Chapter 2. Designing digital texts for beginner readers: Aspects and processes



This chapter describes the role of research in typography and graphic communication and in information design that is relevant to the design and use of materials for children’s reading. By ‘design’ in this context we mean ‘typography’ (which is the visual organisation of type and pictures on paper or screen), and ‘process’ (the ways in which design is developed in order to make sure that what is designed works for its intended reader group). We summarise issues that designers consider when they are producing reading materials for beginning and emerging readers, including the constraints imposed by technology. We suggest ways of engaging with users of e-books so that their needs can be considered. We conclude by summarising the typographic parameters that are likely to benefit children’s reading.
... In Experiment 2, the effects of BeeLine Reader were examined for texts with a continuous layout (sentences continue on the same line as far as page width allows) and a segmented, discontinuous layout (line breaks in the middle of a sentence are removed as each sentence starts on a new line; see Fig. 6). Many scholars have pointed out that design decisions on the layout variables line spacing, line length, and segmentation will have an influence on the eye-movement behaviour of readers (e.g., Dyson, 2004;Evers-Vermeul, 2020;Koornneef et al., 2019;Levasseur et al., 2006;Vanderschantz, 2008;Walker et al., 2018). Hence, examining the influence of BeeLine Reader on reading in combination with these layout variables will present interesting test cases for the hypothesis that the application 'facilitates visual tracking' and 'pulls the eyes from one line to the next' (BeeLine Reader, 2021). ...
... Due to these advantages, low-vision patients, dyslectic readers, and children might benefit the most from increased line spacing (cf. Blackmore--Wright et al., 2013;Madhavan et al., 2016;Walker et al., 2018). ...
... In two reading experiments with primary school pupils, we examined the claims of the developers of BeeLine Reader that smooth colour transitions in texts increase reading speed, improve comprehension, and make reading more enjoyable. To obtain a comprehensive picture we tested these hypotheses for second-and third-grade pupils, assessing the influence of BeeLine Reader in several layouts in which we varied features that are known to impact the reading processes of beginning readers (line spacing, line length, text segmentation) (see e.g., Evers-Vermeul, 2020; Koornneef et al., 2019;Nanavati & Bias, 2005;Vanderschantz, 2008;Walker et al., 2018). The experiments revealed that BeeLine Reader can increase the reading speed of beginning readers. ...
In two reading experiments, we examined the efficacy of the commercial reading assistance application BeeLine Reader which colours the letters of digital texts in gradients. According to its developers, BeeLine Reader increases reading speed, improves comprehension, and makes reading more enjoyable. We tested these hypotheses for second- and third-grade pupils (6–9 years old), assessing the influence of BeeLine Reader in several layouts in which we varied other features that are known to impact the reading processes of beginning readers (line spacing, line length, text segmentation). In comparison to control texts with a standard black font, reading time advantages for BeeLine texts emerged for pupils in second grade (not in third grade) when they read texts with long lines and little inter-line spacing. However, when second-grade readers processed texts that were optimized for their reading level (texts with short lines and sufficient inter-line spacing) they displayed a slower reading pace in texts with a BeeLine font than in texts with a black font. Furthermore, BeeLine texts may hamper comprehension for third-grade readers and were rated as more difficult and less convenient to process than texts with a black font. In conclusion, the visual anchors offered by BeeLine Reader may be useful for some beginning readers in some situations but the application can also impede the readability of texts. These findings emphasize that claims made for digital reading applications should be formally tested if they are going to be introduced into educational settings.
... The serif fonts are assumed to aid reading because they reduce the likelihood of confusing letters which resemble one another, whereas sans serif advocates favour fonts that look like the letters children learn to write (but note that both Garamond and Franklin Gothic produce the letters a/a and g/g in forms that do not resemble the hand-written forms: a/g ). In their review of the field, Walker et al. (2018) note that "there has been no research that concludes that sans serif type is actually easier for children to read" (36). Studies by Bessemans (2016a;2016b) have demonstrated that children aged 5-10 reading serif fonts made fewer errors, but earlier studies by Walker and Reynolds (2002) or Ripoll (2015) did not yield similar results. ...
The aim of this paper is to argue for an interdisciplinary research agenda to the study of reading. We discuss the methodological and educational/practical challenges and opportunities that an embodied cognitive and distributed language perspective entails for literacy and education research. Although an increasing body of research pivots on the embodiment of reading, reading still tends to be theorised as a sequence of internal processes used to interpret texts. A distributed perspective replaces this code view with an embodied and multi-scalar description of the activity. This 'embodied turn' generates valuable results that involve not only the whole body (as a multi-sensory organ), but a historical, skilled body that affects the reading ecology. Consequently, an embodied and distributed perspective is not only a matter of drawing on multiple sensory modalities in the here-and-now that conglomerate in the human sensorium, it also highlights the interconnected habits that enable readers to enact cultural practices based on writing systems. Skilled linguistic action allows readers to construe symbolizations, re-evoking parts of their individual life experience. Embodiment thus involves a perspective that links multiple timescales, thereby moving beyond local coordination of body and artefact. While the sensorial richness of our body is a prerequisite for engaging with a text, the reading activity becomes even more complex than interconnecting the many bodily modalities, when we think of the body in terms of lived experience. Building on this multi-scalar view, the paper seeks to demonstrate the integrative potential of a distributed approach to reading as well as some initial educational implications of such a distributed perspective.
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