Inspiring Reluctant Readers with the Spy Quest Games and Books
Despite our best eﬀorts with reluctant readers, sometimes it can feel like ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. Finding the hook that draws a reader in is imperative, as it then helps an educator build on that interest to expand children’s vocabulary and imagination.
The Spy Quest game replicates the immersive and exciting techniques I used to educate covert surveillance agents
I saw this first-hand with my own children. My eldest, Nathan, was a reluctant reader during most of primary school. My wife and I found a hook to inspire him to read, and saw the massive diﬀerence it made to his attainment levels throughout high school.
Inspired by my previous career as a policeman and specialising in covert surveillance and international undercover operations, I created Spy Quest, an innovative online game, similar in some ways to Pokemon Go. I sometimes describe Spy Quest as a modern day treasure hunt; however, it is much more than that. The game replicates the immersive and exciting techniques that I used to educate agents during real-life training courses.
I’ve now worked within Scottish schools for over seven years and provided hundreds of schools with games on a not-for-profit basis through my company, Polybius Games. Developing a resource that genuinely helped teachers was a passion that was put before profit.
Using the games as a hook into reading
My plan to help children to fall in love with books involved embracing technology. I’m an avid gamer myself, and this ensured that I had an immediate aﬃnity with the thousands of children I was working with in schools. I love books too: I regularly speak at schools across the country and tell children how I was inspired by Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators, books that I read as a youngster. Technology and the internet are here to stay: my plans were to immerse and excite children by taking storytelling to a new level.
The response from schools, children and parents
‘Epic’, ‘mindblowing’ and ‘spectacular’ are just some of the words that children from St. Patrick’s primary school in Falkirk used to describe the books on social media!
Statistics taken from the events and school visits showed that:
- 60% of children attending were buying their first book
- 48% were boys
Many parents have written to me to express delight that their children have taken to reading. This review from Amazon is indicative of that: My son Ben from Chapelton Primary came to your signing on Saturday. He is finished your book in ONE DAY!!!! I wanted to thank you so much as I have struggled to get him to read books and he has not put your book down since we bought it. Just wanted to send you a message to thank you as a Parent, as I now have a 10 year old very excited and interested in books.
Many local authority library services have partnered with Polybius Games to build on the hook, and Spy Quest after schools clubs are springing up in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
As the team and I prepare for the next step in the journey by opening a digital studio in Los Angeles early next year, we can be thankful that it began in Scotland and that children here will be eagerly awaiting the release of The Bullion Heist, the next book in the series.
Polybius Games want to build on the success and are oﬀering schools and libraries free Spy Quest games. Get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Loved this blog post from David? Check out this other post from teacher Jed Gilchrist about using computer games in the classroom.
Education blogger EdTech_Stories has been blogging extensively about Spy Quest and have gathered a comprehensive account of feedback found in social media with this Storify link.