I recently upgraded my Kindle from an old school, 2nd gen. Yeah, that’s right. I’d been reading books on this since about 2011.
I bought my 2nd gen Kindle while I was in South Korea in 2011, teaching English. I don’t know if things have changed in the last decade, but at the time, it was quite difficult to find books I wanted to read (in English–I don’t speak or read Korean), and so sent away for this kindle. It was great at the time. I loved being able to get pretty much any book I wanted while living abroad. However, once I returned to the States I realized my attention was somewhat limited while reading on this device. I’d commonly and easily find ways to NOT read. I’d get tired, my eyes would start to droop. I’d find myself folding laundry or doing dishes even though I had planned to sit down and read for at least an hour a day. I’m not completely sure why reading on this old-school Kindle was so great in South Korea, but so difficult in the US. I think it was because I enjoy paper books (though also find myself easily distracted) and they were now available to me.
Fast forward to 2021, as my 2nd gen Kindle had collected an amazing amount of dust. I really only used it when in dire need of a book ASAP. This included books for school in 2020 as the pandemic shut everything down.
Then, one of my good friends, who is studying to be a special education teacher asked me if I’d heard about Open Dyslexic Font. I had not. I’m dyslexic, and struggled with it a lot when I was younger, even throughout college. However, as an adult I’ve learned to compensate to the point where I have wondered if I’m even dyslexic anymore–or that is, whether the symptoms I used to have are even present.
My friend told me Open Dyslexic Font was designed to help dyslexic people not only reader faster, but also read longer. I am not a fast reader–but the real barrier is that I often become sleepy while trying to read. I couldn’t get the font on my 2nd gen Kindle, so bounced for the new(ish) Kindle Paperwhite in order to see what this font could do for me.
It’s ugly. I know. Every letter looks a bit wonky. It actually reminds me of my own handwriting. The idea of this font is that each letter and number is distinct. There are a lot of reused shapes in the English alphabet. For instance, i, j, l. These letters all look something alike. f, p, q, b, d, also share similarities. Why is the f in there? Well, depending on the hook and the cross of the f, it can look similar to a p, at a glance. The way I read, which I understand is different than people who do no have dyslexia. I read every letter, rather than the shape of the word. Or at least, I often do. Sometimes, with simple words, like articles, I read them as full shapes. But words I don’t read often I read as a collection of distinct letters. Due to this, the Open Dyslexic Font is helpful as each letter looks different. Maybe just slightly different, but different. Look above how the lower case l as a bit of a rightward tail. How upper case i tapers near the top. With this font, I can’t mistake a upper case i with a lower case l. This in a small thing, but it increases the rate at which I read and decreases the amount of energy I have to expend to parse that I read.
Now I read on this type of kindle. And I can change any book I read on this device to be displayed in large Open Dyslexic Font.
I have found myself reading more often since I got this Kindle. I have tore through American War by Omar el Akkad. Each time I sit down to read, I don’t want to stop. I don’t get as tired and I enjoy the way in which my eyes flow across the text. I’ve even installed a Chrome plug-in that lets me turn website text to Open Dyslexic Font. I don’t use it on every site, but when the article is long or simply arduous, I will use it.
I really encourage anyone who has dyslexia to try this font out. Also, people who don’t have dyslexia also may benefit from it as well.