Editor’s note: A version of this column first appeared in the Oct. 17, 2001, Wednesday Journal.
Don’t read this. It’ll hurt your eyes.
Who will save our children’s sight? According to a Sun-Times article, there’s been an increase in myopia among our children. And what’s causing this rampant nearsightedness: too much reading.
Oak Park children, I believe, are particularly at risk for this sight-robbing condition. Why, I’ve seen Oak Park offspring reading books in the backseats of moving cars, en route to their violin lessons. It doesn’t make sense. We restrain our children with seat belts; yet allow them to re-strain their eyes with books.
I know firsthand how books can ruin your vision. I’m a victim of juvenile myopia. Or should I say, I’m a myopia survivor.
It started innocently enough with Hardy Boys detective books until my need to read became an obsession. I used to read far into the night, under the blankets, aided by the light of a single Christmas tree bulb. My mother constantly scolded me for reading. “You’re just reading for escape.” She was right.
My habit got out of hand, though, when I tried to tackle the Complete Works of Shakespeare. I not only began speaking in rhyming couplets, I could no longer recognize the letters on the eye chart.
Getting my first pair of glasses only increased my reading habit. I was too afraid of breaking them to play sports, so I stayed home and read. Meanwhile, my parents were always catching me hanging out at the library or a bookstore. I was forced to smuggle books home in plain brown bags.
School only fed my addiction. I wrote book report after book report, always including the name of the publisher for some reason. Then it got really hardcore: extra credit reading. My parents would see my ink stained fingers but pretend not to notice.
We’re all entitled to our youthful indiscretions but I didn’t want my own children to be called “Four Eyes.” Thankfully, my kids showed no inclination toward reading in their youth. They only read required books. Ever safety-minded, they read abridged versions or the Cliffs Notes. And they limited their reading to the night before the exam.
It was easy to keep them off books when they were young but they worried us during their college years. We’d heard about the binge reading that goes on at college. We got them to promise, though, that they wouldn’t drive if they’d had more than two books to read.
We thought they were safe from word-addiction when they reached their 20s but something strange happened. They began reading for pleasure. Now, they’re handing us books to read. Darn it, I knew we should never have read in front of them.