You know, had there been Pokémon cards when I was a kid, I might not have had to cheat in fourth grade math class …
He could go upstairs with his cousins to look over the cards and then pretend to be Pokémon characters for two solid hours—even though there was almost nothing else he could do, without distraction, for more than 20 minutes. Pokémon didn't seem so much an addiction as good-natured absorption—genuine, intrinsically oriented self-direction. We also realized the cards were teaching him category systems and math.
That following school year, in his first-grade class, Pokémon became social currency. About half his class was entranced by the cards. At times it seemed ridiculous, but then I'd hear my son plop down two cards and talk out more complicated math problems than anything he saw at school: “160HP minus 110HP plus 30 resistance points minus 20 weakness points equals 60 points left,” he'd say, then plop down two more cards to solve.
The second half of first grade, our son started reading the fine-print paragraphs on the cards. He got more reading time in through his love of Pokémon than he ever did at night, when we handed him books. He did read the books out loud to us, but it was a necessary chore. Pokémon was never a chore. And I noticed the paragraphs on the cards were syntactically far more complicated than anything he read in books. Soon, the same brain transformation that drove his math speed was reproduced with his reading speed.
Pokémon had taken over his brain. But in ways my wife never expected. Early in second grade, his math teacher told us he was as fast at math as the fifth graders. Not bad for a kid turned away by most of the local private schools prior to kindergarten.
My mom used to tell me that at the end of my second day at kindergarten (or maybe it was 1st grade) I was upset that I had not yet learned to read.
I'm not sure if that's what prompted her to let me pick and read comic books, or she just wanted for me to read anything I might enjoy, but up til the end of the 4th grade, she would give me enough money to buy a few comic books every week (we moved to Florida just prior to my 5th grade and I couldn't locate any nearby location that sold comic books, so that's pretty much when I stopped reading them). It must have helped some, because in 4th grade I was placed into the 5th grade reading class.