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“Hazel's Journey to Independent Reading”

Games served as early exposure and motivational practice for reading for Hazel, starting with games designed intentionally to support reading skills for young children and eventually graduating into independent play with more general games that feature significant amounts of text.
 

Outcome
Growing into a strong, independent reader.


This outcome arises from the following 5 milestones over the span of 4 years, from 3 - 7 years-old:

DetailsPathway Details

Name: Hazel
Stage of Life: 3 - 7 years-old
Genres: Action, Adventure, Collecting, Communication, Fighting, Narrative, Open World, Role-Play, Sequencing, Simulation and Strategy
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii and iOS
 

 

Learning Letter Sounds

Hazel was exposed to first games through tablet play, including Endless Alphabet on the iPad, as early as 8 months, but starting around 2 -3 years old, her play with Endless Alphabet grew more directed and she started to demonstrate a clearer understanding of the concept of letters, including remembering and imitating the sounds that letters make, letter names, and the ability to recognize shapes of the letters.

Hazel learned that individual letters had names and sounds. She also learned that letters can combine to form words and was exposed to the meaning of a wide variety of words.
Hazel developed an early version of the ability to sound out letters one at a time in a word.

Activities: Hazel found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Endless Alphabet:

We also co-read many books with Hazel, ranging from simple board books featuring vocab words, like this one, to full story books.
More information

Learning Sight Words

Hazel began to develop a stronger sense of words, how they relate to sentences and the ability to recognize some words on sight.

At this age most of her reading exposure was still adults reading books aloud to her. Most games she played did not feature much on-screen text. Endless Reader provided exposure to the spelling and meaning of a number of common words, showing those words in context of written sentences.

Hazel learned how to recognize a number of sight words. She also learned how sentences are made up of separate words and was exposed to their basic structure.
Hazel gained early experience "reading" sentences in a highly scaffolded way. Endless Reader voices the full sentence out loud and provides extended animations that reflect the meaning of the on-screen sentences.

Activities: Hazel found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Endless Reader:

We read many books out loud to Hazel at this age. The Ant and Bee books stood out as part of her reading journey because each page features key words in a highlight color. When reading these books out loud, Hazel would try to read the highlighted words as her contribution to the reading.

Introduction to Game Dialogue

Many of the games before this that Hazel played had little text, mostly voiced text, or text that could be largely ignored as she played. As she began playing Pokémon™: Let’s Go, Eevee!, much of the play initially was her watching a parent play, with the parent fully narrating the game. As she became familiar with the game, Hazel began to increasingly take on the role of the controlling player but still was dependent on a parent to read on-screen text. Due to the extent of the dialogue and the menus, this was initially necessary for her to enjoy the game. As she continued to play, she began to recognise some words and dialogue on sight. As sometimes she wanted to play when a parent was not available, she was motivated to recognise text enough to be able to play on her own but still preferred an adult companion to voice the dialogue moments.

Hazel developed sight word skills related to navigating game menus.
Hazel grew to more strongly value the skill of reading dialogue as part of playing and making progress in games.

Co-reading

When Hazel started playing Stardew Valley initially, she was typically co-playing with a parent, who would play with her and do much of the reading in the game. As she became familiar with the game systems and comfortable making progress in the game on her own, she was motivated to play by herself, including reading character dialogue on her own and advancing the story elements of the game on her own without a parent reading the text out loud.

Hazel began to feel comfortable playing the game and reading the game text by herself without a parent co-playing alongside her and providing narration.

Independent Reading

When Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out in March 2020, Hazel was starting to transition from needing to co-play console video games to being able to play them on her own. A big part of this transition was her reading level and reading confidence. Animal Crossing: New Horizons stands out as the game where she was able to learn much of the gameplay on her own while reading the on-screen text.

Although the game does not provide voiced dialogue, the text is typically at a relatively low reading level and is chunked in approachable small bursts with high contextual interactions with characters. There is no time pressure and little in the way of irreversible or high-stakes interactions, so Hazel could take her time and skip over any parts she didn't yet understand without serious consequence to her game. A the same time, the game featured a lot of text interactions with other characters. This made the game a safe, quality space for her to practice reading and build confidence.

Hazel became confident that her reading skills were sufficient to play without adult assistance.
Hazel began to play completely independently, without asking for a adult to read text on the screen, even when exploring new features of the game.

Pathway Outcome

The culmination of the milestones in the pathway lead to Hazel growing into a strong, independent reader. We have described it as a linear journey, but of course, there is always a fair amount of back and forth between the games they played.

Along with the main outcome Hazel also changed in the following ways:

  • Behaviour: Hazel began to play completely independently, without asking for a adult to read text on the screen, even when exploring new features of the game.
  • Disposition: Hazel became confident that her reading skills were sufficient to play without adult assistance.
  • Disposition: Hazel began to feel comfortable playing the game and reading the game text by herself without a parent co-playing alongside her and providing narration.
  • Disposition: Hazel grew to more strongly value the skill of reading dialogue as part of playing and making progress in games.
  • Experience: Hazel gained early experience "reading" sentences in a highly scaffolded way. Endless Reader voices the full sentence out loud and provides extended animations that reflect the meaning of the on-screen sentences.
  • Knowledge: Hazel learned how to recognize a number of sight words. She also learned how sentences are made up of separate words and was exposed to their basic structure.
  • Knowledge: Hazel learned that individual letters had names and sounds. She also learned that letters can combine to form words and was exposed to the meaning of a wide variety of words.
  • Skill: Hazel developed sight word skills related to navigating game menus.
  • Skill: Hazel developed an early version of the ability to sound out letters one at a time in a word.

We focus on how games contribute to this outcome, but also include related activities that play a part of this journey:

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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