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.

5 Responses

  1. I have never even thought about the effect that a type could have on a young, developing reader. Common sense when it’s spelled out so clearly! (And in such lovely font too 😉 )

  2. This is fascinating because even though Owen was an early, self taught reader he still will not write very much because he has trouble recognizing how to form the letters and he wants to form them as he sees them on the game or worksheet or questionnaire he is doing.

    Even when he writes his Yahtzee score down he takes forever forming the numbers exactly as they are printed on the score sheet….and of course fonts vary widely !

  3. Your font observations are interesting.

    I appreciate any efforts to draw attention to reading, and attract reluctant readers to it.

    That’s because I grew up as a reluctant reader, in spite of the fact that my father published over 70 books. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that avid boy readers and girls enjoy just as much.

    The books use Times New Roman, larger type, and lots of white space.

    My blog, Books for Boys http://booksandboys.blogspot.com recently reached # 1 on Google.

    Keep up your good work concerning reading.

    Max Elliot Anderson

  4. Reading difficulties due to fonts ( size and type ) are visual problems that can be called visual dyslexia. These visual problems can be removed with See Right Dyslexia Glasses. Visual dyslexia is a primary cause of reading difficulties in a minority of dyslexics and can co-exist with the more common language processing problems in others.

    The visual problems that cause the reading problems are individual specific with vibrating text or parts of words being obscured by light halos being common as 2 examples. Sometimes words or lines of text appear to run together and cause difficulties.

    On a larger scale visual dyslexics often describe seeing fuzzy edges as their only visual problem . While not common , different problems in either eye can exist that cause poor depth perception.

    A reasonable simplistic evaluation of increased fluency with increasing font size helps to show the impact and difference between visual dyslexia and dyslexia.

    The extremes will show increasing fluency that approaches normal with increased size for those whose problems are just visual and no increased fluency for those with only language processing problems.

    Those with co-existing visual and language processing problems will generally show improvements with fluency as font size increases and level off at the below average fluency caused by the remaining influence of non visual problems.

    More information about visual dyslexia can be found at http://www.dyslexiaglasses.com .

  5. I always enjoy reading your 2e Tuesday posts! There is just so much of what you write about in these that I can relate to.
    Toby just recently opened his own e-mail account, per request. It is much easier for him to type due to his dysgraphia, and we’ve been advised to let him do so.
    Anyway, Toby types his missives in a very large font, and has requested that people respond in much the same way(because of the dyslexia). It is easier for him to read his own typing and that of others when in a larger font. He also likes to mess around with the different types of fonts and highlighting. Usually in the same e-mail! His e-mails are never boring at least.:-)

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