February 25, 2020

Could a Change of Font Improve Reading Fluency?

Ryan Crawley
A silhouette of a female child in black

As a certified Reading Specialist, I have worked with thousands of struggling readers over the years. I have learned that every case needs to be looked at closely when diagnosing a child, as there could be several reasons why a student is having difficulty with reading.

Problems with reading can affect how children learn in all subjects because reading is required for just about everything in and out of school. If a child can’t read well enough, it could be a sign of bad things to come because the ability to read is one of the biggest indicators of academic success.

One thing that most adults don’t look at closely enough when trying to determine why a child is struggling with reading fluency is the type of font the text is written in. This has been getting overlooked, but with recent research, more people are taking notice.

Possible Problems with the Font

Times New Roman and Arial are two of the most common fonts used in text. In fact, if you are typing up a document yourself, those two fonts seem to be the most suggested by word processor programs. For most, these two fonts are fine to write with or read, but others may not view them quite the same.

When learning to read, the font of the text can definitely become an issue. Times New Roman is a bit narrower than many types of fonts, so it can be difficult to read for someone just learning or having visual issues. On the other hand, Arial is often viewed as being a bit too light with awkward angles that can present its own challenge for someone wanting to improve their reading fluency.

Enter the Lexend Font

Thomas Jockin, an educator who is also interested in type-designing, worked with Dr. Bonnie Shaver-Troup to figure out how fonts could change a child’s reading fluency. They believed that just like how a pair of the right prescription eyeglasses could make all the difference in the world for someone, so could the font of a text for someone who is grappling with reading.

This was essentially how the Lexend font was born between the two of them. It was created to help those struggling readers by introducing an easier and simpler font for them to read. There has been research completed that showed a group of third-grade students’ reading fluency improved while reading text created from Lexend font over other types of font. Lexend, with their words and letters spaced out a bit more than most fonts, yielded good results.

Others Are Jumping on Board with the Creation of Lexend

As news has spread about the benefits of the Lexend font, large companies are committing to it and adding it to their font choices. Lexend is now available on Google Fonts and their other applications, as well as an open-source download. It has also been discussed at Apple and Microsoft. It could be just a matter of time before Lexend is a commonly viewed font.

More Research Is Needed

As someone who has spent two decades reading research studies on educational topics, I would like to see more of the studies on how Lexend has improved reading fluency with kids. After a 15-minute search online, the only study I could find is the one I mentioned above, and it is the one often repeated in the promotion of Lexend.

When reviewing all of the other fonts that are offered on writing apps, there are a few that are pretty well-spaced out and defined, which makes for easy reading. For instance, Maven Pro is a font that could be beneficial for young students learning how to read.

In closing, I would have to consider these questions before jumping on the Lexend bandwagon:

  • How many young students are learning how to read through online programs and websites in which the font can be changed? (Most kids learn through using children’s books, and they contain all sorts of fonts.)
  • Are the creators of Lexend suggesting all textbooks replace their Times New Roman font instead?
  • What about the students that are not having a problem reading Times New Roman? Lexend’s font is spaced a bit dramatically and takes some getting used to.
  • Should there be textbooks written in Times New Roman font and then some written with Lexend font for the benefit of all students?
  • For struggling students, is there an application that would allow all text online to be switched to Lexend font for them?
  • Are there other fonts out there that can yield even better results?

Let us know in the comments if you’ve used Lexend font and your thoughts on it!