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Understanding Print Size and Text Readability

All students need to have access to educational materials that are easy to read. There are specific font sizes and styles for students with visual impairments that teachers should be aware of that can impact readability.

Serif and Sans Font with
By: Dr. Rachel Schles and Gabrielle Gosnell

For students with visual impairments, their learning media assessment (LMA) is the critical source of data school teams use to determine the best way each student can access classroom literacy. For students with visual impairments who read print, this includes assessing how they access print classroom materials (textbooks, handouts/worksheets, etc.), with or without optical devices (as prescribed by a low vision specialist). All students, including students with visual impairments, deserve educational equity. For educational equity to exist, all students need to have access to instruction. This includes making educational materials accessible. Part of accessibility is readability. An important consideration that influences readability of educational materials for students who read print is font size and style.

As students move from one grade level to another, the print size in educational materials gets smaller, impacting the text’s readability. Most teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) can anticipate students’ future print needs because of their training and experience with print materials across grade levels. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to convey to a student’s school team (e.g., IFSP/IEP/ISP) that not just current access, but also future access to print materials must be considered when making learning media decisions for individual students.

Using examples from leveled readers as reference, Font Size and Styles in Educational Materials (Gosnell & Schles, 2023), helps explain how font size naturally decreases as students progress through grade levels and how font style can influence readability. This handout can be distributed to classroom teachers, families, instructional coaches, or curriculum creators to explain the impact font size and style has on readability. With this in mind, both learning media decisions and overall accessibility of day-to-day educational materials may be improved by the consideration and choice of font sizes and styles. By increasing readability, we can play a part in improving educational equity as all students, not just students with visual impairments, benefit from accessibility.

This handout is available for download here.

For more articles relating to print visit our Paths to Literacy microsite.


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