It may not be Garena Free Fire, BGMI, PUBG, which are hugely popular among youngsters, but some action video games are good for kids to learn to read.
A new study has found that reading can be improved with an action video game. The study findings have been published in the journal Nature Human Behavior. And no, it doesn’t mean you have to play Garena Free Fire, BGMI (Battlegrounds Mobile India), PUBG, Fortnite or other similar games, but actually some action video games are good for kids and enhance learning. Decoding letters into sound is an important point in learning to read, but it is not enough to master it. “Reading calls up some other essential mechanisms that we don’t necessarily think about, such as knowing how to move our eyes on the page or how to use our working memory to link words together in a coherent sentence,” says Daphne Bavelier. , a professor in the Psychology Section of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences (FPSE) of the UNIGE.
“It is known that these other skills, such as vision, attention use, working memory and cognitive flexibility, are enhanced by action video games,” explains Angela Pasqualotto, lead author of this study, which is based on her dissertation at the University of Amsterdam. . the Department of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences of the University of Trento headed by Professors Venuti and De Angeli.
To make this clear, a video game has been designed that combines action video games with mini-games that train various executive functions, such as working memory, inhibition and cognitive flexibility, functions that are recalled while reading. “The universe of this game is an alternate world in which the child, accompanied by his Raku, a flying creature, has to perform various missions to save planets and progress in the game,” adds Angela Pasqualotto.
The idea is to reproduce the components of an action game, without using violence, so that it is suitable for young children. “For example, the Raku flies through a meteor shower, moving around to dodge them or aiming at them to weaken their impact, while collecting useful resources for the rest of the game, kind of like you find in action video games.”
The scientists then worked with 150 Italian schoolchildren ages 8 to 12, divided into two groups: the first played the video game developed by the team and the second played Scratch, a game that teaches children to code. Both games require attention control and executive functions, but in different ways.
The action video game requires children to complete tasks within a time limit, such as memorizing a sequence of symbols or reacting only when the Raku makes a specific sound, while increasing the difficulty of these tasks based on the child’s performance. Scratch, the control game, requires planning, reasoning and problem solving. Children must manipulate objects and logical structures to establish the desired programming sequence.
“First, we tested the children’s ability to read words, non-words, and paragraphs, and we also conducted an attention test that measures the child’s attentional control, an ability that we know is trained by action video games,” explains Daphne Bavelier out.
The children then followed training with either the action video game or the control game, for six weeks, two hours a week under supervision at school. Children were tested in school by clinicians from the Laboratory for Observational Diagnosis and Education (UNITN).
Shortly after the training ended, the scientists repeated the tests on both groups of children. “We found a seven-fold improvement in attentional control in the kids who played the action video game compared to the control group,” says Angela Pasqualotto. Even more remarkable, the research team noted a marked improvement in reading not only in terms of reading speed but also in accuracy, while no improvement was seen in the control group.
This improvement in literacy occurs even though the action video game does not require any reading activity.
“What’s particularly interesting about this study is that we performed three more assessment tests six months, 12 months and 18 months after training. On each occasion, the trained children outperformed the control group, proving that these improvements were sustained,” says Angela Pasqualotto.
In addition, the Italian grades of the trained children improved significantly over time, demonstrating a positive improvement in learning ability. “So the effects are long-term, in line with the action video game reinforcing the ability to learn to learn,” says Daphne Bavelier. As part of the NCCR Evolving Language and in collaboration with Irene Altarelli (co-author of the article and researcher at LaPsyDE, University of Paris), the game will be adapted in German, French and English.
“When reading, the decoding is more or less difficult, depending on the language. For example, Italian is very transparent – each letter is pronounced – while French and English are quite opaque, resulting in quite different learning challenges. Reading in opaque languages requires the ability to learn exceptions, to learn how a variety of contexts affect pronunciation and requires a greater reliance on memorization,” says Irene Altarelli.
Will the benefits of action video games for reading acquisition extend to complex learning environments such as reading in French or English? This is the question that this research will help answer. In addition, the video game will be fully available at home, remotely, as well as taking reading and attention tests, to supplement school lessons, rather than freeing up time outside school hours.