June 29, 2021
Bookstore owner pushes for dyslexia-friendly books
by Heather Gluck
A google search for “dyslexia-friendly books” will yield dozens of results for titles like Harry the Happy Mouse and The Beach Puppy. While the growing number of books suitable for dyslexic children is great news for kids, parents, and teachers, publishers aren’t giving the same attention to adult readers. Dyslexia is not a condition that lessens with age, yet there are almost no accessible book options for dyslexic adults.
In Clevedon, United Kingdom, dyslexic independent bookstore owner Dr. Alistair Sims joined forces with local author Chrissey Harrison to print readable books for adults with dyslexia. The two bibliophiles created a Kickstarter page and earned enough to reprint eight books, including works by Rudyard Kipling and local authors, which launched at Clevedon’s first literary festival this past Saturday.
Sims’ dyslexia-friendly books are set in a larger, sans serif font (12pt Verdana), are double spaced, and have more space between paragraphs, words, and letters. They also have thick, cream-colored paper to avoid text bleeding through to the other side of the page. Making a standard text more readable is not difficult, provided the page count is within a reasonable range.
“Publishers don’t think that adults who are dyslexic want to read,” Sims told Alexandra Bassingham at the BBC. However, the market is certainly out there, with dyslexia affecting around 20% of the US population. Spacious typesetting and other accommodations are also beneficial to readers with learning disabilities, low-vision readers, and to the population in general. Research suggests that symptoms of reading dyslexia are common in most people to varying degrees, and that individuals with and without learning disabilities read dyslexia-friendly texts significantly faster than texts with smaller font sizes and character spacing.
Harrison, who is not dyslexic but is passionate about accessibility, writes on her personal blog,
Dyslexic people are not “unable to read,” they have difficulty processing written information that is presented in a way that is optimised for non-dyslexic people …
This is why accessibility is such an important concept. If differences only become disabilities because of the way the world is optimised, then changing the world to be optimised for a broader range of people is how we can turn disabilities back into just differences.
Alistair and Harrison consider this project a first step in the direction of dyslexia-friendly books. They hope that their project will inspire others to do the same, and show the publishing world that dyslexic readers young and old are eager for accessible literature.
Heather Gluck is an intern at Melville House.