Age teaches us all new lessons, and kids don't mind watching us learn

April 20, 2007|by LISA PREJEAN

"That concludes chapter two of our book, class. Tomorrow we'll begin reading chapter three, 'A Brave New Army.'"

I love reading to my students. It seems to have such a calming effect on children. It also brings back wonderful memories for me. My fifth-grade teacher read aloud to us every day. I still remember how the classroom seemed to be transformed as she shared some of her favorite literature with us.

With these whimsical thoughts on my mind, I looked up and smiled at my third-graders. Just then I noticed some of my students' faces. The quizzical looks I received made me wonder what was going on. Then it dawned on me - there was no mention of an army in what we had read so far. Chapter one had no army in it. There was no army in chapter two.

How could chapter three be "A Brave New Army?"


I looked at the title again.


Chapter three's title is "A Brave New Amy," named after the main character in the book.

"Oh, I misread the title. I should have said, 'A Brave New Amy.'" The class laughed and we went on to the next task.

By the following day, I had forgotten the Army/Amy slip. I picked up the book and began with, "Today we start chapter three, 'A Brave New Army.'"

The giggles started in the second row, and I admit I had to join in. My eyes had played a trick on me again.

Truth be told, my vision's not what it used to be. I'm having trouble reading and seeing close-up. I've never needed glasses, but ever since I turned 40, I've noticed that some things are difficult to read. This is especially true of small print late at night. (Or large print in the middle of the afternoon.)

Apparently, many people have this trouble at about the same age. A Web search for information about "eyesight after 40" brings up 1,150,000 hits.

According to, farsightedness (hyperopia) occurs when structural defects in the eye cause vision to be blurry. Eyes lose the ability to change the shape of the lens to focus on near objects (called "accommodation") as we age:

"Farsightedness is often first noticed after age 40 when the eyes begin to lose their ability to accommodate. The age-related decline in focusing power, called presbyopia, makes farsightedness more apparent."

OK. I can accept this as a normal part of aging. My optometrist recommended reading glasses, and I've taken her advice. (In fact, I had to use my new glasses to read some of the small print on the American Optometric Association's Web site, How ironic is that? Don't you think eye doctors would request that the information on their Web site be easy to read? Perhaps it hasn't occurred to the 20-something Webmasters that people using the site are going there because they are having difficulty reading small print.)

I just wish that companies would realize that as our society ages, printed information needs to be enlarged.

As I was making dinner tonight, I could barely make out the fraction on the box flap of the enchilada kit. Was it 1/2? 2/3? 3/4? How much shredded cheese was needed? If this is supposed to be a quick dinner, why aren't the directions large and easy to read?

The most frustrating small print to read, though, is on the side of medicine bottles. The other night I was trying to read one of those at 1 a.m. so I'd know the dose needed to lower my 8-year-old's fever. I reached for my glasses and found the answer.

Some of my students who have glasses think it's cool that their teacher has glasses now, too. They also like it when I forget to put them on because it makes them feel better when they forget their glasses.

When they grow up, perhaps they'll remember their third-grade teacher's eyesight struggle; and they will stress on the job the importance of large print for the aging population.

If you're over 40 and you can't remember when you had your last eye exam, it's time to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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