If you’re the parent of a dyslexic child, you know well the struggles of reading time. For dyslexic readers, it can be a torturous struggle, requiring exhaustive effort and frustration. Often, by the time a dyslexic reader has unravelled the text on the page the story is lost. As a parent or teacher, you may have considered (and tried) various tools and resources –from new learning methods to teachers or tutors with unique expertise, and classroom materials designed for dyslexic readers.
The books published by Aulexic, including our P.I. Penguin series, are tailored to children with dyslexia, as well as autism, and ADD/ADHD. What makes them different from other early reader titles?
A Series from the Heart
Mother-of-two and fiction author Rebecca Laffar-Smith launched the Aulexic publishing house as a labour of love. Rebecca, who experiences mild dyslexia herself, homeschools her autistic son who is acutely dyslexic. She was also raised by a mother with severe dyslexia. She’s seen all sides of the dyslexia struggle, and has researched for years to discover the best techniques to help her son read and write.
Aulexic is the culmination of this research, publishing books with very specific characteristics that help make reading – and learning to read – easier for dyslexic readers. These traits come out in the word choices, storylines, characteristics and formatting of Aulexic books, all contributing to fun, engaging reading for all ages. (And don’t be fooled – neurotypical children love these books, as well. They are great for the whole family.)
Font Choices and Layout Designed for Dyslexic Readers
One of the common experiences for dyslexic readers is a sense that the letters or words shift on the page as they try to read. Because of enhanced spatial senses, dyslexics often struggle to differentiate between p’s and q’s, b’s and d’s, etc. A dyslexic mind ‘sees’ the letters in any orientation rather than fixing them, weighting them, in place so that they always read upright. (This skill means dyslexic readers can often read upside down text just as fluently as they would read upright text which can be a pretty clever party trick for dyslexics who have developed reading proficiency.)
In Aulexic books, we use a weighted font with varied letter shapes. The Dyslexie font, designed by dyslexic graphic designer, Christian Boer, gives each letter a unique shape so that each are clearly individual and not orientation-dependent. Each letter is also heavily weighted so that they ‘sit’ to the bottom of the line and minimise the sense of motion or movement a dyslexic reader may experience. See for yourself!
The use of this font in Aulexic books make it easier for dyslexic readers to learn to distinguish between letters. It helps to prevent spelling or decoding confusion, and increases the general accuracy of reading. This, coupled with a softer contrast (an off-black text on pastel background), sentences of varying lengths, larger typeface, shorter line lengths, and comfortable line spacing make it easier for dyslexic readers to remain focused as they read across a line and move from the top of the page to the bottom.
The font choices and layouts of Aulexic books were chosen after several months of research, trial-and-error, and field-testing. Ultimately, Aulexic books are not just “easy readers” in that they feature language and stories that make it easier for children to stay engaged, but the use of the Dyslexie font and the way text is arranged on the page also enhances readability.
Additionally, the matte finish on the pages of Aulexic books minimise glare. While most picture books use a glossy paper that can reflect light, the use of matte paper eliminates reflection allowing natural light (our recommended source of reading light) to enhance the page and softens the visual noise and glare of artificial light. This minimises the distraction of the environment while reading. Thick paper stock makes the books sturdy and durable.
Full-colour Illustrations to Engage Readers
Pictures help children of all ages stay focused on content. The best images complement a story, showcase familiar characters, and spark the imagination.
The illustrations in the P.I. Penguin series are colourful, engaging, and content-focused. The pictures represent the story and allow children to use the images on the page as a guide to the words. This eases decoding, allowing their sense of comprehension and predictability to sort through their word and language memories for the words that match the story they expect. By pairing images with words, children comprehend the story better and can link the words in their memory, solidifying the visual recognition of language that allows readers to increase reading speed over time.
The brilliance and vibrancy of the pictures also provide a visual ‘rest’ as children pause to look at the pictures before and after reading the text on the page. The soft edges, and fun tone, give a playful, enticing air to the story that draws readers in. The bright, colourful illustrations also keep young children enthralled, with readers as young as two years of age sitting through the reading of the entire book despite the story having significantly more words and a more intricate storyline than books targeted to that age group. Children, at any age, love the freedom to enjoy being kids and we’ve found, even older children engage with and have fun exploring the imagery in our P.I. Penguin books.
Poetic Devices to Make Reading Fun
Aulexic books are written by poets, not just writers. Poetry requires a mastery of language that experiments with cadence, and the music of language. A strong rhyme scheme; familiar, consistent rhythm and meter; along with the use of poetic devices, make Aulexic books fun and easy to read. The sing-song quality of the language invites children to read-along. It also increases the sense of predictability, allowing readers to more easily decode words as they read them. Again, this aids in honing language memory and spelling, especially for dyslexic readers.
Practical, Playful Prose, and Evolved Story Lines
A number of elements, from the design and production to the story line and characters, go into creating books optimised for dyslexic readers. This post explored the practical elements of construction and design. In a later post, we’ll explore why the characters, setting, and story line appeal to readers of all ages and especially readers who have dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, or autism.
Do you like what you’ve read so far? Why not experience the P.I. Penguin series for yourself?
A note for dyslexic parents!
P.S. One of the most important things about Aulexic books, is the steps we take to make our books dyslexia-friendly, improve the reading experience for all readers including those who aren’t dyslexic. But one of the magical things about dyslexia-friendly books is that dyslexic parents will find them easier reads too.
Dyslexia commonly runs in families, so it’s possible a dyslexic child is raised by a dyslexic parent. As Rebecca well knows, being dyslexic makes a parent less likely to feel confident reading together with their child. Aulexic books help ease the process for all readers, making it easier for dyslexic family members to read together, even with children who do not have dyslexia. So, our books aren’t just for dyslexic children, they’re also for dyslexic parents.
Written in collaboration with Rebecca Laffar-Smith.