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Literacy issues in kids? Focus on eyes

Children experiencing problems with reading could be experiencing eye troubles. Problems with vision can affect reading, learning and overall performance at school. In South Africa, poor vision is impacting young people. A Cape Town University study shows that some 450 000 South African youths have problems with seeing, with visual impairment, at 4%,1 being the greatest problem affecting their general health and functioning. 

A child smiling while getting her eyes tested

“Poor vision could be thwarting your child’s reading abilities. Several studies link uncorrected vision problems with poor levels of literacy, but it goes beyond a stifled ability to read. Children who battle to see properly can also suffer in other areas such as on the sports field as well as emotionally. Young children may not even realise that they are struggling to see clearly, because it is how they have always seen the world and know no different. If your child’s reading abilities or performance levels at school are poor, it is well worth it to have their eyes checked as part of your investigation into the reasons why. This is according to Ruahan Naude, CEO at Dynamic Vision, adding that September, being National Literacy Month, is an opportune time to focus on eyes and the impact of poor vision on literacy.

Naude recommends that children have an eye exam by the age of three and again just before they start primary school. School-aged children should have their eyes checked every two years if they have no visual issues. 

Signs that could indicate vision issues in a child; include sitting too close the TV, using a finger to guide their eyes while reading, complaining of sore eyes or headaches, difficulties concentrating, and introverted behaviour amongst others. 

He goes on to say that young people spend a vast amount of time on electronic devices. Screens from tablets and mobile phones are held closer to the face to what a book would be, and this places strain on developing eyes.

“We increasingly see Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), or digital eye strain, in children and teens because of prolonged exposure to computer screens and other devices. Screens emit blue light which causes damage to the back of the eye and increases the risk of degeneration and permanent vision loss later in life. 

“Young people who spend a lot of time looking at screens playing games, reading or doing school work can suffer from the symptoms of digital eye strain. This includes headaches, sore and tired eyes, fatigue, vision fluctuation and reduced concentration. These too can impact reading and school performance, so it is important to have your child’s eyes re-checked if they are showing any of these signs,” explains Naude.

A solution for young people who spend a lot of time looking at screens to do their schoolwork, especially with the wide-spread use of computers and devices during the lockdown period, is accommodative support lenses. These are designed to relax the eyes when looking closely at screens for long periods and then focussing on objects in the distance. Accommodative support lenses in combination with blue light control will support young eyes and reduce digital eye strain and its associated symptoms. 

“Even if your child already wears glasses and appears to be suffering from digital eye strain, it is a good idea to have their eyes checked. This will help to make sure that the prescription is still appropriate,” advises Naude.

He concludes saying that parents should look for signs that their children are struggling to see to prevent other underlying issues. With an early diagnosis, the most common refractive errors can be corrected to avoid strain and further damage to their developing eyes.


  1. Farber, T. (2017, 06 16). Almost half a million SA youths have problems with their vision. Retrieved from Times Live: https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2017-06-16-almost-half-a-million-sa-youths-have-problems-with-their-vision/


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