Litcraft: Using Minecraft to engage reluctant readers

Litcraft: exploring literature with Minecraft


To engage with reluctant child readers in a new way by bringing books to life through a series of Minecraft challenges and educational tasks.


Professor Sally Bushell, main lead and co-creator of Litcraft, explains the resource:

"Litcraft uses the popular ‘Minecraft’ gaming platform to create accurate scale models of fictional islands from classic works of literature including Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe and Michael Morpugo’s book, Kensuke’s Kingdom, which is frequently used in school curriculums.

In short, Litcraft re-engages children with literary classics by combining reading with immersive play and challenges within the digital Minecraft World.

So far we have rolled Litcraft out across six library regions – reaching over 800 children across Lancashire and Leeds. We are working with the National Literacy Trust to train 54 schools around the UK to use the resource to re-engage children with reading as a result of COVID 19. In addition, we are working with Seven Stories Museum, Newcastle and The Wordsworth Trust as well as a commercial build for the Gulliver’s Travels book that is available for purchase on Minecraft Marketplace.

It’s such a great way to engage with kids because they already know how to play Minecraft – in fact they have greater expertise than their teachers. Their faces light up when they realise they will be allowed to play in school!"

Results and Outcomes

Tab Content: For Partners and Engagement

Sally explains:

"To date Litcraft is still a free resource because we feel schools and libraries need our support and our top priority is not to generate income. However, it clearly could be income-generating and we have a commercial build funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) with a partner to test this. Our main problem was not having core funding for Litcraft and we have now applied for Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding to fully test and develop it. Internal funding provided a very helpful stepping stone and small pots of money to work with partners have been very valuable – allowing us to build into the big research grant.

In Leeds, the Litcraft resource was used successfully with 272 children. When asked, they gave it a satisfaction rating of 95% overall with 83% saying they wanted to read Kensuke’s Kingdom after participating. More quantitative data will come from the National Literacy Trust report on our pilot with them in Spring 2021.

We’ve had many positive comments about Litcraft and its impact, and we’re very proud of this one: ‘Two of the boys in the group have been removed from our under-performing list due to their increase in focus and effort’.

Also, Educational Officer, Elena Miller, at Seven Stories in Newcastle (National Centre for Children's Books) has been delivering sessions set by us and said, ‘The children have really revelled in it’.

Another partner, The Wordsworth Trust, said ‘we’ve developed many partnerships with universities at home and abroad. None has been so long lasting or had so profound an impact on our work as that of Lancaster University’.

We have undertaken a large number of public engagement activities and always adapted Litcraft for use in different settings. When at an event for the general public, for example, or a drop-in event at a festival, we had to allow a much freer use of the world builds than normal – we don’t attempt to use the resource in the more structured way we normally would. Working with company Wandering Wizards for Gulliver’s Travels we also adapted the base model to make it more ‘gamified’ for the market-place."

Tab Content: For Academics

"There is a lot of advice I would give to someone starting out!

First, be sure that you really believe in the value of the resource and hold true to that. Second, expect to have to put a lot of work into establishing and building contacts – it is extremely time-consuming. Third, ensure you can develop the model for larger roll-out to take the pressure off you as an individual. Use colleagues for advice on applying for money internally, too- as this was an arts impact/partnership it took a while for me to find the right funding stream.

For me, the most enjoyable part is the positive feedback when you see that the resource really does work and that teachers/librarians are proud to be involved and children’s lives are changed by it."

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