How Pokemon, Harry Potter, And Halo Taught Me To Read

When I first started playing Pokemon Cards with my friends I didn’t really read all the text. Of course, I knew all the Pokemon by heart, so I didn’t need to read their names, but the different abilities they had, I did need to read. However, I found key words that told me what they did, without reading the whole description. Words like” flip, coin, energy (and there would be a symbol for energy near the word, typically), retreat, poison, paralyze, and a number of other conditions, all made it easy for me to cheat when reading these cards. But that was more reading than I’d ever done before–and the fact that I could read at all was a step forward.

Then, when I was in 7th grade my parents got the first three Harry Potter Books for me for Xmas. My dad had thought it was a bad idea, just another reminder that I couldn’t read. But my parents read all three of them to me, and I didn’t want to stop there. I asked them to read them to me over and over again. I could really see myself as Harry, I think most people could, that’s why the books were/are so popular.

Waiting for the release of books has never been more painful. Each Harry Potter book release was like a birthday, except even more rare–they only came once every 2-3 years!

Harry Potter showed me how exciting reading can be. It showed how much fun it can be to lose yourself in a book, even if that book was read to you by a parent.

One year later, 8th grade, something monumental happened for me. Microsoft released its first ever Xbox and with it the video game, Halo. Halo was so much fun, I loved the game play and characters. My friend had it and I spent Monday nights at his house while my parents were at work late that night and early the next morning. Which gave us both time to play through Halo, over and over again. This friend, he was reading a spin off book from the game, a prequel that was much more heavy on story than the game was. Once my friend finished it he told me about it, and I was so interested in the game I picked it up and began a year long journey to read my first novel ever. I was in 8th grade.

Public v Private (School)

There was a lady named Val who I visited once a week who worked in Special Education at the public school near my white-kid private school. She tried, like my parents and teachers, like all the other specialists, to get me to read. We’d have weekly treasure hunts where we would write out clues for each other and then hide them around the room for each other to find. So if it was her turn, I’d leave the room and she’d hide a bunch of clues. Then I’d go in and she’d give me the first clue. All the clues were written, and basically they were riddles that led to each other. I can’t recall if there was any kind of prize at the end.

She also did normal reading stuff with me as well, of course, and helped me with my spelling words which I had a weekly quiz on and which were a weekly reminder of how much dumber I was than everyone else in my class.

I say it was a good thing I went to private school during this time, though some people think the reason I was so far behind was BECAUSE I went to private school–but I don’t think that’s true because a lot of the boys and girls in my class were reading at advanced levels by 2-3 grade and there was definitely something wrong with how I learned.

The reason I think private school was good, Waldorf school specifically, is because, in that form of education, the teacher moves up in grades with the students. So I had the same teacher from 1st grade up until 7th grade, and that was when we got a new teacher because our old teacher didn’t want to do it anymore. But I was with the same class and kids, so I knew them really well. I’m glad I didn’t go to public school because I would have had to explain every year that I couldn’t read and then face all the questions from new kids each time and that would effect my self esteem a lot–or something. For instance, I had a really good friend in kindergarten, but when I went to private school in 1st grade and he stayed in public, we sorta lost touch. I still went over to his house from time to time, but I remember being in 4th or 5th grade and hanging out with him. His neighbor was a boy who was always around when I went to the public school and tried to read with that lady Val, and this neighbor must have told this friend of mine because he started making all kinds of fun of me for not being able to read. I don’t know why, since we were friends. But as I got older and then when I went to high school with him, I realized he was just an asshole.

You Can’t Sound Out “Though” or “Neighbor”

Then my mother brought out Brother Bear. Or I think that was the name of the book. It was still a kids book, but it wasn’t like See Spot Run, you know, because it had more writing than pictures. But it still was a total snore fest when it came to the story. Nothing interesting was happening and who wanted to read about bears anyway?

The weird thing about dyslexia, for me, is that I could struggle with a word–usually one like “Though” or “Neighbor” on one line, then my mom would tell me what it was. Two or three or four lines later however, I’d see the same word and would struggle with it all over again. My mom would get angry with me and tell me we just read that word–but to me, it didn’t matter. I couldn’t remember what the sounds where so I tried to sound it out. Neighbor became NEE-F-BOR, and Though became Th-ow-F, and my mom would get frustrated and tell me I needed to try harder, but I was trying. There wasn’t a degree of me trying to read or trying not to read. I either was or wasn’t and that was it, so when I couldn’t read THOUGH that was all.

Even though I saw Amy once a week I didn’t improve my reading or writing very much. Not because of her anyway. I liked going to Amy’s not because she was nice or what we did was fun, but because I liked getting a pack of Pokemon Cards each week, and my friends at school also had some and taught me how to play so I didn’t have to read the directions and we battled almost everyday, which was fun, even though I had to ask for help to know what certain cards did because I couldn’t read them.┬áBut I was embarrassed to ask for help reading, so I didn’t have many people to play with.

Then Pokemon Cards were banned from school, which was really stupid because they were teaching me how to read more effectively than anyone else. What was the big deal?

But I couldn’t get all of English from just reading cards. And I don’t think my parents really noticed that I’d improved because I knew the key words on the cards now, but reading full storied sentences was still really difficult. So, one week my parents told me they wanted to take me to another specialist. This would only last a weekend, they said.