Secret life

Iris the pirate

Optometrist Farah Hasham on teaching children about eye care through a pirate-themed children’s book


I work as an optometrist at Vision Express in Peterborough. We see around 40 children a month at my practice, with more coming in during the holidays.

I had always wanted to write a children’s book as a side project. The main reason for the book is to increase the awareness of eye exams and encourage children to be tested at a younger age than what I am seeing in the area where I am practising. I see children who have problems with their vision, but they aren’t coming for a sight test at age three or four, it’s more like eight or nine. Not all of them are having vision screening done at school.

I feel that children shouldn’t be struggling at school because of their vision. Their vision needs to be spot on for them to learn and perform. I wouldn’t want them to miss out on education because of something so basic. Kids don’t know that they are supposed to see 6/6 and most of the time they won’t say anything to their parents.

Kids don’t know that they are supposed to see 6/6 and most of the time they won’t say anything to their parents


My book, Iris the Pirate, is about a pirate who goes on an adventure to look for some treasure. It is a picture book with images related to the duochrome, ishihara, astigmatism and near vision tests. It is very simple. My two-year-old can hold it and go through it and get most of the pictures right. The book is not there to test, to diagnose or to screen in any way; it is there to help children become familiar with the eye exam and encourage them to come into the testing room.

I came up with the concept and then worked with illustrators and printers from abroad to develop the book into a finished product. We went back and forth to get the right sizing and colouring. It would be good to have the book in optical practices and NHS waiting rooms, schools or libraries. At the moment, we have done 20 samples that are being sent out to companies that might be interested in sponsorship. Depending on how this book goes, I hope to write more and maybe cover different topics like Iris the Pirate wears a Patch or children’s contact lens wear.

  • As told to Selina Powell.

Image credit: Getty