A New LOOK at Reading Readiness

Today, there seems to be more and more programs popping up promising to turn your child into an independent reader with the idea that this will jumpstart their academic career.  Putting aside debates over cognitive readiness, this raises another important question you should consider: is your child physically ready to read? Well-intentioned as these reading programs may be, when I review them, I never see any discussion of the physical demands reading puts on the eyes. Reading puts physical demands on the eyes our child may not be ready for.

To be an efficient and effective reader, the eyes must be able to sustain precise muscle control over an extended period in order to follow multiple words across one or more lines of text. That requires good Eye Fitness -- the ability to FOCUS automatically with both eyes working seamlessly as one (TEAMING) to study a static object without distraction (FIXATION) and effortlessly steer the eyes in a deliberate fashion (TRACKING).

Eye Fitness develops naturally over the first few years of life. And like everything else, it develops differently in each child, influenced in large part by how much activity the eyes have in those early years. With lots of multi-sensory play experiences, and parent/child fun time, the eyes will eventually grow strong enough to support even the most avid of readers. (And note, this does NOT mean time spent in front of a screen. Screen play occurs on a single, two-dimensional plane which has limited value in exercising the eyes for full fitness.)

 But what happens if you start to teach your child to read before his eyes are ready for it?  If you watch closely, his eyes may give you some clues. While reading, he may begin to…

  • Get red, irritated eyes.
  • Rub his eyes a lot.
  • Get watery eyes.
  • Blink excessively when looking at the print.
  • Turn away to rest his eyes.
  • Jerk his eyes across the page.
  • Display a flicker or jump in his eyes when they reach the middle of the page.

But far worse than a temporary case of eye strain, if the experience is difficult, frustrating, or even painful for your child, it may leave him with a lasting, negative impression of reading which could be a big hurdle to overcome when he actually needs to start reading for school.

So, in addition to asking yourself is my child ready for independent reading, I’d ask you to stop and think, SHOULD he be reading at this stage?

In addition to asking yourself is

my child ready for independent reading,

stop and think, SHOULD he be reading?

In my view, if you want your child to be a great reader when he grows up, focus on his eye fitness first by insuring he has lots of fun, playful, and three-dimensional visual stimulus throughout the day.

Then, spend time reading to and with your child. After a hectic day for both of you, nothing brings you closer, or instills the joy and love of reading more than a few favorite bedtime books before you turn out the light and kiss goodnight.

For a quick eye fitness game full of giggles, try this Moving Smart Playable Moment…





Draw a little face on your finger or thumb to represent the bee.  If you’d like and you have time, add a few paper wings with a piece of tape or elastic band.

Then sit face to face with your child and you’re ready to get started.  Explain to your child…

Bees are very busy, flying from here and there and you never know where they’re going to land!  Now, we don’t want to scare it off, so you have to sit very, very still.  Don’t even move your head.  Just watch with your eyes and let’s see where he lands!


A bee flew by                                               Fly the bee back and forth across

As busy as can be                                        your child’s field of vision

A bee flew by                                               Fly the bee closer and farther away

Oh, the things it could see!                         from your child                                                                                                          

The clouds up here                                      Fly the bee way up high

The grass down there                                  Fly the bee way down lo 

Then it sat on my nose and said                Fly the bee onto your child’s nose

Brush me off if you dare!                             Tickle your child’s nose!



After a few rounds, change roles.  While reciting the poem, have your child become the bee and watch to see how she flies!

See the Bee is courtesy of Moving to Learn, by Robyn Crowe and Gill Connell.