Reading and Video Games
There may be good news to offer for parents who are looking to boost their kids’ reading skills alongside traditional learning. According to the article, “European study finds action games can help a child’s reading ability” by Ben Cousins of CTV News, researchers in Italy and Switzerland found that playing 2 hours of action video games per week can show long-term improvements in reading. Of course, the label ‘action game’ can be broad, and we should be mindful to keep games appropriate for children.
The study was published in Nature Human Behavior, and according to the article it, “divided 150 Italian schoolchildren aged eight to 12 into two groups: one group to play an action video game the researchers created, and another group to play a video game designed to teach kids how to code.” The action game is described in the article as simulating some traditional aspects of games geared towards teenagers and adults, excluding violence. Children were tasked with solving puzzles and more with a time limit.
Cousins mentioned that the game’s intent was not to teach reading, but it had tasks that could be related to reading that worked skills such as working memory and cognitive flexibility. In terms of the methodology, the children played the game for two hours per week with supervision at school for six weeks.
The article stated that unlike those who played the coding game, the children who played the action game showed significant improvements in reading speed, accuracy, and attention to detail. Getting down to specifics, Angela Pasqualotto, first author of the study and PhD student at the Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science at the University of Trento in Italy stated, “We found a seven-fold improvement in attentional control in the children who played the action video game compared to the control group.” She also said, “What is particularly interesting about this study is that we carried out three further assessment tests at six months, 12 months, and 18 months after training. On each occasion, the trained children performed better than the control group, which proves that these improvements were sustained.”
As a bonus, it was also found that the grades of children who participated in the action game improved over time, which may imply an increase in learning abilities. Once again, even with stimulating and even educational video games, they should not serve as a replacement for traditional learning. But certain action games, particularly those with puzzles and that have more mentally-stimulating content may be beneficial in the long term kept to a few hours per week.