It certainly doesn't feel like good parenting/teaching to let your child play his/her new video game for the umpteenth time, instead of reviewing those well-worn phonics flashcards.
In fact, many parents may even get the feeling (or be told out right) that their child's teachers suspect them of practicing exactly this sort of parenting.
Thus, they may go overboard to be proactive in helping their child learn. No parent wants a school blaming them for their child's academic underperformance.
If this is you, you're totally normal. You're a caring, concerned, and probably frustrated parent. And those flashcards just keep looking more and more worn out, without any great changes in your child's report cards. You're doing what you're told to do, and it's frustrating. We get it. There are a ton of parents like you.
So now about that video game... New research is saying that video games might be key in teaching your child to read. As you know, if you've spent any time on our website before, at Learning Success we like to talk about the foundational skills that don't look like reading but are essential to reading.
For a child with dyslexia, certain foundational skills are underdeveloped, one of those being the ability to switch between sight and sound. Reading requires constant sight to sound associations: example, you first see a word (or letter), then translate that image into a sound.
The research mentioned above showed that people with dyslexia were significantly slower than the average person to correctly respond to a sound, if it followed visual stimulation.
Better than flashcards
What does this have to do with video games? It just so happens that video games with lots of action tend to practice exactly this skill. A child may have to alternate his/her glance all across a computer screen, while taking in audio cues, and coordinating a hand response. 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. The results were stunning. First, the non-action games really weren't so helpful.
However, “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 (and highly demanding) reading program? And those well-worn flashcards?
Going beyond traditional methods
What do you do with this information? What to do with those flashcards is up to you, but we're far more concerned with these amazing foundational skills that researchers keep repeating are critical to learning to read.
We're quite interested in 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. We want your child to practice the skills that come before reading can occur, so that reading can happen naturally.
It just turns out, action video games might fit well into such a program. Of course, it would help if someone out there was making engaging action-filled video games, focusing on specific skills needed for a child with dyslexia. After all, many parents right now might wince thinking about the current offerings of action-filled games. It may be difficult to sift through to games that you feel are age-appropriate for your child. However, as more research comes out, there's reason to hope there will be computer programmers who rise to the challenge.
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.
As Vanessa Harrar, who authored the study on responding between sight and sound, told Fox News, “For me, it’s more about… finding the right training for each person.”
Sign up for our course to learn more about the foundational skills that critical to reading and how you can begin teaching them to your child now.