- Wini Ashooh
When my son was in kindergarten, he was diagnosed with a "lazy eye." I do not know if that is still the appropriate term to use, but the result was that he had to wear a patch over one eye (the stronger one) to force the other eye to work harder and to strengthen. In the book The Pirate of Kindergarten, by George Ella Lyon, the main character, Ginny, receives a similar diagnosis when she does not pass a routine vision screening at school. Ginny has difficulty seeing. She runs into things in the classroom, and some of her classmates laugh at her. Ginny loves reading but when she reads she has trouble seeing the letters, and she has to get very close to the page. The imagery of the letters hopping "around like popcorn" and the number 2 looking more like a swan help bring the reader into Ginny's world.
As a result of a routine vision screening test at school, it is determined that Ginny has trouble seeing clearly. Both Ginny's teacher and the school nurse provide caring guidance and support for Ginny as they recognize that she is in need of a doctor's visit and possibly some corrective eyewear. The adults address Ginny's difficulty with caring and concern. This book could prove to be invaluable to any adult dealing with a child in a similar situation. The thought of a visit to the eye doctor's office may prove to be a scary proposition. Reading this book with a child may soothe his fears.
The visit to the eye doctor is well-illustrated and has enough detail so as to prepare a child for the charts and machines with which they will come into contact. The machine that has all the special lenses in particular could appear large and ominous to a child, and the illustration will allow for discussion of expectations. Additionally, the ophthalmologist smiles a lot in the story. His name is Dr. Clare, and he uses comforting expressions like "Good news."
The end result is that Ginny does need to do some eye exercises. Dr. Clare prescribes an eye patch. Her mother is there to help her put it on. Ginny does not cry or whine. In fact, she embraces her new eye patch with a spunky attitude and she calls herself a Kindergarten pirate. She goes at life and the classroom with a renewed vigor. The story ends with her joining the reading circle at school "without knocking over a single chair."
This is a very positive and upbeat book about a little girl who has a potentially frightening diagnosis. Instead of complaining and crying, she accepts her new eye patch and moves forward. We could all learn a lesson from Ginny and her "can do" attitude.