A father of a four-year-old told me his son recently said, “Dad, I know how to spell exit. E-X-I-T.”
“You’re right. How did you learn that?” the father asked.
“Easy,” the child replied. “Playing Mario.”
The father explained that the boy is crazy about Mario games. He can read little words, but not big ones, so sometimes he pauses the game and asks his father what a particular word means. “He wants to know all the words so that he can beat the game,” the father explained.
So eager is the boy to win the games that on his own he learned how to navigate to YouTube on an iPad and typed in “Mario” and “Super Mario Bros. U.” Then he listened to college kids commenting on how to win the games. “He picked up the lingo and improved his vocabulary,” said the father. And he won the games. Now he wants to teach other little kids how to win the Mario games which are the rage at his preschool.
This child has been raised with electronics. At two he received a Leapster and a dozen games, some of which taught letter recognition and small words. On the family iPad he routinely searches Google for tips on playing Mario games.
Sometimes he finds what he thinks might be useful information, but he can’t read it, so he and his father read it together.
Similar to how bilingual children merge words from one language into another, this child mixes “electronic” terms into his “analog” life. On a family vacation his grandfather was reading a book to him when his mother called the child for a minute. “Pause it, Grandpa,” the four-year-old said. “Navigate” is as natural to him as “go.”
How about your child? Has he or she learned how to read from playing electronic games?