How the letter spacing affects children’s reading speed

A new study has found that a child’s reading speed can be improved by simply increasing the space between letters within a piece of text.

The research, led by Dr. Steven Stagg of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), examined the benefits of letter spacing and colored overlays amongst a group of dyslexic and non-dyslexic children. It is the first study to investigate how these adaptations can help to reduce specific reading errors.

The study discovered that text with increased space between each letter provided a benefit to both groups of children. On average, the dyslexia group showed a 13% increase in reading speed, while the comparison group of non-dyslexic children showed a 5% increase in reading speed.

“We found that extra-large letter spacing increases the reading speed of children both with and without dyslexia, and significantly reduces the number of words that dyslexic children skip when reading. We believe that extra-large letter spacing works by reducing what is known as the ‘crowding effect’, which can hamper the recognition of letters and reduce reading speed,“ Dr. Stagg said.

When viewed in the context of previous research, the findings strongly suggest that teaching professionals can be confident that all children would be helped by increased letter spacing in reading materials. As well as being a relatively simple change to make when producing handouts and worksheets, it means that children with dyslexia need not feel singled out by the introduction of specially adapted reading materials, as this is something that everyone can benefit from.

Source: Science Daily