It doesn't feel like good parenting to let your child play a video game instead of reviewing those well-worn flashcards, does it? But new research says that video games might actually be the key to teaching your child to read, especially for children with dyslexia.

The secret of video games

Many parents find themselves encouraging their children to spend extra time studying and less time on recreational activities, like games. But while it may seem counterintuitive, a recent study notes that video games with lots of action actually enhance sight-to-sound associations in the player's brain. 

Reading, of course, requires constant sight to sound associations -- you first see a word, then translate that image into a sound. Similarly, when playing a video game, the player has to alternate their glance all across a computer screen, while taking in audio cues and coordinating a hand response. 

By practicing these associations in the game, the players are essentially "exercising" these parts of their brains, not unlike if they were reading!

A major help for dyslexic students

What makes this truly astounding, though, is how much this can help dyslexic children.

People with dyslexia are significantly slower than the average person at correctly responding to sound following visual stimulation. Since these children have a disorder that hinders their ability to read overall, playing video games could be a way to strengthen those skills without the frustration or anxiety that comes with reading.

This isn't just a theory -- in 2013, researchers invited children with dyslexia to play video games for nine sessions, 80 minutes a day, for a total of 12 hours. They tested the children in reading, phonological, and attention skills both before and after the gaming. And the results were stunning!

While non-action games didn't make much difference, the research notes that “We found that only playing action video games improved children's reading speed, without any cost in accuracy, more so than 1 year of spontaneous reading development and more than or equal to highly demanding traditional reading treatments.”

Can you imagine being told that 12 hours of action-packed video games would be more effective than your school's new state-of-the-art reading program? 

Video games with lots of action actually enhance sight-to-sound associations in the player's brain.

Going beyond traditional methods

Of course, while your child might be excited to hear that they have a good reason for playing lots of video games, it's important to remember that these methods aren't for everyone. 

As Vanessa Harrar, who authored the study on responding between sight and sound, told Fox News: “It's more about…finding the right training for each person.” 

That said, this research could very well lead to a program that gets your child ready to read by building sight to sound flexibility, as well as left-right awareness and a host of other abilities. Action video games that focus on specific reading skills would fit very well, and as more research comes out, it's likely that some computer programmers will rise to the challenge.

Key Takeaways:

Studies show that action games can increase reading speed.
Effects were greater than or equal to traditional reading treatments.
These skills are especially helpful in children with dyslexia.

Most importantly, teachers and parents alike will have to rise above traditional methods of teaching reading and make room for the possibility that a game, which seems to have nothing to do with reading, may be exactly the key to learning to read.

Learning Success System believes in trying alternate methods to figure out what's best for your child, too. Find out what foundational skills need strengthening, and take our assessement by clicking here!

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