On March 2nd, the nation celebrated the birthday of the one and only Dr. Suess. Teachers across the country honored the beloved children’s author by reading his works in classrooms, and hosting activities and exercises to promote reading at any age, in any way. With his nonsense rhymes, invented words and colorful imagery, Dr. Suess has made reading fun for children for generations. It’s no wonder that we kick off March as National Reading Month in celebration of this great innovator.
Bringing reading into focus is important to helping parents and educators understand how children learn. Reading, especially Dr. Suess books, should be fun! So why, even on a day meant to celebrate reading, do some children struggle? There is little pressure put on students at these events to read at a certain speed, or perform at a certain level, yet some children show frustration and avoidance of even the most enjoyable literature. And, in the words of the dear Doctor, “When you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”
According to the American Academy of Optometry, one in twelve children suffer from a condition called Convergence Insufficiency, perhaps better understood as near-double vision. The direct and indirect effects of this serious learning problem can make reading an exhausting chore, instead of a fun way to expand the imagination. Words on the page seem to overlap, split apart, re-arrange and jump around, leaving the child confused and feeling stupid for not understanding what their classmates so clearly comprehend. An entire month focused on reading can draw attention to students who have perhaps learned how to get by in school, but still struggle with the fundamentals of reading.
It is important for parents and teachers to understand that near-double vision, and other visual problems, are not always obvious. They present in varying degrees of severity, and sometimes clever children find methods of coping with their struggles, like closing one eye to read, sometimes inadvertently shutting down the image from the weaker eye so that the dominant eye can process independently. But if the child still completes their homework and accomplishes assignments, why look further into vision-related learning problems?
On these days of extended focus on reading, even the best students can start to show signs of restlessness and frustration. They complain of headaches, or rub their eyes, and try to avoid the long silence of sustained reading. Even though these students seem to manage reading assignments with relative ease, the extended focus on words that will not seem to sit still on the page can lead to defeated attitudes, and even behavior problems.
Since these children have never experienced normal binocular vision, their struggle is impossible to explain. They make excuses, or say that reading makes them tired — and it does! Their brains are working twice as hard to make the words on the page fuse into one and stay put. And since they are unaccustomed to not performing their best, they find that reaching out for help is even harder.
“I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true,
can happen to you.”
— Dr. Suess, Oh, the Places You’ll Go
So, as we venture through the rest of Reading Month, let’s keep our eyes open for children who don’t always struggle, but maybe find extended reading a bit tiresome. Let’s keep them motivated, and watch for signs of vision problems that could be holding your best and brightest back. At Wow Vision Therapy, we want to help all children, regardless of the severity of their visual problems. So whether your words are wibbly or wobbly, don’t ever give up, you stupendous somebody!
“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So get on your way!”
— Dr. Suess, Oh, the Places You’ll Go