Wider letter spacing helps dyslexic children read

A new study shows that  wider spacing between the letters in reading materials can help dyslexic children read faster and better. European researchers found that extra-wide letter spacing doubled accuracy and increased reading speed by more than 20 percent among dyslexic children age eight to 14.

The researchers believe  the approach worked because people with dyslexia are more affected than normal readers by a phenomenon known as “crowding,” which makes a letter harder to identify when it is close to other letters.

The children in the study read short sentences in their native languages, either French or Italian.  Among dyslexic children, those who had most difficulty identifying letters experienced the greatest improvements in reading speed with the wide-spaced text.

Children without reading challenges showed no increase in reading speed when given materials in which letters were more widely spaced, suggesting that the benefit was unique to children with dyslexia.

Our view: This study reinforces the importance of visual processing in reading, and provides further insight as to why some Davis techniques are helpful.  Davis programs begin with mastery of upper and lower case alphabet through clay modeling, which enhances letter recognition ability.  Davis Spell-Reading encourages readers to identify each letter in a word in sequence, one at a time, which adds to the ability to distinguish one letter from the next.

Research Citation:  Marco Zorzi, Chiara Barbiero, Andrea Facoetti, et al, Extra-large letter spacing improves reading in dyslexia, PNAS 2012 : 1205566109v1-201205566.  Abstract   Full Text

Research Updates:

Simone Gori; Andrea Facoetti, How the visual aspects can be crucial in reading acquisition: The intriguing case of crowding and developmental dyslexia. Journal of Vision January 2015, Vol.15, 8. doi:10.1167/15.1.8. Full Text.

Elizabeth Sacchi, Ryan Mirchin, Sarah Laszlo, An Event-Related Potential study of letter spacing during visual word recognition, Brain Research, Volume 1684, 2018, Pages 9-20, doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2018.01.028. Abstract.

This article was originally published on June 6, 2012, and updated with new research links on April 30, 2019.