I wanted to take a step back from my usually speech/language blog posts to chat about something I love very much: fonts, especially accessible fonts. ?
For the past 8+ years, I’ve spent a significant amount of my time designing and developing printable resources for SLPs. In that time, I’ve learned a ton and have developed an opinion or 2 about choosing appropriate fonts for our students, especially those with language and literacy disorders.
So in this post, I’m just going to share a few of the “best practices” I’ve come up with in the past few years to choosing accessible fonts that are easy for even the youngest of learners to read.
I never want to put additional, unnecessary obstacles in the way of the kids I work with and this is one way I do that!
#1 – Serif vs Sans Serif Accessible Fonts
In general, there are two major font families: 1 – serif and 2 – sans serif (“without” serif).
Serif fonts have little fancy lines or tapers at the end.
Sans serif fonts don’t – they are much cleaner and more minimalist looking.
Generally speaking, sans serif fonts, without the fancy lines on the ends of the letters, are easier to read.
Because of this, you’ll notice the consistent use of sans serif fonts in the resources I design and make.
So best practice #1 is keep it simple and choose sans serif fonts (e.g., Arial).
#2 – Look at the Letters
Some fonts include characters that are different from the ones students are taught. Have you ever noticed this?
Here’s an example:
Most students are taught to write a lowercase “a” like the one on the right side of the image above.
Keeping things consistent in the resources you use with young students reduces the amount of “other demands” on them while we try to make progress towards their specific speech or language goals.
I once saw a font with a star in the middle of the “O”. ??♀️ How confusing!
Below is another example of two different forms of a lowercase “t”:
Lesson 2? When you’re choosing accessible fonts, take a close look at the letters. Many fonts include non-traditional letter shapes that make reading even harder for beginner readers. If they do, skip them!
Choose simple, easy to read fonts with traditional letter shapes.
#3 – Letter Spacing
The next best practice is to pay attention to letter spacing.
As the spacing between letters gets tighter, it becomes harder and harder to read. The example above makes me squint my eyes a little when I read the top line. Does that happen to you too?
Whenever possible, try to make sure your letters aren’t so squished together that they start to get too close, touch, or overlap!
Some other solid accessible font tips are making sure your font size is 14+, limiting use of underlining or italicizing, and for students who have dyslexia, making sure letters like p and q are unique – not just mirror images of one another.
Sidenote: It was hard for me to find an example of a font with different, non-mirrored versions of “p” and “q”. This will be something I’ll have to pay closer attention to in the future!
Great Free Accessible Fonts
Some great fonts that are free on most computers are Century Gothic, Arial, Verdana, or Helvetica.
I hope this was helpful in giving you some ways to judge the fonts around you, especially when you’re buying or creating things for use with kids.
Why put additional obstacles in the way of our students reading and accessing text, right?
As a challenge, try to pay attention to fonts you see in resources you purchase, things you’ve made before, or products you see online!
Judge them on how easy to read they are and then reflect on whether they are serif or sans serif, the letter spacing, whether they have any unique or odd letter forms, and the size of the letters.
Thanks for reading!
PS: If you’re also a creator and want to know where to look for fonts, I’d recommend a site like Fontspring or Creative Market. Many of the fonts that are sold on TpT often aim for “cute” over legibility and are best for labels and fun things meant for you, not your students. Happy font shopping! ?
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