Serious gaming for early identification and prevention of dyslexia

Researcher: Toivo Glatz, former PhD student 
Thesis defense: October 29, 2018

First promotor: Prof. Ben Maassen, PhD (Linguistics, RuG)

Collaborators: Dr. Wim Tops, PhD

Funding: NWO

Across languages, 10 to 15% of children fail to attain standard reading levels, making early detection and rehabilitation of existing and potential reading problems a worldwide mission. This thesis reports upon the creation and evaluation of a computerized literacy game for beginning readers of Dutch. In addition to the question of how to appropriately measure training effectiveness, this project is focused on investigating the mutual influence of intervention characteristics like target population, training content and individual game exposure. Within a randomized control trial, a cross‑sectional sample of 286 children in the Netherlands and Belgium was assigned to either exclusively follow the ongoing classroom curriculum or additionally play one out of two computer games training reading or math skills. While several short-term improvements in reading-related skills and brain responses could be observed after a seven week long playing phase, this did not translate into better reading 18 months after the end of the training. Regardless, due to a unique combination of psychometric tests, data extracted from the game itself, neurophysiological recordings with EEG and advanced statistical methods, this thesis extends our understanding of computerized reading interventions. The results have several implications for the creation and usage of digital game-based learning tools, which could ultimately benefit many children around the world.