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Games motivate students to read beyond their grade level

Stephanie CarmichaelApril 3, 2017

Kids spend a lot of time playing video games, and it’s paying off for their education.

Hannah Gerber, a literacy researcher at Sam Houston State University, observed 10th grade students and found while they only read about 10 minutes a day in English class—they spent 70 minutes reading at home. They’re not devouring novels but instead websites and guides devoted to their favorite video games, like Minecraft or World of Warcraft.

Many of these sites are written at grades 8-11 or higher on the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease scale, with 2-6 percent “academic” jargon.

“It’s situated knowledge,” Constance Steinkuehler, a games researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Wired. “They see a piece of language, a turn of phrase, and they figure it out.”

Steinkuehler asked middle and high school students who struggled with reading to examine texts (some containing language on a college level) from sites about their favorite games. They read them with no help and high accuracy.

Alfonso Gonzalez, a middle school teacher from Washington, told Classcraft this year in an interview, “The Lexile level of some of the wikis that people have created are actually really high. So kids have to have pretty decent reading skills to advance in [World of Warcraft]. Because when they get stuck, I tell them look it up.”

This motivation is carrying over to writing as well, with kids contributing to game sites and discussions online.

“They have an audience that knows their stuff, and they expect you to be knowledgeable,” Steinkuehler said.

Photo credit: Uber Images /