Back when I was grade school, I really hated to read. It’s not that I was bad at reading or anything, but we had this accelerated reader system going on that made us periodically pick up some book and read it for a quiz. I hated the mandatory status of reading a bunch of books that I had no interest in, and as a result, I kept getting in trouble for not keeping up with it.
So, while I’m still not exactly an avid reader, it does come as some sort of surprise that I decided to make a hobby, and hopefully someday a career, out of writing. Along with being poked and prodded toward reading by my parents, I think I have one thing to thank for getting me to read voluntarily:
See, while I never liked reading books, the day I first received my copy of Pokémon Red for the Gameboy was the day I really started to read voluntarily, and I loved it.
As most people are aware, the Pokémon series is a series of child-friendly RPGs, meaning they are very text-heavy. In order to really get your bearings in that game, I had to read. I had to read Prof. Oak explain what Pokémon are. I had to read each of the Pokémon’s various attacks as well as all of the items in the game. I had to – and more importantly, wanted to – read all of the bits of dialogue each NPC had to offer. Most of all, I had to read the names of each of the 151 original Pokémon.
With crazy names like Vileplume, Gyarados, and Magneton, learning how to read and pronounce difficult words became absolutely essential. I like to think that slowly practicing the names aloud along with the corresponding cartoon really had an impact on my ability to learn the phonics of English words. Also, most of the Pokémon’s names were amalgamations of different words, such as Charmander being a mix between “char” and “salamander.” That’s obvious by now, but learning how to break larger words down into smaller ones like that while I was young really helped me learn real words more quickly. Learning prefixes such as the “re“ in “repeat,” “reorganize,” and “replace” became almost second-nature.
As a result, while I still find myself sometimes groaning over the prospect of reading a large novel, I can confidently know that whatever lies between those cover pages will be understood, and I think, at least in a small way, I have my childish love for Pokémon to thank for that.
That and my parents, who read to me every night as a kid.