ByKen McDonnell, writer at
Now Loading's sentimental Irishman. I can't stop playing Overwatch, please send help.
Ken McDonnell

Whether it be the negative attention generated by cosplay or the deaths associated with the art form, people are quick to latch onto the stereotypical notions and negative aspects of video games. But, as gamers ourselves, we're fully aware of their worth and how games can have remarkably positive impacts on our lives.

However, perhaps even the most avid gamer might not be aware of how games are transforming the modern library and improving children's ability to read.

Library Gamers: Video Games Are Changing How Children Learn To Read

The world is constantly changing, but nothing changes faster than technology. The influx of electronic devices and e-readers have transformed how the average person reads. Therefore, for many of us who've left school and college behind, a library may no longer feel like a modern commodity.

Why take a trip down to the local book repository when you could simply download every book, like, ever? These are the questions librarians across the U.S. had to ask themselves in order to adapt to the changing market. And they've found their answer in video games.

Excerpt from 'The Swapper'
Excerpt from 'The Swapper'

A rather fascinating conversation took place between scholars and librarians who have studied the beneficial aspects of including video games amongst the shelves of books in libraries. Let me break down what was revealed.

According to a study published in Library Journal in 2012, 15 percent of libraries around the U.S. lend games out to library cardholders. That number has most certainly increased since. But while these statistics are impressive, figures showed that even more people were spending time playing the games in the actual building. And as a result, more books were flying off the shelves.

Sandy Farmer: It's a primary part of our service that we offer. And it results in a 15 to 20 percent increase in the circulation of books.

Sami Yenigun: More video games in the library means more checking out of books.

These librarians deduced that while video games brought children to libraries, they were still there primarily to read.

They spoke of how video games provided a more engaging way for children to read about characters or worlds that mattered to them.

Farmer: The kids and the teens spend more time here. Families come. Their parents have things to do on the computers because a lot of our families don't have computer access at home, and Internet access at home. So, the kids have something to do. And while they're here they find out - uh - there's Superman. I can read Superman.

Yenigun: For some kids, reading about Superman in a video game can be more fruitful than reading about him in a book.

So, while video games were certainly the draw for these kids, ironically they were reading more than perhaps they would have had the library not provided these services. But this wasn't the only benefit of having children engage with text-heavy games. They found that it encouraged children to learn at a more rapid pace.

Here's what Constance Steinkuehler, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin, had to say about it:

In some cases, you had struggling readers read text that was up to eight grades above their diagnosed reading level and reading it with perfect comprehension, all right? Because they were willing and able to bootstrap and fix their comprehension problems as they went through it.

Essentially, when you care about what you're doing you're more likely to persevere through challenges and attempt to improve. It's like how we became better at solving puzzles thanks to games like Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. Well, at least I think we did...

So while video games are responsible for the influx of young people into libraries across the U.S., they're still there to read. The games chosen for these spaces are age appropriate, educational or simply feature a great deal of text. The results are apparently remarkable.

Farmer: I have a room full of teenage boys that are happy and the library is the coolest place they know. And video games are a part of that.

Yenigun: With a whole new generation of video game consoles on the horizon, librarians around the country are getting ready for a gaming upgrade.

Rick Hart, director of the Lilley Library at Penn State Behrend
Rick Hart, director of the Lilley Library at Penn State Behrend

Even if libraries aren't your thing, we all understand why they exist and how they contribute to society. But for those who love books and value learning, libraries cannot become a relic of the past. So in order to prevent that from happening, these spaces have upgraded their stalls with our favorite past time.

Game on, people.

What do you make of video games hitting library shelves?

Sources: [NPR; CNN]


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