This is the second of a series of articles wirtten by Barbora Holkova, Educational Advisor at Kolibri Education.
Reading skills present a common challenge for children with learning difficulties. Apart from established instructional strategies and materials, educators are also able to take advantage of a number of technological tools designed to increase word recognition and reading comprehension skills. On the tech market there are many apps that aid children with reading difficulties using different methods. For instance, “in order to improve decoding skills, it’s important to practice with word segmentation and sound blending.” Consonant and vowel blending games are a part of the Learn- to-Read app offered by NY based e-learning company Homer Learning. Another way to increase reading fluency is learning and practice of sight words – high-frequency words that children memorize. “Learning sight words allows a child to recognize these words at a glance – on sight – without needing to break the words down into their individual letters and is the way strong readers recognize most words.” Graded readers are effective materials for children with reading difficulties because they contain higher percentage of sight words and other words that are decoded easily. In the Smile and Learn platform, stories can be accessed on different levels of difficulty and different reading modes: listening, reading, listening and reading, and pictograms. For most stories, videos are available with regard to dyslexic children.
Beatriz Martos from Smile and Learn explained to me how even a choice of font matters when designing an educational product for children with learning disabilities. The font their team opted for is called Sarakanda – a dyslexia-friendly font created by Paraguayan designer Alejandro Valdez. Valdez explains that he designed Sarakanda as a way to “create a scaffold, a structure that serves as support and help to build the final work.” The font is distinctive in the way it promotes the differentiation of letters that are often problematic for children with dyslexia, such as p and q, b and d, i and j. More recently, another unique typographic font was designed in the Netherlands. Its creator Christian Boer has dyslexia himself and therefore, understands the challenges that dyslexic readers face. Dyslexie Font solves the problem of words turning and letters mirroring and swapping with a well thought out design. For instance, heavier bottoms of letters help create a visual center of gravity and prevent the words from being turned upside down. In order to minimize the swapping and mirroring, each letter has a slightly different shape. Another important aspect is the spacing between letters. In the Dyslexie Font, the space is enlarged to increase convenience and avoid the crowding effect.