Sunday, April 1, 2012

For Struggling Readers, “Color” Can Make a Difference!

We are concluding our spring conference season and have talked with so many parents and teachers of struggling readers throughout the Midwest. A number of these adults described the various reading challenges of their children and students.

Some mentioned that their children have reported to them that words or letters on a page seem to “wave out” or have “shadows” behind them. Others told us that the children often do not want to read for more than a few minutes, saying that their eyes “get tired” quickly. Still others said that many times, their children or teens were too overwhelmed by all the text on a page. Each of the parents and teachers asked for strategies, tools and resources to help.

For some of the issues mentioned, the introduction of “color” could make a significant difference in one's reading success. The white background on most pages of text can cause some of the issues described above here. This white color is stark or just too bright for many challenged readers. Neutralizing this white color can allow a reader to not only focus but read much more effectively and comfortably.

A particular color for an individual reader can “unblock brain pathways” and further improve the focus, comprehension, and retention of what is read. Some experimentation with several different colors could be time well spent.

Because parent and teacher time is at such a premium, we thought it best to address these needs in a bulleted format. We have listed here some non-invasive ideas that involve the use of color to help readers of any age who are challenged with reading. The following ideas are conservative interventions one might consider before moving to more expensive options:

1. Use colored paper for all printed materials including worksheets, outlines, notes, etc. Experiment with pastels as well as bright shades. One particular color may produce significant results for an individual.

2. Consider the use of colored overlays or focus cards for increased focus and to help with “visual stress” as the white background of a page of text can be visually “offensive” to some readers/learners.

3. When possible, fold worksheets or printed pages into fourths or even eighths so that only what needs to be read or worked on at the moment is visible.

4. Try using focus cards with iPads and other e-tablets (Model #002-Longer). They are also good for use with Kindles, Nooks, and other e-readers (Model #001-Shorter). NOTE: It is recommended that a non-scratch film be used to protect tech devices’ screens with this application.

5. Seriously consider a visit to a developmental optometrist for a non-invasive and conclusive evaluation of a struggling reader (of any age). This medical professional can effectively test, evaluate, diagnose and prescribe particular treatments or therapies for vision-related reading and learning challenges.

We hope this list will give you a few good places to start. As always, please feel free to let us know of your experiences or success stories with “color” for struggling readers. We’ll appreciate it!

For more information: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Clip art courtesy of:


  1. This is very interesting information you have published here. Have you taken notice of which colors of overlays or focus cards that have more success? Less success? I’m a mother of an AD/HD son that is having difficulty with letter recognition. He does seem to get overwhelmed easily when looking at a page with letters and I’d like to try an overlay as you suggested so he is not overwhelmed by the white pages. Once he has letter recognition mastered, I’ll move on to basic sight words and use your focus reader.

  2. Dear Amee,

    Thank you for taking the time to post your comments here. Your questions are excellent and also appreciated. I hope that the following information will be helpful.

    There are 3 different filter colors recommended by a developmental optometric group for our Reading Focus Cards: yellow, deep blue, and clear/non-glare. Because these 3 colors serve the greatest number of persons with vision-related reading challenges, the developmental optometrists further recommended that these 3 colored filters be included in our basic Reading Focus Card Combo Pack (components for 2 tools of diff. sizes).

    In my experience of presenting the Reading Focus Cards to parents, teachers, and organizations, the greatest number of individuals (those affected and even those with NO reading issues) often choose the yellow (highlighting) filter. However, there are others who benefit from the clear/non-glare option because of nearby fluorescent lighting or other reason (fewer readers). Finally, there are those readers I meet who are part of an even smaller group. They benefit from the deep blue filter, a color that most readers find very difficult to read through under normal circumstances.

    There are additional colors of the filters that can help still other readers with vision-related reading issues. Some will benefit from an aqua, pink, green, or even a red filter. These are available, but I always request that the 3 basic colors in the package be tried first.

    I hope this information is helpful to you and ultimately for your son, Amee. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask. It will be a pleasure to help you further.