We adults seem to distrust reading games--or indeed, any learning games--as not being a very serious learning tool. I suppose that's
true; games that teach reading are probably way too much fun to be
serious. But they still manage to do a great job helping kids
learn how to read.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Reading is complex, so there isn't likely to be a one-size-fits-all way of teaching or practicing it, even where games are involved. Let's take a look at how games can help kids learn, and see what type would be the best fit for your child.
Think of the last time you played a good game. Did you feel happy? Energized? Were you laughing? Connecting with people? Games, play, and laughter are great motivators for anyone, but especially kids. When these are combined with learning, the effect can be pretty powerful.
However, just because a game is fun and involves reading, it doesn't mean that it will actually help your child learn. You need to start with choosing the right kind of reading game.
A good reading game can help kids either learn or practice reading skills. Either way, games should never be too difficult for the child's level. At most, they should be only slightly more challenging than what your child feels comfortable with. This will give kids something to work toward without frustrating them.
Here are a few types of reading games that can make a big difference for kids who are learning to read:
Language Games: Language games can be played with kids at all reading levels, but are especially helpful for very new readers. Children rely heavily on language and general knowledge as they figure out written words, and the stronger their language skills are, the more easily they will master reading areas like phonics and word families.
Phonemic Awareness Games: Similar to language games, phonemic awareness games show kids how to play with the sounds of language and change them around. They will need to know how to do this before they can work with printed letters and words, or attempt to work with phonics.
Word Family Games: Not only do the words in word families rhyme, they share the same written patterns (light, sight, night--but not bite). Word family games will give kids practice learning and recognizing these word patterns.
Phonics Games: Phonics games let kids play with written letters and letter groups to change words and sounds. Phonics is very important in learning to sound out words, and phonics play is a good way to give kids extra practice in this area.
Sight Words Games: Some words just don't follow typical rules. Sight word games help kids memorize these words, and have fun doing it.
Reading Comprehension Games: Even strong readers can have trouble making sense of what they read. Reading comprehension games give kids a fun reason to think about the meaning of what they are reading.
Reading Fluency Games: When kids read out loud smoothly, it is easier for them to understand the words. Reading fluency games give kids practice in reading more naturally.
Games for Varied Reading Skills: Some reading games give more general practice reading and learning new words. Readers of all levels can try these games to teach reading; just adjust the words in the games for your child's reading level.
For more information about any of these reading areas, you may also want to take a look at the articles in First Grade Reading.