Why good vision is so important for reading

I was recently pointed towards a great article on the foundations of reading, “the great iceberg, aka learning to read“.  The author lays out all of the many steps that children need to go through before they develop the ability to read.  This was fascinating to me, as Zoe at 5 1/2 is right at the cusp of reading: she knows a few words by sight, and knows that other people can read books, but just isn’t quite there yet.  It’s a pretty exciting thing to watch.

young girl in glasses reading to her stuffed bear

But as I read the article, I was struck by just how important good vision is to so many of the foundational developmental steps.  Here’s a sample of a few of the steps from the article (I really recommend reading the whole article, it’s quite good):

  • Those squiggly lines mean something and can be read to convey information and that information is ALWAYS the same. This is when you stop being able to paraphrase your way through favorite stories.
  • Those words on the page relate to the pictures.
  • Those squiggly lines have names.
  • Those squiggly lines are also associated with a group of sounds.
  • The words we speak can be represented with the squiggly lines.
  • Those squiggly lines have to be in one unique position to indicate that name and sound (nothing else in the world does this–an upside down piano is a piano. An upside down p is a d. An upside down A is a squiggly line)

Look at all those referenced to the “squiggly lines”, now imagine that you have trouble focusing on them.  That distinguishing the shapes of those lines is taxing.  Kids who are farsighted can usually pull shapes in to focus, but it strains their eyes, so they may be less likely to pay attention to those “squiggly lines”.  Children who are nearsighted will have trouble seeing a book and the words, especially if it’s being read to them by someone who isn’t right next to them (i.e. during storytime).

While the main focus (no pun intended) of the Great Glasses Play Day is to celebrate glasses, we also want to raise awareness of how critical vision is to our children’s lives.  Those of you with very young children in glasses are probably very used to answering questions about why a child so young needs glasses, and how we knew to have them checked.  We hope you’ll use the Great Glasses Play Day as a chance to talk to other parents about how important it is that their child’s vision is tested, and if there’s a problem, that it’s corrected.