Games are an important and interactive way for young people to learn, they can also be used to initiate a constructive discussion. No matter what the subject is, games are designed to be fun, so there is no reason why games and activities based around books can not be equally as enjoyable.
When working with a new group of young people the easiest way to break the ice is by playing a name game such as:
The ball game: using a ball around a circle, the person with the ball says their name first and then the name of the person the ball is going to before they throw it to them.
The sun shines on: in a circle of chairs (1 less than the number of people in the group) someone stands in the middle and makes a statement such as “the Sun shines on any one wearing red”. Everyone wearing red has to get up and change seats, leaving one person left in the middle to make another statement in order to sit down.
The fridge game: tell everyone to choose something they would find in a fridge that starts with the same letter as their first name i. e. ‘Claire, Cake’. Then they go round the circle saying their names, however, each person must say all the previous names before they say their own. (The lead worker should always finish last!)
These three name games can also be changed to include books. In the ball game they can substitute their names for their favourite book or magazine. In the fridge game they can substitute their names for books they would recommend. In “The sun shines on” you change the category to reading anything from novels to street signs i.e. “The sun shines on any one who has read Harry Potter” (everyone moves!)
Libraries are not commonly associated with playing games with young people, yet they supply CD ROM’s and Playstation games that are targeted at them. These games are rarely educational, involve little reading and no dialogue with staff. But when active games are used in the library there are many opportunities to get young people discussing books with you. It all depends on what you want to discuss and how loudly you want to discuss it.
For games that will utilise the space in libraries you can play Charades, only using books, or Concentration using different genres. For the more ambitious libraries there are word and book hunts where participants are given clues or titles of books and then search for them in the library.
For more stationary games you can play Chinese whispers with different groups in order to make up a story between them. You can also use games such as Pictionary, Taboo and Trivial Pursuit. These all involve an element of reading and could be changed to include more topics around books.
Tip: It is a good idea to look out for the latest book crazes and plan competitions and games around them. Look out for anyone else doing the same, e.g. after the success of the film Lord of the Rings there was a game workshop which uses characters from The Fellowship of the Rings. It is played in small groups and encourages young people to talk about the books as well as read them.
25 words or less
A game to show the importance of brevity and to widen reading. Each young person involved has to write an enticing description of his or her favourite book onto large postcards. No title or author must be mentioned in the description. Each description is placed on the wall/poster board of the library. The participants must then choose one book (not their own) from the postcard descriptions. Once they have chosen they are given the book. They have to read the book before the next meeting when they can compare their own response to the book with the original advocate’s.
Remember games and competitions do not always have to be on paper. There is a steady increase of young people using mobile phones and the internet, so games that use email and text messaging (short messaging system(SMS)) are another accessible way to get young people talking about books.
An idea could be to describe a book or a character and condense it into text form, then using a text messaging facility on the internet, send each message to one phone per group and see which group gets it first.
We did a language game in a circle throwing a ball; the person throwing the ball said a colour (e.g. green) and the person catching had to say an object that was the colour (e.g. frog) . Next round the thrower said any adjective (e.g. amazing) and the catcher had to say a noun (e.g. library! )Then we moved on to alliteration; the thrower (for example) said ‘wild’ and the catcher “wombats”. Then the thrower said a line (e.g. there was a frog) and the catcher has to say a line which rhymed (who ate a dog). This last one has a tendency to go a little off track as you might imagine (there was a duck who had a…. and so on!) All the others worked really well though.
With these ball throwing games it is helpful to establish a throwing order at the beginning, e.g. you always throw it to the right of the person who threw it to you, ensuring that everyone is equally included. This takes a little effort to establish but getting it wrong can be fun and in the end it’s worth it.
Each person was given a piece of paper and then wrote a sentence at the top. They then folded the paper to hide what they had written and passed it to their right, this person also wrote a line hid it and passed it on and so on until the paper was full. Then we all opened the piece of paper we happened to be holding and read out the abstract poem written there. This may sound odd but the result is often hilarious, sometimes beautiful. (Best to state at the beginning that no personal comments about others in the circle are allowed!)