messages back and forth with his friends. From the DS's main screen, click on PICTOCHAT. It will bring up a screen and a mini keyboard your child can use to type messages.
How about PICTOCHAT Hide-and-Seek? Have one child hide and have his friend type messages via PICTOCHAT with clues to find him. (This game was developed by an eight-year-old boy who loves video games.)

3) GET HIM TYPING. It's a skill he needs for gaming anyway, and it will develop his literacy skills. Once kids can type, getting them to write stories and essays will be much easier since they'll be able to get their thoughts down as fast as their brain can come up with them.

Make sure the typing program you choose is QWERTY-based so they'll learn to use the Home Row. An excellent one (that worked for my child) is Dance Mat Typing, by the BBC.

4) SUGGEST ONLINE GAMES that include a literacy component. For instance, at Club Penguin, kids control a virtual "penguin" who plays games and can chat with other "penguins." In the Club Penguin book room there's a great typing game where the penguins can type a virtual book to earn all-important Club Penguin dollars.

5) GET YOUR CHILD BOOKS WITH SHORT BLOCKS OF TYPE AND LOTS OF IMAGES. Boys in particular like books with facts, lots of visuals and chunks of text.

Here are some suggestions:
*The Encyclopedia of Immaturity by Klutz.
*Guinness World Records
*Books on magic or featuring science experiments

6) CONSIDER V-BOOKS. This is a brand new genre in publishing, and it may be appealing to kids who like gaming. Kids read the book, and every few chapters there's an instruction from the writer to go to a website and input a password that lets the child see a video. The video supports the book in some way and furthers the plot. The v-books that are currently available (Skeleton Creek, by Patrick Carman, for instance) are too scary for most kids. However, he recently released Trackers, which is apparently less scary (although it's still pretty intense, from what I've seen). In any case, this is just the tip of the iceburg. This is clearly a new realm in publishing for kids and young adults, and within a very short time we're going to see an explosion in the number of books that cross the boundary between paper and technology. To check out Skeleton Creek and Trackers, visit the author's website. For a book series with a different type of online accompaniment, read The 39 Clues, by Peter Lerangis. Kids can go online ( to track down clues and enter a contest to win prizes.

7) SET SOME BOUNDARIES. There's no getting around it--you will have to set "screen-time" limits. Kids can't read if they're gaming all the time. How much will depend on your child, but some parents say no gaming during the week, and then two hours of screen-time a day on weekends.

This post is part of the Literacy Blog Tour (March 8-14, 2010) - welcome tourists! We hope you'll be back again and again.


Terry Doherty said...

Great ways to sneak in what you want and meet your child where he/she is. I admit, though, that I waffle on the pictochat ... Not sure I'm ready for the 8YO to be texting. We did find a neat story game, though that I think will engage her ... once we actually GIVE her the DS!

MotherReader said...

Thank you for these suggestions. My daughter is currently enjoying the game Little Big Planet, for which the gamer designs levels and has to write clues for the player. I do feel like it's sneaking in a little value to the time spent on the Playstation.

Jen Robinson said...

Thanks so much for contributing, Joyce! I'm a ways away from having to worry about this, but I love the diversity (and occasional sneakiness) of your suggestions. I think that subscribing to gaming magazines makes a lot of sense...

Thanks so much!

Esme Raji Codell said...

I really liked your suggestions, and appreciated the reminder about setting limits on screen time. I know from my own experience that this is easier said than done, but worth the effort!

The Book Chook said...

Great ideas!

Betty said...

Great list of ideas. It's really important to mix it up as my kids like a variety of books. They also enjoy reading comic books. There is a new series of Disney comic books coming out in April starting with Disney Fairies: Prilla’s Talent. My kids are so excited as they have read a lot of Disney books and seen many of the movies. Whatever keeps them reading makes me happy.