Chapter 41: Think Inside the Box

You can never have enough games!

(Click for the Complete Online Parent Reading Guide)

We’ve mentioned playing boxed games before – more than once! – as a way of making reading practice fun and engaging. A few of the best word games were reviewed in Chapter 22, “Words, Words, Everywhere!” and Chapter 38, “Make It a Family Affair,” suggested starting a family game night or including reading games in a little “staycation.”

But, what if your little one is starting to get a bit suspicious? Like the astute child who figures out that mom is sneaking vegetables into every cake and casserole, your child might be getting wary of games that seem a bit too much like reading homework. If so, it may be time to get a little sneaky.

Reading games that don’t seem to be about reading

Some reading games are pretty obvious, like The Reading Game, for instance, or Wordical or – the real enthusiasm killer – Reading for Detail. But there are others out there that are a little better at hiding their educational bent. If your child is starting to balk at “reading games,” try some of these instead:

  • The Smarty Pants series – This series of card games comes in different grade levels and can be played alone or in a group. The brightly illustrated cards ask kids to solve brain teasers and answer trivia questions – which they have to read, of course!
  • Compose Yourself – Do you remember that musical training helps with reading mastery? Well, this simple card game actually lets kids compose their own songs and then hear them played out loud.
  • Spontaneous – This is another musical game that also involves reading directly. Players have to draw cards with words on them and then incorporate those words into a song they make up on the spot.
  • Scattagories Scattagories challenges players to come up with words that all start with the same letter and fit the given category. This is a great game for kids who need practice with phonological awareness (matching letters with the sounds they make).
  • Burble – This fast-paced game requires players to be the first to blurt out a word after a card is turned. The word has to start with the same sound as the word pictured on the card. Again, a great way for your child to practice phonological awareness.

Not a reading game? Not a problem!

Even games that are not designed to help a child with reading can be used for reading practice. This can work with games you already have, so it’s a great ploy if your child is getting a little suspicious and has started to think that everything is now about reading.

You can turn any game into reading practice by having your child read the game instructions out loud, write out hints or clues that are a necessary part of the game and by reading the turn-over direction cards on traditional family box games like Monopoly and Life. Taboo is another game-night standard that works well for reading practice simply because every card has a list of words on it that must be read before the game action can start. A family karaoke night can also be ideal for reading practice since it combines songs and tunes your child probably already knows with seeing and reading those words on your TV screen.

Think outside the box, too!

Traditional do-it-yourself family games can be about reading, too. Games that can be tweaked to incorporate reading include Treasure Hunts with written clues, Reverse Charades where a team of players must communicate with notes while they act out a book or movie title, or even that long-time favorite of bored children everywhere, Hangman.