2e Tuesday: The Font’s The Thing!

I had no idea, until I read the Wall Street Journal article (here) that the font Comic Sans was so divisive! That it inspired so much passion (either good or bad) from people! That there is a flickr group dedicated to hating it! That, in fact, there is another group, Ban Comic Sans
whose sole purpose is to, well, ban Comic Sans from the general population.

Over my dead body!

(wow, I guess fonts really DO produce strong emotions!)

My daughter was a reluctant reader. Dyslexia had a lot to do with that, but looking back, I think the types of fonts used in schools and books also had a lot to do with it, too. Hand in hand with dyslexia is a very visual learning style, and when Naturalist was taught to print her letters in basic ‘teacher writing’ she visualized her letters that way:

school font

That is a very different look than the serif fonts that she then came across on her worksheets and in the early readers. Fonts like this, with the funky a and serifs flinging off everywhere:

bad dyslexic fonts

I remember specifically at a teacher conference in 1st grade, the teacher and I sat scratching our heads because Naturalist had written her name on a worksheet that she was supposed to circle all the letters that she recognized. She circled maybe 3 letters–none of which were the letters in her name. You know, the name she’d just written down. Her teacher loved her, I loved her teacher, and we sat and had a good chuckle about how flighty Naturalist was.

Now, I think I know what it was all about. She knew her letters sans serif, like this:

dyslexic friendly fonts

but guess what font the worksheet was in? Times New Roman. Naturalist had memorized the shapes of the letters, and when you added a little serif ‘flare’ on the top or bottom, then she didn’t register it. Additionally, once she’d memorized the shape of it, then you could flip it and turn it upside down and it would remain that letter. Thus, the issue with b,d, and p and a whole host of other letters (u and n, h and y, to name a few).

If you have a reluctant reader, with or without dyslexia, the size and shape of the font can make a huge difference in the ease of reading, which then creates a non-reluctant reader. Naturalist and I played around with size and type of font in Word one day, and came up with her top list of fonts (which I name in the picture above). At first, she preferred the size of them to be in the 70’s, and then the 30’s, and now she’s comfortable with them at 24.

Likewise, once I showed her how to make the font size larger on the computer, she was able to read things off the internet so much easier.

When we look at books to read, she checks out the font first. Some she just can’t read without a significant amount of eye strain and fatigue, so she usually sticks to hardbacks (larger font, in most cases) with less serif type fonts.

If you have a reluctant reader, I highly recommend starting at investigating size and shape of fonts. Find one they like reading off of Word, and then copy/paste things of interest off the internet, change it into that font, and then make it larger. Print that out and see if it makes a difference. For us, it made a HUGE impact. Naturalist still struggles with different aspects of dyslexia, but the right font cuts out at least half the frustration she used to have.

It’s for those reasons that I say to the Ban Comic Sans people…if you want to take Comic Sans down, you’ll have to go through me first.

A great article about font selection for very right brain, visual, or dyslexic readers, including links to suggested fonts.