Raising Summer Readers Tip #31: Make some time for playing board games this summer — they can promote literacy as well!

images-1Board games often get lost in the shuffle of technology and outdoor summer fun. However, they are great for down time, family bonding, promoting sharing and cooperative work, and even nurturing problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They also can promote literacy!

Here are three tips for using games to promote literacy this summer:

  1. Encourage your kids to play classic board games that directly tie in literacy. The games on this list demand substantial reading throughout the game. Many of them actually require the reading (and comprehension) of spaces, cards, and/or directions on every turn of play. Others build vocabulary, spelling, sight word and word decoding skills (among numerous other skills beyond reading such as math and deductive reasoning).
    – Apples to Apples
    – A to Z Jr.
    – Balderdash
    – Blurt!
    – Clue
    – Cranium
    – Life
    – Monopoly
    – Pictionary
    – Scattergories
    – Scattergories Categories
    – Scrabble
    – Sorry!
    – Trivial Pursuit Junior Edition
    – Upwords
    – Zingo (with various literacy skill versions)
  2. If your kids are playing an unfamiliar game or a game that they haven’t played in a while, take advantage of the reading opportunity that game instructions provides. It can be tempting to skim directions quickly and then paraphrase for our kids. Instead, take the extra time to read the actual instructions aloud together (it doesn’t matter who is doing the reading). This requires comprehension, perhaps re-reading of certain parts that aren’t clear, maybe asking questions to clarify certain rules. Like the reading aloud of books, even reading aloud instructions gives parents a chance to model the importance of thinking while we read and monitoring our understanding (e.g., I didn’t understand what that part meant, let’s read it again to see if we can get it.).
  3. When possible, give some attention to the game instructions for other games that you play together, not just those for unfamiliar games. Take a few minutes to examine the instructions. Do your kids know what type of text they are reading? (It’s called ‘procedural’ or ‘how to’ text). What are the text features that you notice in the written description of the game’s rules (e.g., statement of objective, materials section, ordered steps for play, use of present tense verbs)? How is the information organized (e.g., materials sections comes before the steps for play)? Talk about how the written rules for various games are similar and different. Help your child evaluate the rules critically. Are there any parts that aren’t clear? How could the description of the playing rules be improved? Take it a step further by discussing other types of procedural texts that contain similar features as game instructions, such as recipes, craft books, and science books. How are these other types of texts similar to game instructions? How are they different?Procedural text is actually one of the five “big” categories of types of informational (nonfiction) texts that kids need to learn how to read and write well, so a good amount of experience reading game instructions actually benefits their reading success!And remember, most board games are easy to take along with you, so occasionally try bringing one with you on a picnic or to the beach. While your kids might not choose to play a board game at home, a game can suddenly be that much more appealing when offered in a different setting!!
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