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Apr 27 / Audra Jackson

Motivating Kids to READ Using Games (G6)

Syntha Green

We can all agree that reading is an important life skill; we use it every day in many different ways. We read signage, we check our email, stocks, read the closed-caption feed on the TV at the gym, and read labels on clothes. We all want our children to be able to do these things and more; sometimes we even dare to hope we are raising a reader, a special person who goes out of his or her way to read everything – brings home piles of books from the library, reads the paper, and would even read the cereal box if that was on the table. I am lucky to be such a person. I call it my superpower, and here’s one way I became a top-notch reader: My parents played games with me.

Some of you reading this are intrigued, but some of you are surely scoffing, thinking perhaps there was a misprint, a typo? I kid you not. One way I became an excellent reader, which in turn led to my becoming a librarian today, is that my parents played games with me.

We played letter recognition games when I was a toddler.  Walking down the street or driving in the car we looked for letters – that big red K was the first letter I learned because we apparently drove by Kmart a lot. Letters are everywhere, say them, point them out to your child, do a happy dance when they point them out to you. Are you in a store or library with an alphabet rug? Take the time to play a game: call out letters and have your child find them. Sing the alphabet song as you hop from letter to letter. When they’ve got the alphabet down, have them think of words that start with that letter. Try playing in their food – drawing letters in pudding, or building a letter out of carrot sticks or Cheerios.

Play games like I packed my suitcase. This kind of game can help with memory and retention as well.

On car trips, play bingo, try to find license plates with all 26 letters, or try to find a plate from each state. Almost anything can become a game.

Play board games with cards kids have to read like:



Apples to Apples -there’s a Jr version too!



Or try something like the Fairy Tale Spinner game where you collect pieces you use to make up a story once you’re at the end. Telling stories is just as important as reading them. This was my daughter’s favorite game for a very long time.

Don’t forget video games (I know some of you think I’ve really gone crazy now). Video games require reading skills, some more than others.

In Animal Crossing there is a lot of reading as characters talk to each other, buy things, collect items, work at a job, build a house, and more. Some games have long, involved storylines that have actually helped struggling readers get better, because the game depends on reading. We are aiming for basic comprehension here. Sparking a child’s curiosity in a digital format can lead to an interest in books about the subject.

Non-book reading is just as essential as book reading. Try baseball cards, comic books, magazines, the funny pages, jokes and riddles. If your child is reading it, it counts!


Want to explore non-book reading? Try these articles:


Reichert, M. (2008). Can video games encourage reading? The Guardian. Retrieved from

Scholastic. (n.d.). 10 non-book ways to get your child reading. Retrieved from


Want to learn more that will help reluctant readers? Try these:

Miller, D. (2009). The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. San
Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Patterson, J. (2011, September 28). How to get your kid to be a fanatic reader. CNN Opinion.
Retrieved from

Rappaport, H. (2012). On the Rights of Reading and Girls and Boys. Horn Book Magazine, 88(3),

Sullivan, M. (2010). Serving boys through reader’s advisory. Chicago, IL: American Library

Sutton, R. (2007). An interview with Jon Scieszka. Horn Book Magazine, 83(5), 445-455.

Zbaracki, M. D. (2008). Best books for boys: A resource for educators. Westport, CN: Libraries