5 replies 

keith at ela

Location: England UK and Philippines

Positions: Parent, Classroom Teacher Boy who could not read

According to most reliable research, there are more than five and a half million people who have reading and writing difficulties. Only a few of these are illiterate, that is they cannot read at all. Most can read something, but find it hard to understand and cope with forms, official letters, reports, etc.

These people should not be confused with those with learning difficulties. These are people who, for one reason or another, have missed out on learning an essential skill in modern society. More often than not because of pore teachers, ones who did not have the patience or knowledge to help when and how it was needed.

Simple things can help to make reading easier and more enjoyable for boys and all. If the printers and publishers can consider things like; design – white space on a page – leading, the space between lines – type choice and size – use of upper and lower case – illustrations, bleeding of print and overprinting – page layout and page breaks – paper choice and paper colour. The last, paper colour may seem unimportant to most but it is very important and must be taken into consideration. An easy way to test this theory is to place different coloured film over a page for them to read and sea which colour is best for them. Personally for me it is yellow. Of course you can’t get books printed on yellow paper but you can give the child a sheet of coloured film to use when he is reading. The cost is very little for the reward it will gain.

If you are printing or designing material for boys to read, then it is important to take these things into consideration. Think more of readability and not so much of showing how clever you are. If you want to make the material you produce easier to read, pay attention to: sentence length, choice of words and repetition, line length and paragraphing.

To clarify all I have tried to say here:

With design, problems with reading are often more to do with the look and layout of printed material, than the complexity of the text itself. In their effort to produce attractive, eye-catching material, designers are sometimes tempted to sacrifice clear layout. This is particularly true of material designed for the ‘youth’ market. These design features cause fluent readers no problem but we must consider those who are not so fluent. We must empathise with them.

Ways to make written material easier to read.

White space.

It is important that readers can find their way around a text easily. Too much text on a page can be a deterrent to getting started on reading.

Columns too close together can cause confusion.

Some readers tend to over closely set columns. What is needed is short clearly separated chunks of text which they can work through at their own pace. This helps them to see how far they have to go, and reduces the chances of them giving up. Pages that have no margins or little space between paragraphs are generally more difficult to read.


Similarly, the spacing between lines is an important factor in making reading easier. Too close and the hesitant reader will tend to drop lines; too far apart and the reader will not be clear whether the lines relate to each other at all. Obviously leading depends on type size, but with normal 12pt, a leading of 2pt is sensible. (the term leading is used to describe the space between lines, from the time of old print setting, when pieces of led were put between the type)

Type choice and size.

There are endless debates about whether serifed or sans serifed types are easier to read, and whether readers find it difficult to recognise ‘a’ or ‘g’ in the different types The evidence suggests, however, that most with reading problems have inadequate skills rather than being totally illiterate. Most, therefore, will recognise and differentiate the letters of the alphabet. Types chosen need to be reasonably clear and distinct (avoid types where ‘rn’ can be mistaken for ‘m’, etc.) Some types you may like to consider are: Century, schoolbook, Plantin, Helvetica or Times, I try to always use Times myself.

Type size inevitably relates to the nature and purpose of the text. It is worth guarding against too large a type size, this can be a bit patronising to someone with reading problems but bear in mind those who need it larger because of sight problems, so try to get a happy medium.

A word about computer print types: dot matrix printers produce material that is notoriously difficult for those with reading problems. Thankfully the arrival and increasing use of bubble jet printers is reducing this problem.

Use of upper and lower case.

You may have noticed as you drive around the country that major road signs use upper and lower case for cities and towns, whereas on minor roads, the older signposts still show directions in upper case only. There is a body of evidence that shows that upper and lower case together is easier to read (for all of us, not only the ones who have a problem) The shape of the word is an aid to the reading of the name of the town, e.g. London, Wolverhampton, or Luton and Leeds as opposed to LUTON and LEEDS.

The same is true for reading text. The over use of upper case, for example to convey emphasis, is counterproductive. It is less likely that the text will be read, not more likely.

Far better to use bold type, or boxing, to show the importance of a part of text.

Illustrations and overprinting.

It is essential to use illustrations, photographs, etc. to break up the density of text. It is even better if the illustrations relate directly to the surrounding text, so that those with reading problems can use the illustrations as a clue to the text itself. The illustrations should wherever possible come at the end of paragraphs or sentences, rather than in the middle of them.

Currently there is a tendency to use illustrations as background, with print running over some areas of the illustration. This makes the text generally more difficult to read, in some cases impossible.

Page layout and page breaks.

In addition to the use of white space, care should be taken about the layout of pages, ideally headings and new sections should come at the  of pages, and sentences and paragraphs should not run over columns or pages. Lines between columns can be helpful. Page numbering should be clear.

Paper choice and paper colour.

The paper that is used should be thick enough to ensure that there is not a high degree of ‘shadowing’ from the text on the other side of the page. Some material is difficult to read because of this, and letters and words become difficult to distinguish. Obviously thicker paper is more expensive, but it is worth it if you want the message to get across and the reading to be easier.

Darker colour papers generally provide more difficult backgrounds for reading. Blue and purple are worse than others. A light yellow seems to be the best choice for most with reading problems.

Readability Formula – Simplified

Readability is an attempt to match the reading level of written material to the ‘reading with understanding’ level of the reader.

This formula calculates readability using sentence and word length. However, other factors affect understanding of what you are reading that cannot be measured in this way, e.g. motivation of reader, size and type of print, layout of written material, previous knowledge of subject, style of writer, etc.

Use this formula to compare reading levels against each other, e.g. compare the readability level of your worksheet against standard text books and popular papers, etc.

This formula is much quicker and easier to work out than other formulae.

1. Select a text

2. Count 10 sentences

3. Count number of words which have three or more syllables

4. Multiply this number by 3

5. Circle the number closest to your answer.

1 4 9 16 25 36 49 64 81 100 121 144 169

6. Find the square root of the number you circled

1 4 9 16 25 36 49 64 81 100 121 144 169

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

7. Add 8 to this number and you have the readability level.

Sorry this has been so long but it was impossible to convey all this information in any shorter way.





Location: Rhode Island, USA

Position: Parent

Thanks for all the great information. I knew about keeping the paragraphs shorter as not to lose the reader (learning this in blogging too). I had no clue whatsoever about the color of the paper! It made a whole lot of sense when I read it though. It is the same for me when I go on a webpage that is much too bright color going on..it screams headache material.


Thanks, Debby



Location: Philippines

Great advices and helpful tips! Readers want a convenient in reading.



Location: philippines

Position: Classroom Teacher

yes i think these tips will make reading a lot easier. Nice idea of having a yellow film over the paper to make it more readable, its cool and unique…



Location: Philippines

Positions: Parent, Classroom Teacher

Wow, that was good information. My students are attracted to reading because of what the material looks like. First impressions. If the article is too long, they get turned off. For my students, they would frown when I ask them to read a long article. I see them counting the pages then frown. How the reading material is presented makes it easier for the kids and adults alike to read it.


~~~a stone is not carved by force but by constant friction~~~



Location: Setif, Algeria

Positions: Classroom Teacher Administrator, English Teacher

Good tips but a lot of info to read in a single day;



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