Action Games Can Help Dyslexic Children Read Faster, Study Claims

Researchers found that children playing action vs non-action mini-games could read faster.

A scientific paper is making the bold claim that – as its title states – “Action Video Games Make Dyslexic Children Read Better”. The study claims to show that after twelve hours of playing video games, those dyslexic children who played action games (versus non-action games) had improved reading speed – without any loss of accuracy – comparable to or even more so than children with one year of “highly demanding traditional reading treatments”.

The theory is that because action video games have been shown to improve attention abilities, that effect is transferrable to reading, which requires sustained attention. But does it hold up?

It's important to note that the study only had twenty participants, split into two groups of ten. Each group was apparently similar to the other with regards to measurements of reading and attention, but twenty dyslexic children is not a sample that adequately represents the entire dyslexic population. So we can't conclude that this is a likely effect for all people with dyslexia.

These children all played the same game, Rayman Raving Rabbids on the Wii, but with one group assigned action mini-games and the other assigned non-action mini-games. Again, one game is not representative of all action/non-action video games, and so we can't conclude that all action games will have this effect.

Of course, these studies are necessarily limited. For one thing, twelve hours of Rayman Raving Rabbids mini-games means a level of repetition many children would probably not normally undertake. Perhaps it's that repetition that improved their reading speed, and not just the act of playing an action game.

But the concept is certainly interesting. If it turned out to be true that children with dyslexia were better off playing a few action video games than undertaking special reading treatment, that would definitely be positive. But we need more research, with larger groups of participants and a wider variety of games, before we can start to take this suggestion seriously.