Playing Space Invaders Could Aid Preschoolers at Risk of Dyslexia in Learning to Read

Playing Space Invaders Could Aid Preschoolers at Risk of Dyslexia in Learning to Read

Playing Space Invaders Could Aid Preschoolers at Risk of Dyslexia in Learning to Read 

The Benefits of Video Games for Children

- In recent years, video games have become a staple in many households, sparking debate among parents, educators, and psychologists about their impact on children. While concerns about excessive screen time and exposure to inappropriate content are valid, research increasingly highlights numerous benefits that video games can offer to young minds. When played in moderation and under supervision, video games can serve as powerful tools for development and education. Here, we explore the various advantages that video games provide for children.
Cognitive Development

Enhanced Problem-Solving Skills

- Many video games require players to solve complex puzzles, complete challenging tasks, and develop strategies to progress. Games such as "The Legend of Zelda" and "Portal" demand critical thinking and adaptability, fostering children's problem-solving abilities. These skills are transferable to real-world scenarios, aiding in academic and personal growth.
Improved Memory and Concentration

- Video games often involve tracking multiple objectives, remembering instructions, and navigating intricate environments. This can improve working memory and concentration. For example, games like "Minecraft" require players to remember crafting recipes and manage resources effectively, enhancing memory retention and attention to detail.
Social and Emotional Benefits

Development of Social Skills

- Multiplayer and online games provide a platform for children to interact with peers, collaborate on objectives, and engage in team-based activities. Games like "Fortnite" and "Among Us" encourage communication, cooperation, and teamwork. These interactions can help children develop social skills, learn the value of collaboration, and build friendships.
Stress Relief and Emotional Resilience

- Video games can offer an escape from everyday stressors, providing a sense of achievement and relaxation. Engaging in gameplay can help children manage stress and develop resilience by allowing them to experience and overcome failures in a controlled environment. Games with immersive stories and characters, such as "Animal Crossing" or "Journey," can also provide emotional comfort and a sense of connection.

Educational Value

Learning Through Play

- Educational video games are specifically designed to combine learning with fun. Games like "Kerbal Space Program" teach principles of physics and engineering, while "Civilization" introduces historical events and strategic thinking. These games make learning engaging and interactive, often sparking a deeper interest in academic subjects.

Development of Technological Skills

- Growing up in a digital age, familiarity with technology is crucial. Video games can introduce children to basic computer literacy, programming concepts, and even virtual reality. Understanding these technologies can be beneficial for future academic and career opportunities, making children more adept at navigating the digital world.
Physical and Motor Skills

Improved Hand-Eye Coordination

- Video games that require precise movements and quick reactions, such as action and sports games, can enhance hand-eye coordination. Studies have shown that children who play video games regularly have better motor skills and reaction times, which can be beneficial in both physical activities and everyday tasks.

Encouragement of Physical Activity

- With the advent of motion-controlled games and virtual reality, video gaming can also promote physical activity. Games like "Just Dance" and "Ring Fit Adventure" combine physical exercise with gameplay, encouraging children to stay active while having fun.

- While it is essential to monitor the type and amount of video game content children are exposed to, it is equally important to recognize the potential benefits. Video games can be a valuable tool for cognitive development, social interaction, educational enrichment, and even physical fitness. By choosing age-appropriate games and setting healthy boundaries, parents can harness the positive aspects of video gaming to support their children's growth and development. In moderation, video games can indeed be more than just entertainment—they can be a significant contributor to a child's overall well-being and success.
Study Finds "Space Invaders" Enhances Reading Skills in Preschoolers at Risk for Dyslexia

Study Finds "Space Invaders" Enhances Reading Skills in Preschoolers at Risk for Dyslexia

- A recent study has revealed that playing the video game "Space Invaders Extreme 2" can significantly improve phonemic awareness in preschool children at risk for developmental dyslexia. Conducted over a span of 1.5 months, children played the game for 45 minutes a day, four times a week, resulting in greater improvements than traditional speech therapy or other non-action games. These findings were published in NPJ Science of Learning.

Understanding Dyslexia

- Dyslexia is a neurological learning disorder that affects word recognition, spelling, and decoding abilities, despite normal cognitive functioning and adequate instruction. Often genetic, dyslexia is typically identified in early elementary school when children start formal reading instruction and difficulties become apparent. Early intervention is crucial for mitigating the risk associated with dyslexia.

The Study

- Researchers led by Sara Bertoni focused on whether action video games could help overcome deficits in cognitive skills critical for reading development, such as phonemic awareness, phonological working memory, and rapid naming. These areas are often deficient in children with dyslexia.

- Phonemic awareness involves recognizing and manipulating individual sounds in words. Phonological working memory is the ability to temporarily hold and process sound information, while rapid naming is the quick identification of sequences of letters, numbers, colors, or objects.


- The study involved 120 preschool children aged 5-6, recruited from the Scientific Institute, IRCCS “Eugenio Medea” in Italy. Out of these, 79 were identified as at risk for dyslexia based on reading-related tasks.

- These children were divided into four groups: The first group played "Space Invaders Extreme 2" for 45 minutes, four times a week, for 1.5 months.
The second group played various minigames during the same period and intensity.
The third group underwent traditional phonological training with a speech therapist, consisting of 21 individual 45-minute sessions over 3.7 months.
The fourth group was on a waitlist and did not receive any intervention.

Children not at risk did not undergo any treatment.


- Neuropsychological assessments before and after the intervention revealed that the group playing "Space Invaders Extreme 2" showed significantly higher improvement in phonemic awareness compared to all other groups. These improvements persisted in a follow-up assessment conducted six months later.

- The researchers concluded that action video games (AVGs) like "Space Invaders Extreme 2" create a highly engaging environment that enhances cognitive development. This effect is attributed to the game's ability to accelerate sensory evidence sampling and improve attentional shifting.


- These findings suggest that action video games could be used to prevent multisensory processing difficulties in various neurodevelopmental disorders, including dyslexia, ADHD, developmental coordination disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. However, the study's scope was limited to one game and a specific age group, leaving questions about the generalizability of these results to other games or age groups. 


- The study titled “Action video games normalize the phonemic awareness in pre-readers at risk for developmental dyslexia,” authored by Sara Bertoni and colleagues, highlights the potential of action video games in supporting the development of crucial reading skills. This innovative approach could pave the way for new, engaging methods of early intervention for children at risk of dyslexia.

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