Level-UP: getting teenage boys to read

If you ask any teenage boy what his favourite book is, the answer is very often “dunno” or a blank face. Reading is “boring” or “hard work”. This can be down to:

  • lack of confidence
  • reading is something they have to do in school
  • literacy issues
  • lack of encouragement

But if you ask the same boys about their favourite video games you may well get a completely different response. Games, unlike books, are perceived as being fun.

As an added incentive, games include a built-in achievement scheme.

Achievements can be unlocked by performing certain tasks. As these add up they are displayed on the player’s gamer or online tag (an avatar showing games played and achievements unlocked).

This acts as a reward for playing the game and acknowledges the time and effort put in by the player. Bragging rights over other gamers is an added bonus.

Another major feature of many games is an experience (XP) system which awards experience points to a player’s character, allowing the player to “level up” making him stronger, faster and able to use more items and abilities.

If these incentive-based systems work for gaming, could they work for reading? We wanted to find out, which is how we came up with Level-UP.

leveluplogoLevel-UP, like any game, starts on LvL1. This consists of a list of 10 books, each with its own amount of XP reward, e.g.

Peoples Republic by Robert Muchamore = 200XP

Gamer by Chris Bradford = 125XP

Once the player reaches the level’s XP cap (the set amount of XP needed to progress) they can then move onto “LvL2” which has its own list of books and XP cap, as does “LvL3” and “LvL4”.

The XP awarded to a book is based simply on how long the book is. Each list includes 5 short books/graphic novels, some of which are dyslexic friendly, and 5 longer books. This is to give those who have issues with reading the option of an “easier read”. Reading the shorter books means reading more books to reach the level cap but this adds to the sense of achievement in completing the level, encouraging them to try a longer book in the next.

Each level will also have a set of achievements obtained by reading certain combinations of books or completing the level e.g.Spy Games – awarded for reading People’s Republic, Stormbreaker and Codebreakers

Each player can then log their achievements in the “Reader Tag”, which is a journal of the books they have read. This works the same way as a “gamer tag” which shows achievements and scores to other gamers and allows players to view their accomplishments.

Players are encouraged to write a review no longer than 140 characters (a nod to twitter) of each book onto a review slip and / or give it a star rating out of five.

Level-UP can be run as part of a new or existing boys’ group or as something individuals achieve on their own.

For more information call Tony Stewart on 0131 529 5667 or email tony.stewart@edinburgh.gov.uk


One thought on “Level-UP: getting teenage boys to read

  1. Pingback: Not just for those ‘of the toon’ | shirleybateman

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