A couple months ago, we bought Nintendo DS machines for the kids. Of course, before we got them, my wife and I talked about whether the kids were old enough for the games, and whether we really wanted them to have access to the technology at all. Finally, we decided to buy them, but to put some firewalls around their game-playing time. (I later learned that they're instruments of Satan, but by then both kids were experts at Mario Kart, and it seemed a shame to waste all that skill.)

One thing I did not expect was this: my son now wants to learn to read so he can play Pokemon Diamond, which is full of captions and written instructions. (Without literacy, he's stuck in the Mario Kart and Lego Star Wars ghetto.) Of course we read to the kids constantly– my son insisted we read the last chapter of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets this morning, rather than watch cartoons– but I think this may be the first practical use of literacy my son has encountered. He doesn't have to pay his own bills, figure out who to vote for, read nutrition labels, or interpret traffic signs. But he does want to conquer the Pokemon world, and to do that, you need to be able to read.

Maybe everything bad really is good for you.

[To the tune of Led Zeppelin, "Rock and Roll," from the album "Led Zeppelin (Disc 2)".]