Reads out text
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Units of Sound
Following Dyslexia Action and Assistive Solutions’ successful showcasing of their complimentary literary solutions as a one-stop shop at BETT 2016, the two companies closed the show by drawing out the winner for their Literacy for All competition.

Worth School in West Sussex is the lucky winner and will benefit from a 25 user licence for 1 year of Units of Sound, along with a place on the Practitioner’s Course to understand how to gain the most benefit from the literacy solution. The school will also receive a site licence for WordQ SpeakQ which will include home access so that the software can be used at home by pupils.

Word Q

Dyslexia Action’s product, Units of Sound (, is a second chance literacy programme aimed at helping all individuals from the ages of 8 to adult, who have difficulties with reading, spelling, memory and writing skills. It uses multi-sensory teaching methods via a cloud-based computer programme that can be accessed at school, at home or anywhere with internet access, promoting independent learning and building on literacy skills. Dyslexia Action hopes that it will offer a tool to pupils at Worth school that need to build on their literacy skills.

WordQ SpeakQ is an easy-to-use literacy tool that provides Word Prediction, Speech Recognition and Spoken Feedback. SpeakQ is an add-on that provides forgiving on-demand speech recognition; it is designed for those who can type but have trouble with writing and spelling. With permission, WordQ SpeakQ can be used as an alternative to a scribe for exams.

The two software packages dovetail to offer reasonable adjustments for those with learning differences, whilst at the same time providing literacy improvement. Both products empower student independence.

Catherine Latham, Head of Learning Support at Worth School said: “We are delighted to have won the competition as it will really help support our students with Dyslexia.“



Last week, we had a look at the top 2 formatting changes you can make to create better accessible texts: larger font and highlighted key words.

In this post, we will look at the basic principles and the key dos and don’ts based on key principles.

You can also watch this Load2Learn video that covers the same points.  

More space

One of the difficulties dyslexic readers face is lower speed of processing. Reading is similar to driving fast on a narrow road. The faster you drive, the narrower the road seems. And if you have slower reflexes, the road seems narrower still. It seems, the same applies with reading. If your speed of decoding is low, it will be even harder when you have tightly squeezed text.

So if you give somebody with dyslexia more space around letters and words, they will be able to read a little faster. This could make a lot of difference to someone whose reading is already slow.

Line spacing

Increasing the line spacing to at least 1.2 lines is a good idea for texts for most people. It will make reading much more comfortable for most students.

It is easy to do in Microsoft Word in one of two ways:

Character spacing

Another way to provide more space, is to slightly increase the character spacing. As you can see, the text with slightly increased character spacing is easier on the eyes.

It is very easy to do in Microsoft Word using the Font advanced dialogue box.

Another way to give more space between letters is to use a monospace font such as Courier New or Consolas which are also preferred by some people with dyslexia. However, they often look more like text produced by a type writer.

Avoid text distortions

A lot of typical formatting used for emphasis can distort the shapes of the letters. This slows down processing for everyone but can be even more damaging for someone with dyslexia. These include italics, underlining and ALL CAPS.

Luckily, there are alternatives available such as bold or colours.

Another way, text can be distorted is the alignment of paragraphs and spaces between words.

Text formatting

FormattingProblems causedAlternative
Underlined textCan interact with the shapes of the letters like p or q but it also adds more things in the visual field for the reader to deal withUse Larger Font Size and/or bold for things you want to emphasize. Or make sure that the line under the text does not touch any of the letters.
ItalicsDistorts the shapes of the letters and makes them blend into one another.Use bold for emphasis. You can also increase the spacing of the letters to emphasize words.
ALL CAPSWriting in ALL CAPS creates an undifferentiated block that is much harder to navigate and slows down reading.

Large font and bold are the best alternatives.

You can also use different colours, if possible.









Paragraph alignment

Always, keep your paragraphs left aligned.

FormattingProblems causedAlternative
Justified text

Causes variable spacing between words.

Makes paragraphs look more uniform and easier to loose place.
Left-align when possible – avoid using hyphenation.
Centred text

Makes it more difficult to navigate the paragraphs because their beginnings are irregular.

This is a problem every time the centred text is more than a single line.

Left aligned titles look much better than you think.

You can put more space before and after the title and increase font size for emphasis.
Reduce visual stress and distractions

A minority of people with dyslexia suffer from different forms of visual stress. They may report increased tiredness or complain that the letters on the page ‘swim’ before their eyes. There are several ways in which these issues can be minimised.

You can use different colours, special fonts or avoid putting texts on distracting background.

Colour contrast


In many schools, children with dyslexia are given colour overlays as a ‘solution’ to their problem. This is not fully supported by evidence but never the less, it can be helpful to use colours that reduce the visual glare. This is much easier with e-books than with print but even in print, you can do some things. Some options are:

  • Use a slightly lower intensity of black
  • Set cream background
  • Reduce the intensity of screen brightness

Much is made in the press about the selection of fonts. But the research indicates that fonts have only limited impact on reading.

However, most people with dyslexia seem to prefer Sans Serif fonts such as Arial or Cursive fonts such as Comic Sans.

Some people also prefer mono spaced fonts such as Courier New or Consolas. These fonts are often used to represent computer code because there is less potential for confusion between letters.

Dyslexic readers who report text swimming on the page also often report benefits from fonts designed to be dyslexia-friendly such as Open Dyslexic. Another font often reported to have these benefits is Century Gothic which is already installed on all Windows Machines.

Another reason why some fonts may be more dyslexia friendly than others is the shapes of the letters to minimise confusion. You can read more about different fonts on the BDA Tech blog.

You can also see that different type faces are bigger or smaller when set to the same point size. This may also have an impact on readability preference as we saw last time.

Research on fonts and readability has produced contradictory results. Sans Serif fonts are consistently preferred and produce better results but the differences are slight and not consistent across different type faces. 

Non-distracting backgrounds

Another way, in which text can be made more difficult to read, if it is on an image background or on a gradient background.

Many modern textbooks are guilty of this as are magazines and some websites. It is important to keep background colours as uniform as possible although some slight texturing may be acceptable.

Putting some solid background behind the text over the image is one solution. But even that may be distracting. It may be far better to simply put the text below the image.

Next time

Next time we will start a series of posts on creating outlines and structured documents to make texts more easily accessible and navigable for people with dyslexia.

Image Credits

Photos of fonts and stress from Pixabay licensed under CC0. Others are by Dominik Lukeš licensed under CC BY. 


Stories which are told using a diary format allow the reader to experience life from the view point of another person.  In some cases readers are even able to travel back and learn about a specific period in history.  Plus there is the excitement of reading something that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to read in everyday life – someone else’s diary!

Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French       Age 4 and above

A wombat has decided to set up home in a garden.  He is not entirely welcomed by the family whose garden he has chosen to live in and he causes a few problems during his stay.  His activities, mainly being sleeping and eating, are recorded in a very amusing diary format.

The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book       Age 9 and above

Writing your own diary can sometimes be tricky if you are not sure what to write about.  The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book gives you ideas and suggestions about things to write about and the space to write them.  If you are already a fan of The Wimpy Kid Series then you will enjoy this book but even if you are not, it’s a great way to create your own diary.  If you haven’t read The Wimpy Kid books, where have you been?

Road to War - a First World War Girl's Diary 1916 - 1917

My story Road to War    Age 8 and above

It is 1917 and The Great War is ravaging Europe.  Daffy Rowntree’s brother went off to fight in the trenches and when she hears he has gone missing she decides to go and search for him.  The only way for her to get to France is for her to join the teams of people collecting the injured and driving ambulances.  She experiences, first-hand, the blood, mud and horror of the trenches and finds that even for someone in her role, safety is not guaranteed.  There are many other exciting historical diary books in the My Story series for you to explore.

I am not a Loser by Barry Loser, Spellchecked by Jim Smith          Age 9 and above

Find out about Barry Loser’s life.  It’s not easy having the name Loser, especially when you are not a loser.  When the annoying Darren Darrenofski joins his school, Barry’s life is ruined!  This is the first in the Barry Loser series and if you’re ‘keel’ you will want to read it.  If you don’t know what ‘keel’ is then you should read it!

Skinny Melon and Me by Jean Ure          Age 9 and above

What do you do if you have lots of things in your head that are upsetting you?  Cherry talks to her best friend but with so many changes taking place in her life, it isn’t enough.  Cherry’s teacher suggests that she write a diary and this helps her deal with her negative feelings about her new step-father. 

Middle School:  The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson               Age 9 and above

Starting at a new school is never easy.  Rafe Khatchadorian  has problems both at home and at school so he decides to take his mind off them by setting himself a challenge.  He is going to try to break every rule in his school’s Code of Conduct.  His friend Leonardo the Silent is his judge and will award him points for each rule he breaks.  Will he be successful in breaking every rule, or will his activities catch up with him?  Read this and the other books in the series to find out.

Timmy Failure:  Mistakes were made by Stephan Pastis                               Age 9 and above

Timmy Failure has decided to start a detective agency and he hopes it will be the best agency in town.  He has his polar bear ‘Total’ to help him, what can possibly go wrong?  Timmy is clueless and funny and desperately wants to defeat the other detective in his town Corrina Corrina.  This is the first in the comical Timmy Failure series, be prepared to laugh at Timmy’s exploits if you decide to read this funny series.

Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill

Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill                Age 8 and above

Darcy is a funny, quirky individual who has a very unusual outlook on life.  She creates stories in her head, has a lamb called Lamb-beth and a best friend called Will.  She often gets into trouble, sometimes because her understanding of a situation is very different to everyone else’s.  There are currently four Darcy Burdock books available for readers to read and enjoy.

The Unbelievable Top Secret Diary of a Pig by Emer Stamp         Age 6 and above

If you have ever wondered what the animals on a farm get up to, then this is the book for you.  Pig introduces us to his world. He hates chickens but loves dollops of slops which are eaten quickly and followed by farting.  Pig’s friend Duck has told him that the farmer doesn’t like him but Pig thinks Duck is wrong.  Pig knows Farmer loves him because he has a special name for him…sausages.  There are more funny books in the Diary of Pig series so hopefully Pig won’t find out the true meaning of sausages just yet!

I was there …Titanic       Age 7 and above

A detailed first-hand account of the voyage of the RMS Titanic told from the point of view of a young girl.   Jessie and her mother are travelling third class on their way to America.  When disaster strikes will Jessie be able to reach a lifeboat in time?  The’ I was there… ‘ series is published by Scholastic and covers a range of historical events and eras using first-hand retellings.

Whichever diary you choose to read I am sure you will enjoy the experience of viewing the world from a different viewpoint.



Read, share, enjoy!

I hope that this monthly blog will give readers ideas about which books might appeal to those who are reluctant to read or have dyslexia. Dyslexia Action’s leaflet encouraging young reluctant readers is a good start for those who are looking to support young reluctant readers and readers with dyslexia. Dyslexia Action also offers tuition with specialist teachers to support those who may need extra help. Once needs have been identified, our specialist teachers can work with children, young people and adults to develop coping strategies that can assist with skills like reading and writing. For some, extra tuition can be a life-line.

The Book Blog is written by Alison Keeley who looks after Dyslexia Action’s Learning Centres in the South of England. Prior to joining Dyslexia Action Alison worked as a Deputy Head and for Booktrust. She has always read a wide range of children’s literature even though she technically stopped being a child some time ago. If you have any questions or suggestions about subjects for future blogs please do leave a comment below.

Reading hints and tips leaflet for young reluctant readers

Word Document version of this post


Newstead Wood School in Bromley hosts a dyslexia society consisting of approximately 24 students, years 7 - 13 and meets every half term. Natasha Fawthrop is chairperson and the students share tips on revision, useful apps, organisation and 'buddy' each other.  This is an amazing way to help dyslexic children and young people to feel less isolated and give each other much needed support.

A competition was held within the school to show what dyslexia means to them and to help raise awareness. The inspiration for one of the winners, Thalia Somerville-Large, was a tree. It was constructed from chicken mesh, plaited wire and then covered in paper- mache, painted and varnished. The idea developed with the roots of the tree all having negative points that she has heard or read relating to dyslexia and the baubles on the branches are showing positive aspects and how she has come to terms with her dyslexia making her more resilient and realising her strengths. 

Another student in the schools 6th form, wrote the wonderful poem below. She did not know she was dyslexic until Secondary School.  The poem reveals her journey through education and coming to terms with her dyslexia. Many other students will share the sentiments of the poem and hopefully be inspired by it.

am dyslexia

I glare at the page

Watch the white lines dance around

Like children in a maze

I'm baffled


Why do I see it differently?

Is it a gift or a burden?

A gift I decide

Masked by words of hate

And tormented by its own powers

There I realise

It's not about struggling 

It's about succeeding

Embracing your uniqueness 

And uniting with others that think just like you


In a world where I thought I was the only one

I hid my gift

Like a parent hiding the sweet tin on the top of the shelf in the kitchen


In a world where I am one of many

I share my gift

I am not afraid to accept

In a society where being different is wrong

I've learnt to make it right

Because I am dyslexia

And dyslexia is me


People often ask what is the best font to use for people with dyslexia. But that is the wrong question. Research shows that fonts matter relatively little, although Sans Serif fonts like Arial are slightly better for people with dyslexia than others.

You can do much more to make your texts dyslexia-friendly with two simple adjustments that don’t require you to install anything on your computer.

This week, we will look at the top two most important things you can do today to make your texts more dyslexia friendly. This is based on current research. Next week, we will cover the general principles and the top dos and don’ts.

Large fonts

Compare the two texts of dyslexia definition below. The one on the left is written in 11pt Calibri font, the default font size in Microsoft word. The one on the right is written in the same font but with the size increased to 16 points. It also has a slightly increased character spacing and line spacing.

You can see at a glance that the text on the right is easier and faster to read. Research shows that for dyslexic readers, this is increase in ease of reading is even more significant. 

We are used to books and magazines cramming as much information as possible on a page. That is because paper is heavy and expensive. And turning a paper page is ‘hard’ work. But for ebooks and documents read on the screen, that’s not necessary. Even for printed instructions and worksheets, if we are serious about making them accessible to struggling readers, we should use font size at least 12 points but ideally 14 points or more.

The nice thing is that this will make the texts faster to read for everyone. Particularly older people will appreciate this. And people with vision impairments will benefit, as well.

But it will require a mental adjustment. As you see from the picture above. The red tablet is how many people are reading their ebooks. They want to see something that looks as much as possible like a page in a book. But that is the wrong approach. Making text as large as possible while increasing line character spacing a bit will make you read faster. Even if you have to turn the page or scroll more often. What you see on the black tablet is how I read ebooks. I don’t have any issues with literacy or vision, I could read the text on the red tablet quite comfortably. But the black tablet is so much more efficient.

The black tablet has the added advantage for students with dyslexia in that it displays less text at once. This makes it less intimidating but also less likely to get lost in the text. That’s why many students who struggle with literacy say they prefer to read on the Kindle or even their phone.

What the research says

All this is largely confirmed by current research on formatting for people with dyslexia. No one study can be taken as definitive and much more work is required but from what we know, font size has the greatest benefit. One recent study, even found that it was the only adjustment that showed significant effects in speed of reading across the population. That does not mean that other adjustments will not be effective for individuals but it shows how important font size is.


Keyword highlighting

While font size has been shown to improve reading speeds, highlighting key words in text improves comprehension. As with text size, the improvements are there for everyone but are most significant for readers with dyslexia.

It is obvious why that might be. Compare our example text below. You can see that it is much easier to see what the key points of the paragraph are just by scanning the text in bold. You can then return to the paragraph and read it in whole knowing the gist. It is also easier to go back to the salient points.

It is easy to see how this would help somebody with a slower speed of decoding.

Regular readers of these posts will note that I always try to highlight key passages in each paragraph. You can judge for yourself how effective it is.

What the research says

So far, there has only been one study that looked at the effects of keyword highlighting. It found that it improves comprehension for people with dyslexia. Some people worry that highlighted keywords might slow readers down but this study found no impact on reading speed.


The conclusion for teachers and other people who create documents designed to be accessible to as many people as possible is simple:

  1. Increase the size of your font as much as possible – even if you need to take up more pages
  2. Highlight key words in the text – even if it takes more time

You can see the combined difference on the example below. All your students are likely to read faster and understand better. Your students with dyslexia will benefit even more.

Next time

Next time we will look at other tips for formatting texts to make them more readable for someone with dyslexia.




So you got that new Android tablet for Christmas. But how do you best set it up as a device to support someone with dyslexia in their literacy work? This post lists an example of apps I always put on a tablet or a phone of someone who needs help with their reading and writing. Most of these are free or very cheap.

Android apps

This guide is for Android devices only (Note: Only some of these apps are also available on the Kindle Fire). You can find more information about the iPad and iPhone on the CALL Scotland website. You can download the MindMap of this post with links.

Google Account

Google Account

The first thing you need to do is to set up a Google Account or enter details of your existing account (you may already have one, if you’re using Gmail). You can have more than one account associated with one device.

Google play

The Google Account will let you:

  • Install apps from the Play Store
  • Access Google services and apps such as Keep and Docs
  • Sync data between devices
  • Back up and restore your data

You also get Gmail service with your Google account but you don’t have to use it, if you already have other email.

Apps for Reading

Apps for Writing

  • Google Now Gives you a microphone button so that you can dictate your searches and notes when you’re online.
  • Google Docs You can use Voice Typing by simply tapping the microphone icon on the keyboard and dictate your documents. To manage your documents, install Google Drive which also has a basic scanner function.
  • Swiftkey Keyboard The default keyboard from Google is very good and has decent prediction and correction. But Swiftkey is even better because it can predict multiple words and can look at your documents to learn how you write.

Apps for Organisation

  • Google Now can learn more about you as you use it. It will pop up reminders to leave in time for your meeting, keep track of where you are and suggest things to do in your location. (May already be installed.)
  • Google Keep will serve as a note taking device or a basic to do list. You can put reminders on your notes to pop up at a certain time or certain location. You can also dictate your notes or take pictures as notes. (May already be installed.)
  • Google Now Launcher Will make it easier to access voice and document services from Google. Also often gives you consistent interface across different Android devices which are often modified by manufacturers.
  • Google Calendar Keep schedules with reminders (Most likely already installed on your tablet or phone.)

Apps for Maths

  • Google Now Simply dictate your calculations (‘five time forty-four divided by three’) when you’re online and it will speak back the results.
  • Speak n Talk Calculator Will speak back your formulas and let you dictate your maths questions. 
  • MyScript Calculator will let you draw your math formulas on the screen and give you results. You should also check out Mathway or Photo Math which both let you take pictures of math problems and give you solutions.

Word Document version of this post

Next time

Next time we will learn about the top tip for formatting texts for someone with dyslexia for maximum reading speed and comprehension.

Dominik Lukes - Education and Technology Specialist



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