There’s a lot of talk about which fonts are best for beginning readers—should they be large? Small? Short? Tall…? You could practically write a book for beginning readers on the subject, in fact…now there’s an idea.
There seems to be a general consensus that beginning readers do best with fonts that are reasonably large, not too fancy, have high x-heights and large counters (larger forms of multi-form letters like lower case g), and that all caps is a no no. But is there a one true font? Should we not be using training wheels and simply go with fonts that are similar to books printed for adults? Watch out for the fancy design-y fonts becoming more popular? Ignore font design entirely and focus on other design elements such as ample white space and short text block formation?
The truth is, as with most truths about early readers, there is no one, true, font. There are, however, some standouts. Let’s look at some recent Geisel winners and honors.
Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder, illus. by Emily Hughes
|Charlie & Mouse book cover|
This title, aimed at more confident readers, uses fairly standard Baskerville font (a transitional serif), and expects the reader to navigate a young reader friendly version of an adult style type.
Supertruck by Stephen Savage
|Supertruck book cover|
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli
|The Watermelon Seed book cover|
Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! by Mike Twohy
|Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! book cover|
At first glance, this title looks to be more complex font-wise, as color and enlarged first letters are used liberally, but the consistent use of large counters and wide, clear font makes it deceptively simple and engaging to unsure readers faced with a large amount of vocabulary.
So. There is no one, true, style, but there are several tried and true maxims, and book designers flout them at their peril, especially as children also gravitate toward the familiar. A careful mix of subtle and more intuitive elements makes a font that a young reader can approach with confidence, without even realizing what draws them in.
Learn more about typography for beginning readers:
- Typography for Children by Ilene Strizver
- The Typography of Children's Books by Rachel Elnar
- Design 101 for Educators: Choose Your Fonts Carefully by Jason Cranford Teague