NEW YORK—Remember the feeling of starting a new school year? Sure, kissing summer goodbye was always a bit of a drag when I was younger, but there’s something about the crisp, fresh start of a brand new school year that still makes me excited—even though I graduated years ago. There’s so much potential in a new year—so many classes to enroll in, friends to make, lockers to decorate, stuff to learn—that it feels impossible not to associate the start of the semester with a bright, lively future.
As parents, kids, teachers, and the rest of us gear up for the back to school season, the optical community is getting involved as well. After all, a new year means new books, new sneakers, new glasses, and an ever-important, ever-growing reminder about children’s eye health, and how their eyes affect their performance in school.
It seems like awareness of children’s eye health is growing with every passing year, but it remains an important PSA—according to Think About Your Eyes, nearly half of parents with children under the age of six have never taken their kids to an eye doctor, and 60 percent of parents don’t think an eye exam is an essential part of a child’s checkup schedule. Now that the school year is rolling back around, Think About Your Eyes and other organizations are working tirelessly to correct these dangerous misconceptions. With Prevent Blindness and the National Optometric Association joining forces to name August Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month and the state of California following suit by naming August Children's Vision and Learning Month, this is the perfect time to get the message out.
This year, for example, Think About Your Eyes is offering a virtual reality classroom demonstration that shows what school could be like for a child with uncorrected vision, as well as an information pack on how children’s vision affects their learning while at school.
Essilor of America and Marsai Martin, the 14-year-old actress best known for her role on “Black-ish” and the youngest executive producer in Hollywood, teamed up for the back to school season, too. Together, Martin and Essilor are campaigning for children to receive total vision care as they head back to school, as well as introducing the Essilor 20/20 Vision Pledge which calls on parents to “put their child’s vision first and empower them this school year by taking them to the right doctor for their vision needs,” according to Essilor.
Those who take the pledge are eligible to win both a comprehensive eye exam and glasses for their child, as well as glasses for the child’s entire K-12 school from the Essilor Vision Foundation. Martin spoke out about her own struggles with uncorrected vision as part of the campaign—and her success story shows parents just how far good vision care can help you get.
Children’s eye health education also extends beyond the classroom: for VSP, the back to school season means a partnership with the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, which helps provide student-athletes in need with access to eyecare. And ECPs are getting involved on a local level, too, like Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford, of Bright Eyes Vision in Tampa, Florida, who appeared on his local news to discuss the importance of children’s vision care year-round, and other independent ECPs who have begun running promotions and educational events for the season.
Resources to help ECPs talk to their patients about children’s eyecare are growing, as is awareness of just how important kids’ eyes are. When kids see correctly they can approach their school year, their future, and our world’s future with confidence, clarity and hope—and we can help them get there.