Our Readability Secret Sauce

How do we make our books more readable?

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

We’ve all heard that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we do so anyway. And not just by the cover. What the story looks like on the page is also very important to our reading pleasure: the use of white space, the distance between the elements in the page, the appeal of the fonts, how our eyes scroll on the page are all elements that we, consciously or unconsciously, appreciate and look for. But for many people it’s not a question of reading pleasure and aesthetic appreciation, it’s a question of sheer readability. For neurodivergents and people with higher reading needs, the visual and the technical elements of the page greatly affect attention span and comprehension.

At Bux Books, that’s what we are spending a great deal of time on. What makes a story more accessible for someone with higher reading needs? What can we do to a text – how would we have to ‘bux’ it – to make it more readable? Clearly, the first thing we had to do was to invent a new verb!

After the verb came the reading. We immersed ourselves in the latest studies around reading differences and trialled and refined our sauce on our initial readers as each new ingredient was added. Finally, the recipe was complete.

Good looks

Our first major step was to develop our own highly-readable dyslexia-friendly font, Buxilicious. Instantly, it made text clearer and easier on the eye. But good kerning (spacing between letters) and tracking (spacing of groups of letters or blocks of text) are also a big factor in supporting the reader for whom letters muddle up together or the reader who gets easily lost on the page. So they were added to the pot.

Many readers also find it easier to read text from an off-white or pastel background. The letters tend not to shimmer and the absence of hard black/white contrast reduces eye strain. In to the pot that went too!

But not just good looks

There’s more to readability, though. Teachers and publishers depend on readability scores to determine the reading-age of a text. Readability measuring tools take into consideration a combination of word length, sentence and paragraph length and the number of syllables in a word or sentence. These are definitely important factors that will determine how decodable a text is for people with learning differences. Decoding is the first step to reading so, of course, this is part of the Bux Books secret sauce.

Where were we?

The joy of getting lost in a great story also means… not getting lost in the story!

Neurodivergents can also have difficulty with sequential memory and working memory. When we bux books, we provide timelines, quick synopses, or other hints to help our readers to look back and to predict what’s coming next. We also frontload the information in a sentence so the most important elements come first. This way the relevant details of the story stick, and they stick in the right sequence.

For the love of language!

At Bux Books, we are great lovers of language and recognise the importance of a broad, interesting vocabulary. A buxed text will not talk down to or to diminish the reader. The language in our books remains rich and age appropriate, even while the readability score is lower than the chronological age.

Now that you know more about our secret sauce for buxing, give us some feedback. Is there anything you would like to see that we have not mentioned here? Are there any elements in your language that differ from English that we should consider?

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