A free illustrated storybook, ‘The Singing Tree’, designed to encourage school children to seek help if their vision is poor, has been launched in Ethiopia.

The book launch coincides with World Sight Day 2018 celebrations as well as 20 years of sight-saving work in Ethiopia

The book is set to be distributed to 5000 school eye health clubs and children as an educational tool to raise awareness of visual impairment and its easy identification and treatment.

'The Singing Tree' tells the story of a young girl named Elene, who instead of playing with the other children, sits alone under the warka tree. Due to problems with her vision, she cannot see the birds and believes that the tree sings to her. Her mother discovers the problem and takes Elene to an eye clinic, where she is fitted with a pair of glasses – completely transforming her life.

The beautiful illustrations were produced by Bookworks, a team of artists in India, who worked closely with Orbis to ensure that every detail is true to the Ethiopian experience.

The story is based on the personal childhood experiences of author Kenneth Youngstein. When he was 5, he received this first pair of glasses. His mother often told him that when they left the opticians, he looked up to the sky and shouted, “Look Mommy, birds!”

'The Singing Tree' has already been published and found success in South Africa, Zambia, Cameroon, Ghana, India, and Nepal. In India, the storybook was the second most important book published in 2018 (out of 100).

Tap on the thumbnails below to discover more about the book.

Working with partner organizations across Ethiopia, and in collaboration with local education departments, copies of 'The Singing Tree' will be distributed to school libraries, where teachers can read the book to their young students, as well as during eye screenings at schools or local clinics.

The prevalence of blindness and low vision is 1.6% and 3.7% respectively. The prevalence of blindness and low vision for children is 0.1% and accounts for over 6% of the total blindness burden in Ethiopia.

- 2006 National Survey on Blindness, Low Vision and Trachoma in Ethiopia

There are still too many children whose lives could be improved by wearing corrective glasses. The Singing Tree is a tool to help educate children, their parents and their teachers that poor vision is a problem that can be and must be corrected and, hopefully, to help break down the cultural barriers that often stand in the way of allowing all children to reach their full potential in life.

The Singing Tree author

Kenneth Youngstein

Ken Youngstein at the launch of The Singing Tree in Ethiopia

For more than 40 years, Kenneth has been producing education programs for health professionals and patients throughout the world.

Dr. Alemayehu Sisay, Country Director of Orbis Ethiopia with 'The Singing Tree' author Kenneth Youngstein

We at Orbis believe that every child has the right to an early, good quality eye examination, care and support to fulfil their fundamental right to education. Some day we hope to see a nation where no child is needlessly blind or visually impaired.

Dr. Alemayehu Sisay

Country Director of Orbis Ethiopia

Refractive error is one of leading causes of blindness and low vision among children and for adults are led by cataract and trachoma. The same study revealed that close to one million individuals with low vision due to refractive error needs glasses.

- 2006 National Survey on Blindness, Low Vision and Trachoma in Ethiopia

Launching this book in Ethiopia is just one example of the new and innovative ways we can help fight blindness with your help.

Discover more about 20 years of fighting blindness in Ethiopia.