Why doesn’t my child like to read? A common question parents find themselves asking. For some kids, it isn’t that they just don’t like it, they actually hate it and they will avoid reading at any cost. But why the strong aversion? Here are five reasons why many children (and adults) dislike reading:
Reason #1- Reading is uncomfortable
If your child gets headaches or complains about their eyes hurting with reading or doing near-work, they may be having difficulty with their eye teaming system. Eye teaming (also called convergence) is the ability to coordinate both eyes together. Our eyes have to converge with each other accurately at near to maintain clear and single vision. If the eyes struggle to converge, or sustain that convergence, they will have to work harder to compensate. This will create tension in and around the eyes, forehead and temples. Only the most motivated readers will keep reading when things become uncomfortable. Other signs of convergence insufficiency include: double vision, words appear to move on the page, decreased comprehension (related to the increased effort) and a slow reading rate.
Symptoms like those just listed make it more difficult to attend to reading and near-point tasks, which may cause symptoms that mirror attention deficit disorder (ADHD) symptoms. In fact, in a recent study, children diagnosed as having ADHD were 3x more likely to have convergence insufficiency. These children saw a significant reduction in their ADHD symptoms when their convergence insufficiency was successfully treated with vision therapy.
Reason #2- Words are blurry or hard to look at
Kids do not understand that how they’re seeing is not quite how everyone else sees. A child may have 20/20 eyesight and pass a regular vision examination, but still have poorly developed eye focusing skills (also called accommodation). When our eyes look far away, the eye focusing muscles relax to see clearly at a distance. When we look at something closer, the eye muscles contract to move the lens in the eye to see clearly at near. As we age, this lens itself becomes less flexible, which is why most people begin to need reading glasses after age 40. For a child, this skill should be easy and automatic.
Eye focusing skills allow the visual system to maintain clear and comfortable vision at near. Other signs of poor eye focusing skills include: blurry vision at near, occasional blurred distance vision after prolonged near-work, eyestrain and headaches. Some children complain that the words are hard to look at, that there are colored spots around the words or that the print is distorted. Others will have difficulty maintaining attention on reading or just avoid reading altogether.
Reason #3- They lose their place on the page frequently
To read efficiently, our eyes have to be able to make very precise eye movements, independent of head and body movements. If eye movement skills are delayed or never fully develop, it can significantly affect reading fluency and comprehension.
Reason #4- They think they are a slow reader
It isn’t hard to understand why a child with poor eye teaming, focusing and/or tracking skills might take longer to complete reading assignments. Another reason for slow reading speed can be poor span of visual awareness. Span of visual awareness refers to the amount, and speed, with which visual information can be taken in and processed. Children who are stressed about reading will often have difficulties with this and the end result is a child that seems to never “sit still”. Getting the wiggles out through movement activities and/or deep breathing exercises before sitting down to read can help combat some of the internal stress which may be making the problems worse.
Reason #5- They can’t visualize what they’ve read
Reading is more than decoding words, it is about creating a picture in your head to help you understand the author’s thoughts. Visualization, or the ability to make pictures in your head, is a skill that is often developed when children use their imaginations or play make believe. Parents can foster this skill by reading aloud to their children and then asking them questions to see if they understand what was just read. Visualization is important not only for good reading comprehension, but also influences a child’s spelling and writing skills.
If you or your child identify with any of these five common reasons people avoid reading, you’re not alone. One out of every 10 children have an undiagnosed vision problem that can interfere with learning. The good news is there is hope! These visual skills are all learned skills that can be developed with proper guidance at any age. Developmental Optometrists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of these common visual skill problems that can affect reading and learning. Treatment for vision-related learning problems may include therapeutic glasses designed to improve visual efficiency and/or optometric vision therapy. To learn more, check out our website, www.newhorizonsvision.com. To find a Developmental Optometrist near you, visit the College of Optometrists for Vision Development website at www.covd.org.
Valerie L. Frazer, OD, FCOVD