The Mismeasure of Boys: Reading and Online Videogames

WCER Working Paper No. 2011-3

Constance Steinkuehler

July 2011, 16 pp.

ABSTRACT: This paper reports on a series of four studies to argue that video games are a solution to, rather than a cause of, the problem of adolescent boys and reading. Results demonstrate that the texts regularly involved in video game play are primarily expository in nature, with an 11.8-grade reading level and 4% academic vocabulary. Boys’ reading performance was the same on game-related and school-related texts when the topic was assigned. However, when allowed to choose topics, so-called struggling readers performed 6.2 grade levels above their diagnosed competency due to doubled self-correction rates. Thus, game-related reading may be particularly efficacious for readers identified as struggling in school, not because such reading is games-related but because it is interest-driven, fostering persistence in the face of textual challenges among students who might otherwise disengage.

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keywords: online video games, reading