“So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.” — Roald Dahl
Ask the children you know and they will tell you that they watch television as much as they can. Teachers and parents have the power to make reading and books just as rewarding for kids as watching television is. When teachers want to help children love reading, they often decide to create reading games for kids, which can range from reading for points or reading a certain amount of books. When these games have intrinsic motivation at their heart, they can be successful for literacy development.
Why reading is its own reward
Literacy expert Donalyn Miller writes and speaks regularly on why reading needs to be its own reward. She shares that when children focus on a reward, they don't choose books for any reason except to receive the reward. This slows their literacy development because the growth lies in the child connecting personally to why he or she chose a book and how he or she reads the book. So it is important to create reading games for kids that help them communicate to themselves, their teacher and their peers why they choose books and how they read them differently depending on the genre or text difficulty. When teachers create reading games for kids that allow them to share the books they read with each other and motivate another reader to read a new book, they create peer motivation that can reinforce itself.
Using technology to make reading fun
Technology can be used by children to create something entirely new and share it with their community. Inspired by Google's idea to allow employees to spend 20 percent of their working time on their own ideas, some teachers have created a reading game for kids that helps them find their passions, read about them and share them in a unique way. This amazing idea is known as Genius Hour, where students have one hour to think about an idea, read about it and then create a presentation to share with the class on an iPad. Students who use genius hour regularly become quite adept at creating slide shows from apps like Explain Everything. This kind of technology facility improves literacy development significantly because students are connecting with reading and retelling or reshaping their learned information to create something new. This knowledge then becomes permanent.
Reading games for kids that work
Although teachers should make up their own games that work well with the particular group of children in their own classrooms each year, there are a few reading games for kids that can be used to start off the year and as templates for building others:
- Have kids create a board game using characters from a series as game pieces. Players move around the board by choosing cards that challenge and reward characters based on settings and plot from the books.
- Kids can create a Book Jeopardy game where answers are on cards and players must figure out the question.
- A great way to get kids thinking about genres and expanding their reading is to challenge them to read one book from every genre and chart those books as they read.
Much of the research done on how to make reading fun finds the same important factors must exist: time to read, access to books, personal choice in reading, and a way to share what has been read. When developing reading games for kids, teachers should be sure to make reading and personal choice the focus of the activity. Children who read for a reward are reading because they have to and not because they have a passion. Develop the passion first and let the fun of reading take hold.
Learn about the UT Arlington M.Ed. in Literacy Studies online program.
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