When it comes to reading, having 20/20 vision isn’t really the issue. The big E on the eye chart only tells you if your child can see at a distance. Focusing up close and having the ability to read takes a different set of visual skills that are often not tested at school.
The ability to read is a combination of the ability to see what is and the ability to understand what you see. These visual skills are important for reading and learning:
Visual acuity – This is the ability to see clearly. Children need to be able to see at a distance to read what is on the chalk board, white board, or smart board at the front of the classroom. They also need to see at a medium distance to read a computer screen and up close to read a book or worksheet.
Focusing – When your child looks from one object to another, whether up close or at a distance, the eyes should automatically adjust to keep the object in focus. But this is only part of the skill needed for learning. Once the eyes bring an object into focus, they need to be able to hold that focus for as long as needed. Reading a book or working on the computer can require lengthy focusing at one distance.
Tracking – This is the ability to follow a target object. It may mean following a ball flying through the air, or following a line of type that is printed across a page.
Eye teaming – People and some animals have binocular vision. This means our eyes are located on the front of the head (rather than on the sides like some birds). When both eyes work together, they send slightly different images to the brain that are interpreted as 3 dimension vision. This is what gives us our ability to see depth, such as seeing how high a step is so we don’t trip.
In reading, the eyes need to work together as a team to first focus on the same place on the page, and then to move across the page together. This allows the brain to see one image of the words in print, rather than two versions that won’t quite match up. This is a skill that is learned as a child’s brain and vision develop.