Gaming and Literacy: Board and Video Games Serve as a Link to Literacy

By Alire, Camila | American Libraries, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Gaming and Literacy: Board and Video Games Serve as a Link to Literacy


Alire, Camila, American Libraries


It was another resounding success for ALA's second annual National Gaming Day @ your library, November 14. Much to the chagrin of some of my colleagues, I have always been a strong proponent of gaming, especially for teens and preteens. Gaming activities are a successful way to bring reluctant teens and preteens into the library. Something similar was said about how Harry Potter books started young people reading again.

Seize the fun

I support gaming because of its link to literacy, and literacy is part of my advocacy message this year. When conferring with ALA Literacy Officer Dale Lipschultz, I found that learning, understanding, and playing games demands fine-tuned, high-tech literacy skills. She shared that gaming at the library differs from gaming at home because the library provides a print-rich social setting for reading, learning, and playing. Lipschultz added that gaming in libraries also provides a social and safe venue for learning and playing.

Early research on gaming demonstrates that playing board and video games in a print-rich environment helps teens and preteens develop complex literacy skills and succeed in and out of school (What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, James Paul Gee, Macmillan, 2003; Educational Leadership, September 2009).

You need to be able to read and learn as you play board and video games to fully participate and move up to a game's next level, or level up. Gamers need strong literacy skills to learn the rules, sort through conflicting information, make informed decisions, and respond to the consequences of those decisions.

Activity for all

We've also learned that gaming is not just for teens or preteens. When preparing for a reporter's interview about gaming, I learned that the Old Bridge (N.J.) Public Library enticed its older adult users to become computer literate by introducing them to gaming. Not only did the seniors take to the activity in their library, but they also wanted to continue their gaming activities during and after computer literacy classes. …

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