video games and reading

I was reading at Jenny D's site about the fourth grade reading slump. It's an interesting and concerning issue. It started me thinking about my son's reading abilities.

B has been playing Zelda for several weeks now. He is playing for several hours every day. I know, it screams bad mommy, but bear with me. My justifications are that it's way too hot to go outside right now, and he's using the book to play. The book is written for accomplished readers (let's say adults). It is not written for a second grade child. Also, my brother did the same thing. Literally all day, every day on the Atari. He has an IQ far above genius, and is a civil engineer. The evil games don't seem to have to done anything bad to his brain.

My husband has a slightly different view. He thinks the whole thing is horrible.

The other day he was helping B get through a tough spot in the game, and when dad couldn't figure it out either, B busted out the book. He found the page where he was, read it, did what it told him to, and moved on to the next level. Josh looked at me and said, "He can READ that?" Yep. "He UNDERSTANDS it?" Sure does.

I hate to say it, but Zelda has boosted my son's reading comprehension considerably. Just like Pokemon cards encouraged him to start reading in the first place. He had to read the cards to play with them. So he learned to read.

I think my point is that it is important for us to not just encourage our children to read, but encourage the things they enjoy reading. B would never, ever read a children's book. He will, however, read encyclopedias and video game books. So that's what I get him. His brother likes poetry books with large, bright pictures. So that's what he gets. His teachers may frown on hours of games (which doesn't happen during the school year, by the way) but I bet they'll appreciate the fact that the kids reading has improved over the summer.