Serif or sanserif?

Should reading books for young children be set in serif or sanserif type?

  • There is no research that says that either serif or sanserif typefaces are intrinsically more legible
  • Teacher opinion, generally, favours sanserif typefaces because of the simplicity of the letter shapes
  • Publishers tend to listen to teachers because they influence the book-buying policy in schools
  • Children are seldom asked what they think about the typefaces in the books they read

To find out whether children found serif or sanserif typefaces easy or difficult to read we took into account:

  • Expert opinion: designers' and publishers' tacit knowledge
  • Performance testing: use of miscue analysis to see how many and what kind of errors children make when they are reading
  • Children's opinions: what do children think about typefaces, and what words do they use to describe them

Our findings suggested that there is little significant difference in children's reading performance when Century (a seriffed typeface) is compared with Gill (a sans serif typeface).

You can find out about this work in: Walker, S. and Reynolds, L. 'Serifs, sans serifs and infant characters in children's reading books', Information Design Journal, vol I.II, no. 2/3 (2002/3)

Century Schoolbook: a detail from one of the pages used in testingCentury Schoolbook: a detail from one of the pages used in testing

 

Gill Sans: a detail from one of the pages used in testingGill Sans: a detail from one of the pages used in testing