Visual Factors in Reading


Although this paperback dates back to 2007, the Cornelissen & Singleton volume contains some very useful research references.  An insightful comment from its back cover:

“This collection of research papers examines the critical role that vision plays in learning to read. State-of-the-art research suggests that an overemphasis on phonological processes in reading has underestimated the importance of integrating a highly practiced vision system with the language system. Contributors, including Richard C. Shillcock, Marc Brysbaert and Carol Whitney, evaluate recent findings from neuro-imaging literature, along with important current work on how letters and letter strings are processed. From a variety of empirical and theoretical perspectives, these studies examine the impact that eye movement control, left and right visual fields, word shape, visual stress, and right and left hemispheres have on visual word recognition. Visual Factors in Reading explores the complex visual computations fundamental to reading and how they are implemented in the brain.”

Which makes one wonder how and why “Joint Statements” disavowing any significant connection between vision and reading, and persisting with the same tired overemphasis on phonological processes in reading are continually repackaged.  Incredible to see the same smoke being blown into parents’ and educators’ eyes by our detractors, while optometrists continue to take the high road.

Man smoking a joint

When parents and professionals ask me how some eyecare practitioners can adopt such a shallow view about the role of vision in learning, I tell them that despite protestations otherwise, it’s simply not their field.  Here’s a supportive quote for that conclusion by Burkhart Fischer.  In his chapter on Subitizing, Dynamic Vision, Saccade and Fixation Control in the 2012 text on Visual Aspects of Dyslexia edited by Stein & Kapoula, Fischer concludes: “These temporal aspects of vision have been almost completely neglected in classical ophthalmology“.


Perhaps this makes it all the more satisfying when one encounters physicians in the field who overcome organizational tunnel vision about this subject, focusing on what’s in the best interests of the individual child who continues to fall hopelessly behind despite earfuls of phonology.  As I look toward transitioning to the next phase of my career I might even make myself available to the Joint Statement Committee if they’re interested in broadening their approach, and shedding some dogma.  I’ve already got the signage in place.



2 thoughts on “Visual Factors in Reading

  1. Since we are still over focused on Snellen Acuity, the year 2007 is just like yesterday, Thanks for your inSIGHTS


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