Used book stores. One might say they're the thrift stores of literature. I would say…
Gamebooks, like the Choose Your Own Adventure series, are seen by some as an activity for after your homework is done. Gamebooks are free reading books, fun books, books that you should read after your other real reading is done, right? I say, wrong. I take exception with the idea that verbose prose is real reading and shorter, less boring, words are not. The point of reading is to understand, and that path to understanding doesn’t always have to be through literary works, sometimes its done through caped heroes and the choices of those seeking adventure. Here are some of the educational benefits of Choose Your Own Adventure Books.
1. Cause and Effect
During your average Choose your Own Adventure book read through readers will make between 3 and 20 decisions. Reinforcing the idea that it is okay to have thoughts on what we we all should do is good, backing that up with the idea that your thoughts have consequence is even better. While, the cause and effect of the Bantam and Chooseco books are impractical and unintended to be used as real life advice, the repetition of thing, decide, evaluate is healthy foundation for all sorts of professions.
2. Unintended Outcomes
Ride the coattails of cause and effect is the principal of unintended outcomes. The fantastical nature of Choose Your Own Adventure Books builds a sense of caution in decisions making. Readers quikcly learn that what they think will happen might not. Developing a sense of consideration is important lots of careers especially those involving communication and marketing.
3. Personal Responsibility
Most Choose Your Own Adventure books are written in 2nd Person, meaning, the reader is the main character and responsible for the fate of of their companions and the outcome of the journey.
4. History and Geography
Video games, long thought of as the anti-thesis to education, are now being seen as important tools for learning. Games like Minecraft, Roblox and, my favorite Stardew Valley, have a way of organically communicating information once reserved for a chapter in a text book and followed up by a comprehension quiz. Similarly, Choose your Own Adventure books, place details in the readers head by way of experience instead of through traditional education means. While the knowledge gained might not be deep, a basic understanding of where things are and when things were, especially done with a fun and fantastical way leads to an increased interest in those things.
5. On the Fly Comprehension
Some Choose Your Own Adventure books leave little clues in the writing to provide context for decision making. Once a reader becomes aware that their chance for survival is increased by paying attention, they tend to read with a different eye. Instead the assumption that “if it was important, the author will bring it up again”, they assume they read more critically knowing the clue will only appear once.
6. Critique, Criticism and Fairness
We tend to think that reading problems are the fault of the reader instead of the author. If we stumble over a sentence, especially when reading out loud, we tend to think we made the mistake instead of critiquing how the author built the sentence that we stumbled over. Choose Your Own Adventure books, being gamebooks, lend themselves to the the question of fairness. Readers instinctually think, “Was that fair?”, “Could it have been done different?” and best of all, “Could I have done it better?”. Interactive books like no other leave the reader saying, “I want to create something like that.”
Because Choose Your Own Adventure books dispense with a lot of scene descriptions and dialogue in favor of conflict and calamity setups, they cover a lot of ground. One things is true of of Choose your Own Adventure book, wherever you are, you won’t be there long. This rapid movement of location and interactions keeps the readers mind constantly thinking and imagining new people and locations.
At the end of they day, words are just tools. Sure, some of the tools are more eloquent than others, but the aim of nearly all reading is to create empathy for the shared condition of being alive and an understanding of one’s role in that condition. Literary words and words-for-fun both serve that end if different ways. I wouldn’t even say there needs to be a healthy mix of all types of reading, instead I would say let the one’s imagination drive their wonder, and let that wonder drive research, and let that research drive thoughts on what’s possible, and let thoughts of what’s possible today drive one’s imagination on what could be possible tomorrow.