see through childs eyesWHAT DO THEY SEE?

Much of the difficulty our children have with learning to read has to do with how that material LOOKS to them. But how do we know how it looks to them? Doesn’t it look the same as it does to us?


You’re viewing printed material with a fully developed, mature visual pathway. Unless your child is already a fluent, independent reader, she is not looking through a similar pathway. She’s viewing the material with an immature, or underdeveloped, visual pathway. The process of learning to read fluently will mature this naturally, but gradually.

I’m hoping this article can help you make an intuitive shift that will enable you to “see” from behind your child’s eyes. It will make a difference in how well she grasps any material you create for her, as well as any school material you modify for her.


If your learner is an emergent reader, just beginning the process, here are the SUCCESS guidelines. (Ignore them at your peril! The learning process will be slower if you don’t do these things…trust me.)

  1. Large font size. 1″ high for flash cards, 1/2″ high for Personal Pages or Personal Books, or Modified Books. (Use the search box at the top right of this page for even more articles on “how to” for all of these)
  2. Double or triple space between each word.
  3. Sentence length matches reading level. (e.g., 3 or 4 word sentences for beginners)
  4. Use normal cases: lowercase for everything except initial word in a sentence and proper names.
  5. Put extra space between lines of type.
  6. Put any pictures on a separate page following the page of type; don’t give the words competition. “Cuing off of pictures” does not help our kids with Down syndrome; it distracts them. Again, trust me on this.


Let’s say you’ve just followed my instructions and made a Personal Page or Personal Book (see links above) for your emergent reader. How do you know it’s going to work visually like you hope it will? Here are two litmus tests for finding out, and I’ve borrowed them from graphic designers/illustrators, who deal with this problem all the time. Either trick works.

  1. Turn the page upside down.
  2. Leave the page rightsize up, but squint so that all you see are vague shapes.

Either method will trick your brain and enable you to see the kind of visual image that your child will see. That’s how it looks to your little beginning reader. So make adjustments as you see they’re needed: do you need larger type? More space between the words so they are clearly separate and not running together? Is the visual field too cluttered? Do you need more white space so the brain knows where to look (i.e., at the words)? Let’s look at an example and dissect the errors in the example on the left. Type is too small; it’s a serif font (curly-cues on the end of letters) rather than sans serif as on the right; single spacing rather than double between the words.

compare 2 pages






Now that you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve to help you see through your child’s eyes, I hope you go for it! Whether you’re modifying classroom material or creating highly motivating materials at home, these guidelines will help your child succeed!    Cheers,

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New Book! “Whole Child Reading” (Woodbine House, Pub.) Available on this site or on Amazon.

Everything you always wanted to know about teaching reading but were afraid it would take forever to read! This one’s short and to the point!

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