Getting kids to read can be a challenge. When my oldest started school she wanted nothing to do with it. I wasn’t sure why, both her father and I are big readers. From the time she was an infant her room was filled with kid’s books. Books that were religiously read to her every night at bedtime. She seemed to enjoy it, often asking for just one more before bed. But, when it came time for her to learn how to read on her own there was no interest. At least not until Video Games helped my child discover the joy of reading. Here’s how it happened…
How Video Games Helped my Child Discover the Joy of Reading
Part of me thinks the trouble with learning was due to age. Kids are asked to pick up things like reading and math earlier than ever in school. Kindergarten used to be about learning your colors and the routines of school. Now its pretty much the new first grade and since Brookes birthday fell in June she was turning five while most of her classmates were turning six.
Part of the problem might have been stress. Brooke never went to daycare nor did she go to pre-school. Going to school and being forced to sit in one spot and work was like being thrown into the deep end and told to swim. Part of this was my fault, Brooke was my first and I was completely unprepared when it came to Kindergarten. When I thought about Kindergarten I thought about what it used to be like – kids playing dress up, learning to count to 10 and name the colors of the rainbow. I was completely caught off guard by ‘Sight Words’ and counting to 100.
To say we struggled was an understatement, every week brought a new set of words to memorize. Every night was filled with flash cards and tears. Sometimes she completely refused to even try. By the time the end of the year came, I had given up. The constant sight word pressure was doing nothing but drive her farther away from reading. Her teacher had already told us it would be best to hold her back. I agreed and the remainder of the year was less stressful for everyone. I let Brooke relax over the summer hoping that by the time the new school year started things would be better.
Kindergarten Take Two
It wasn’t, not really. The second year of Kindergarten was even worse in some ways but not because Brooke refused to read. She was doing quite a bit better with reading. She was retaining far more of the sight words then she had the year before – but not enough to make her teacher happy and to make matters worse she didn’t get along with her teacher.
There were ugly notes home, parent/teacher conferences where the teacher was telling me how horrible my child was. I was often left confused and upset because I knew she was doing better and I knew she wasn’t the child this teacher was describing. Thankfully, we managed to squeak by and be passed on to first grade. I found myself dreading the approaching school year. I didn’t think I could handle another year of tears and ugly letters home.
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Video Games Helped My Child
But something happened that summer, something I would never have dreamed of. Brooke gained an interest in video games. In particular, she grew interested in a game called Spore. It’s a silly game where you create a creature and colonize a world. At first, she would call us over and we would read out the quest instructions for her. As time went on we couldn’t get to her fast enough to make her happy, I would be doing the dishes,or helping her baby sister.
Brooke was irritated at first but when I pointed out that if she learned to read she wouldn’t need our help it was like a spark went off. Suddenly she was interested. Brooke wanted to play this game so much that learning to read became a priority in life. She asked me to read labels to her, she started reading the books at bedtime and pointing out signs at the grocery store. By the end of summer, she called us over only when very large words appeared on the screen.
Finally a Light at the end of the Tunnel
I was amazed, other parents told me that video games were bad, that they were a virtual babysitter that would ruin my child. Clearly, I believe parents should be careful about the content their kids consume in games but it is also clear that video games can be quite useful. They were a motivational tool that had great results for us. Brooke played that silly game all summer long, when she finished the first game I bought her the expansion packs, I was willing to do whatever it took to keep her reading.
First Grade & Beyond
By the time she started first grade, she was having no trouble reading the words required of her in school. There were no tears, no frustrations, none of the troubles of years past. I was so happy and relieved. I wanted my kids to enjoy school, I wanted them to enjoy learning and I had feared that all this trouble learning to read would turn her away from those dreams.
Brooke is now in second grade, currently, she reads at a 5th-grade level. She’s been awarded a reading accolade twice and reads novels. In particular, the Warrior Series by Erin Hunter has captured her attention and sparked in her a true love of storytelling. She is still a gamer but now, she is also a reader and for that, I will always be grateful for how Video Games helped my child.