Play Me a Story: Games Based on Children's Books

Article excerpt

After playing the hoard game Rainbow Fish with my then 4-year-old niece, Peyton, my sister asks, "Did you like this game, Peyton?"

"Yes. I don't have this book."

"We'll have to buy it the next time we're at the bookstore."

"Yes. Can we go right now, Mommy?"


During a recent spring semester, the students in my children's literature class played board games and card games based on children's stories and evaluated them for their educational value. Six students chose to play the Dr. Seuss Trivia Game. As they opened the game board, on which the spaces are represented by pictures of the covers of all of Dr. Seuss's books, one student remarked, "Gosh, I didn't know he had written so many books. I have not even heard of half of these."

After the game was over, another student suggested, "Let's play this again later in the semester after I have read more of the books!"

Playing games is a natural part of childhood. From the time that children are banes, when they begin playing peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek with caregivers, they benefit from the opportunities for social interaction and bonding that games provide, while learning a variety of skills. Whether a game provides a lesson in object permanence or addition and subtraction, it adds an element of fun to learning. These opportunities for learning through games do not have to end when a child goes to school Games are not only instructional tools but also valuable catalysts for motivation for students.

As I browsed in a toy store one evening a couple of years ago for a gift for my niece, I noticed a number of board games and card games based on children's stories, such as those based on Green Eggs and Ham (Geisel, 1960) and The Cat in the Hat (Geisel, 1957), as well as the Wizard of Oz Trivia Game and the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Trivia Game, to name a few. On another occasion in a bookstore, I noticed more story-related games: Rainbow Fish Game, Very Hungry Caterpillar Game, and Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse Game. Thinking that I must have been missing articles in professional journals about the use of such games in reading instruction and for reading motivation, I searched for articles and books about the subject, and although many articles have recently been published about the value of educational games--especially, computer games--none relate specifically to games based on stories. But if games are effective instructional tools in every other discipline, could they not be just as effective in reading and language arts?

Reading experts such as Savage (1998) and Ruddell (2002) identify motivation as being crucial to the development of readers. Ruddell identifies six types of internal motivations to read:

1. problem resolution in texts that allows the reader to feel successful as a problem solver;

2. prestige in books in which the reader identifies with a character who feels in control rather than controlled in an adult world;

3. aesthetic appreciation in books that highlight the beauty and pleasure of surroundings and relationships;

4. escape in books, which allows the reader to travel vicariously to new places and to experience the unknown;

5. intellectual curiosity in books, which leads readers to new discoveries about the world; and

6. understanding self in books, which leads the reader to consider her goals, hopes, and motivations. (pp. 228-229) Ruddell continues by identifying external motivators to be teacher expectations and peer recommendations and influence. The expectations you hold for children have a powerful effect on children's behavior and achievement in school. Your expectations for literary experiences direct and guide students' responses to text and their continuing relationships with books and reading. (p. 229)

Through games based on stories, students' motivations for reading can be enhanced. …