Second and third grade students are showing a growing affinity for tablets, phone, and other tech gadgets, but this exposure to technology comes at a price: Although more and more kids have access to gadgets, their reading levels are dropping. Kids are swapping out reading for video games and Netflix as their main sources of entertainment.
If you’re worried about your little one’s literacy, have no fear! There are a number of reading games and apps that will engage your tech-savvy child and help them become avid readers. These games span multiple grade-levels and learning types so you can find the best reading resource to suit your child.
Text-based Role-playing Games
Growing up, I was an avid fan of text-based MMORPGs. MUD (multi-user dungeons/domain) games trace their lineage to the inception of the internet. These are text-based adventure games in which you access locations, features and interactions only through text commands.
Although their use and development has dwindled due to graphical advancements in gaming, they are still potent tools to get children fascinated with reading. MUD games are essentially choose-your-own-adventure novels. For the young adventure lover, these MUD games are a must.
All you have to do with most games is create an account to enjoy countless hours of immersive written content. Two of my personal favorites are Achaea and Discworld MUD.
Achaea is best for kids who enjoy a graphical interface and an MMO-like experience. It is the more popular and appealing of the two given its informative user interface and music features. Achaea is still continually updated and an excellent choice in terms of modern MUDs.
Discworld MUD, on the other hand, is not as pretty to look at. What it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in lore; Discworld MUD is based on the fantasy series Discworld by Terry Pratchett, one of the UK’s best-selling novelists.
This game is a must for burgeoning lovers of fantasy novels and lore. Simply sign up, sign in, and get started!
Template Word Games
Everyone has heard of the game Madlibs at some point or another. This hilarious game started as a humble magazine series in 1958. Since then, the simple template word game has become a part of many children’s upbringings.
The game is straightforward enough that any child can follow its premise, and application versions of the game contain hundreds upon hundreds of choices for unlimited play time. Simply insert whatever wacky term you can think of which applies to the part of speech labelled and the game becomes a canvas with infinite possibilities.
A game of Madlibs is often comprised of a couple of laughs, a couple of words, and, most importantly, the use of differing vocabulary words and parts of speech, making Madlibs a perfect exercise for children.
I didn’t appreciate the finesse and strategy a game like Scrabble requires until I started dabbling with the mobile application. Scrabble is not only a game of word knowledge, but a game of wits as well.
The board game alone is sold in 121 countries and in 29 languages, and every game requires at least a couple of trips to the dictionary. Scrabble is both a great sit-down game for the family and a great team effort when played on the mobile platform. It even inspired a mobile gaming platform!
Download: Scrabble for Android (Free) | iOS (Free)
PBS Show Applications
Based off of the popular PBS Kids show, the Super Why! website is a great early resource for reading games and exercises.
Games based off of popular children shows are a great resource for children learning to read; kids love the familiarity of the characters and their video game counterparts are largely educational. Super Why! provides great games through their website along with mobile applications. The same goes for such shows as Cyberchase and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, although they span different educational subjects.
Download: Super Why! for Android ($2.99) | iOS ($2.99)
With the growing prevalence of desktop computers, typing games can be a great resource for spelling. One of the most impressive typing games I’ve come across is ZType by Dominic Szablewski of Phoboslab.
From the music to the visuals, ZType is a downright fun and impressive game. The only controls are your keyboard keys and the SPACE bar which clears the space close to the player.
Games like these not only increase typing proficiency, but implicitly teach orthographic spelling, as opposed to phonetic.
Interactive eBooks are the perfect marriage of reading and technology. One of the most popular examples of this genre is Alice, an interactive eBook based on the book Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol.
Making use of your phone or tablet’s graphical and gyroscope functions, every page is a game of its own.
This high-quality, well done applications would be a delight for any future reader not yet ready to handle the density and silliness of Lewis Carrol’s work. If you’re looking for more interactive eBooks, check out one of the several repositories scattered around the internet.
Bouncing ball videos are best known for their use in karaoke, but their practice extends to more than the stage. Read-along games using the bouncing ball method are sure methods to improve a young reader’s understanding of words. Although online read-along videos using the bouncing ball method are fairly sparse, you can use this technique at home when reading aloud with a child.
The greatest feature present in these videos is their speed settings. YouTube allows you to change the speed of the video, thereby changing the speed which the ball moves. Shut off the sound and read the text yourself for an orderly and entertaining reading experience.
Extra: The Reading Rainbow Skybrary Series
Although this application may not be filled with educational games, it’s instead filled with educational content based on the successful children’s series Reading Rainbow. For those of us who were lucky enough to enjoy the show as children, this new series is a must for the younger generation.
The Reading Rainbow Skybrary application is a trial-based service which allows access to hundreds of books, videos and voice-over content for children. You can also access great content from Reading Rainbow through their YouTube channel which contains a plethora of informative videos for kids (and adults) to enjoy.
Along with the Reading Rainbow Skybrary application, the Reading Rainbow Skybrary School service gives students access to a virtual library of quality reading and voice-over material along with curriculum features.
The children’s show Reading Rainbow has also been rebroadcast since August 1st of last year, and is available on Netflix.
These services, along with the new content being created by one of TV’s most beloved children’s shows, are a great resource to instill a deep and lifelong love of reading. But you don’t have to take my word for it.