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Educating Children on Eye Health in Dr Yasmin El-Rouby’s Misty Mole series

By Ayman Sabir, Iona Fleming and Katie Farr


Myopia, commonly known as nearsightedness, is a vision disorder which is now recognised as a worldwide epidemic. After noticing that many vision disorders – including Myopia – do not receive widespread media attention in contrast to many other health conditions, Dr Yasmin El-Rouby decided to raise awareness for the importance of early eye examinations and vision screenings to allow for “the early detection and prevention of potentially vision threatening eye conditions.” In writing the Misty Mole series, she draws on her background as an eye doctor, with a Master’s degree in public health, and career working with children. With children’s books, Dr El-Rouby spreads the message through a medium which is engaging to children and will “promote the message that healthy bodies and healthy lifestyles lead to healthy eyes.” Many parents are unaware that lifestyle and behavioural conditions can slow or even prevent myopia. This series is, therefore, not only for children but also for parents wanting to understand the importance of eye health and the ocular complications of Myopia if not caught and treated early. 


The decision to use animal characters in the books was inspired by Dr El-Rouby’s love of children’s picture book classics like The Gruffalo and The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Animal characters “transcend cultural and linguistic barriers” as well as being “fun and appealing” to children. For the characters’ personalities, Dr El-Rouby drew inspiration from friends and family, and even her patients. Dr El-Rouby had a wonderful experience working with her illustrator Ishy Walters, saying that it is key to the success of a children’s book to find “an illustrator who shares your vision and believes in the message you are trying to relay.” Walters’s “beautiful illustrations” were extremely important in “enhancing and complementing the narrative,” ensuring that the books’ messages were clear and that the story “flowed smoothly.”


One of the challenges Dr El-Rouby faced while approaching the Misty Mole series was figuring out how to break down quite complex concepts and health terminology into something that children could understand and engage with. It was important to Dr El-Rouby that the books be accessible to young children as “awareness must start at a young age,” and she wanted the books to be able to “spark meaningful conversations when being read to children by their parents.” Dr El-Rouby found that to achieve this she needed to prioritise the most important messages she was aiming to convey, and work out a “child-friendly plot.” The third book in the series, Misty Mole and the Eating Adventure, aims to teach children the importance of healthy eating for eye-health, potentially quite a technical and difficult concept for children to understand. Dr El-Rouby’s solution was to turn the story into a balloon adventure, with Misty searching for the best foods for eye-health. Editing was key to simplifying the language as much as possible, to meet the challenge to “convey big and complicated ideas into a few words.”


One piece of advice Dr El-Rouby would give to aspiring children’s authors is to “run free with your creativity,” and not to let negative self-talk become a barrier to the creative side we all have. By connecting the complex ideas she wanted to convey to “familiar or fun experiences,” Dr El-Rouby preserved that sense of adventure and imagination which children love, while sharing the message she is so passionate about.


While previously her career as an eye doctor had not allowed the time to write children’s fiction, Dr El-Rouby began writing the series during the pandemic. Regarding writing during this period, she says “the free time… sparked my imagination… and gave [me] the confidence I needed to finish my books.” Once the characters and stories had grown, her passion for writing grew too, and she went on to write the second and third book even after returning to work. While she found it difficult to balance a traditionally-structured job with being an author, she found that consistency (even thirty minutes of writing per day) is key to creating good writing habits. 


Having written this educational series for children, Dr El-Rouby wishes to write about further important topics in the future. Such topics include “the effect of blue light and UV light on vision” as well as “highlighting other eye conditions that need to be detected and prevented early on to avoid vision impairment and blindness.” It seems again that she will be using her knowledge from her day-to-day career in order to teach children and their parents the right ways to keep their eyes in full health. 


While myopia is widespread across the globe, there is still much to be done to raise awareness for prevention and treatment. Through the Misty Mole series, Dr El-Rouby is playing a fundamental part in raising awareness of the importance of eye health for the next generation in a world where it is so often overlooked. 


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