University of Geneva and University of Trento researchers have tested an action video game for children which would enhance their reading skills. The study was published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour. The study demonstrated improved reading abilities after just twelve hours of training. This achieves persist over time to a point that language school grades are seen to improve more than a year after the end of training.
Decoding letters into sound is a key point in learning to read. But it is not enough to master it.
A child-friendly action video game to improve learning
A video game was designed which combines action video games with mini-games. These games train executive functions such as working memory and cognitive flexibility which are needed during reading. The game reproduced the components of an action game without incorporating violence to make it suitable for young children.
Scientists worked with 150 Italian schoolchildren aged 8 to 12 and divided them into two groups. The first group played the video game developed by the team. The second group played Scratch which is a game that teaches children how to code. These two games required attentional control and executive functions in different ways.
The action video game needed children to perform tasks within a time limit, like remembering a sequence of symbols. It can be responding only when the Raku makes a specific sound and increases the difficulty of these tasks according to the child’s performance. Scratch is the control game and needs planning. Children have to manipulate objects and logical structures to establish the desired programming sequence.
Long-term improvement in reading skills
After the end of the training, scientists observed a clear enhancement in reading. This happens not only in terms of reading speed but also in accuracy. These improvements happened even when any reading activity during the action of the video game.