More and more educators are finding success using gaming for education. Minecraft, in particular, has shown its ability to be a game that’s both engaging and potentially educational. For starters, the game allows players to think for themselves in order to survive, and it gives them multiple ways to accomplish pretty much whatever they want to accomplish as they build and create their own world. It is also ideal for bringing math to life, as kids can build and see for themselves how math works. History teachers sometimes have their students build historical scenes to help them picture it better. Science teachers enjoy the fact that many aspects of science (though not all) can be seen in the game. And coding, of course, is a big one. So what about Minecraft and literacy?
I see this angle often overlooked, but it’s the angle I think about most. I’m the author of books for Minecrafters, which are adventure novels aimed for ages 7-12 (though I do have older and younger readers) that take place as if Minecraft is a real world. I hear from many parents who say their Minecraft-loving children, who are not fans of reading, cannot put these books down and want more. Librarians also tell me that it’s hard to keep the books on the shelves. Reading about Minecraft is very much a real thing.
Matching A Child + Interests = Love of Reading
I’m not the only person who writes books related to Minecraft. Go to your local bookstore or do a search online, and you’ll find all sorts of options, from novels like mine to comics to how-to guides that help kids play. But it’s all reading, and if it keeps young readers interested, I think this can be one of the many great ways we can encourage literacy. I find oftentimes when kids say they don’t like reading, what they mean is (1) “I could use some more help learning reading basics to be more confident in reading” or (2) “I haven’t found books that interest me.”
If you see a kid with a passion for something who says they don’t like to read, maybe the issue is finding a book that fits with their passion, not telling them they should read and like something that might not be up their alley. Once kids find some books they like, they usually check out more and can go into more topics and genres from there.
Playing Minecraft can also help with literacy as they look up things online, like how to make specific potions in the game. I’m amazed listening to kids list off how to make all sorts of things, and often they got this information by searching the web. Certain websites are set up with lots of Minecraft information and are accessible and helpful to all ages. (Parents and teachers can make sure to check out potential sites first to make sure it’s a safe environment for their kids there.)
Last but not least, writing and literacy often go hand-in-hand. Speaking personally, for instance, I didn’t learn to be a good speller by taking spelling tests. I learned to be a good speller by writing. Encouraging kids to write what interests them — which can include their own stories that take place in Minecraft — can help take away their shyness about putting down their thoughts on paper. Writing a story for school can sound challenging; writing a story about Minecraft (or whatever their personal interest) can sound fun and not-so-challenging, because it piques their interest. Even if it’s still for school, it can take some of the pressure off.
Obviously different things work for different students, but one of the nice things about Minecraft is you generally can tailor it to whatever the students’ needs are. When I visit schools and talk to students, their eyes usually light up when they learn what kind of books I write, and when I tell them I was writing stories at their age, too. That gets them excited to write their own stories, and we all have to start with putting our thoughts down on paper. Now my first Minecrafter series of six books is coming out as a box set, and the spinoff series, which has the same main characters (but different adventures and villains) starts coming out with the book Adventure Against the Endermen.
I can’t visit every classroom, but I hope I can reach more people with talks about literacy and the love of reading. Loving to read can help so many other areas in our lives, and if a love of reading starts with reading books related to Minecraft, I think we should look at what we can do with this.