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Good news for dyslexia - article:

New typeface to help with dyslexia

Polly Curtis, Guardian education correspondent, Monday April 18, 2005

New typeface to help dyslexic children learn, designed by Natascha Frensch

A new typeface designed to help children with dyslexia learn to read has been developed.

The Read Regular scheme avoids using letters that can be inverted or mirrored to look alike, and can be confusing to people with dyslexia.

But it still looks like ordinary text.

The font was designed by Natascha Frensch from Delft, in the Netherlands. Ms Frensch, who has dyslexia, came up with the idea while studying at the Royal College of Arts in London.

She said: "The standard typeface works on a couple of shapes, like N and O, to create all the other 24 letters in the alphabet. While I was researching fonts I wondered why they should be so similar when the problem is distinguishing them from each other. I thought why not make each unique?

"By taking away all the extra details, and designing each letter from scratch individually, I find it easier to read. Altogether, this doesn't create as much visual distortion as normal typefaces do. When I open a book the characters can jump and distort; this helps cut down on that."

Chrysalis Books has announced that it will adopt the font in all its new primary school text books.

Around 10% of the population have a form of dyslexia. Approximately 4% are severely dyslexic, including some 375,000 schoolchildren. Dyslexia causes difficulties in learning to read, write and spell. It can also affect short-term memory, mathematics, concentration and personal organisation.

Specialist teaching of how to read, and how to cope with dyslexia, can prove very effective.

John Rack, director of research and development at the Dyslexia Institute, said: "It's a nice idea, well thought through, and it looks very promising.

"What it does is try to reduce the confusability between letters like b and d by making sure they are not mirror images of each other. Also, it cuts down on some of the confusing parts of the font, such as the double loops on the 'g' and the two-storey letter 'a', which is confusing as it doesn't link to the way people write letters."

Previous systems have relied on clunky looking fonts, which can identify a reader as having dyslexic type problems and stigmatise them, he said. "Most importantly, it does it in an elegant way which doesn't look babyish. It looks like proper text whilst being really quite clear."

However, Mr Rack added that the new font had not been scientifically tested, though anecdotal feedback was extremely positive.

Ben Cameron, of Chrysalis Books, said: "Read Regular is good because it works subtly, it doesn't look like anything special, it's not stigmatising. People don't notice the difference. Plus, all children can read faster and more easily in this font, not just dyslexic children."

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