Large Print and Its Impact on Readers: Guest Blog Post

aSZKt543_400x400Hello everyone!  This blog post is all about large print and what a valuable part of the library collection it can be!  I was recently introduced to Sabine McAlpine, whose passion for large print led her to her current position as Strategic Director at Thorndike Press, which also partners with Follett School Solutions to provide large print to create a more inclusive library for all types of readers.  Before starting at Thorndike Press 20 years ago, Sabine volunteered at public libraries, running story time, reading with children of all ages, and putting the FUN in reading.  A reluctant reader herself, her compassion and drive to reach children where they are continued as she was accepted as a reading coach, volunteering weekly at local schools, supporting and helping to create a culture and love of reading.  Now that you know a little more about her, let’s get started!

Hi Sabine!  Thanks for doing this guest post!  Could you share with us some common fallacies about large print?

One of the first hurdles for educators to overcome is the perceived stigma associated with large print. They often think of large print as a medium for older adults or the visually impaired and the books will be larger in size.  When in fact, we publish hundreds of high interest, award-winning, and curriculum favorites in large print. These books are changing the mindsets students have about their own reading capacities and reading experience. In research conducted by Project Tomorrow, nearly 60% of middle school students stated that they were better able to stay focused and did not lose their place due to distractions when reading the large print book. In addition, Thorndike Press takes the potential stigma seriously. Our books are similar in size and weight to the standard print edition. They are produced with the same cover art and illustrations as the original edition, and do not feature the words “Large Print” on the outside of the book. All Thorndike Press titles are unabridged and hardcovers are library bound and have a 100% guarantee on the binding.


So glad you are printing for demographics for young adults!  A question most people, including myself have is how can you fit an entire book into large print when they look like they have the same number of pages?

I have been asked this question more times than can count! To explain this, I typically show an example of Harry Potter in regular and large print and my answer is, “it’s magic!” The magic is our paper, a high quality, high opacity, thinner paper that ink does not bleed through. This allows us to keep the book a similar size. Thorndike Press large print books are in a 16-point, Serif font, with increased white space, which is less intimidating to a student, and has been proven to lessen decoding and tracking issues and increase fluency and comprehension.


That’s a great example to share (because would doesn’t like Harry Potter!)  So, what readers are most drawn to large print and why?

It has been amazing to watch, hear, and see all different types of students drawn to the larger font format, but most notably are those that what we define as striving readers. With large print striving readers have exhibited increased engagement and academic achievement, creating equity in their learning environment. Teachers overwhelmingly identify “easily distracted” and “lacking comprehension of what they are reading” as defining characteristics for their striving or reluctant readers. In the Project Tomorrow study, three-quarters of teachers said that their students reading below grade level demonstrated evidence of increased reading comprehension and better retention with the large print books. 95% of these teachers committed to continual use of large print in their classroom. A significant impact has been noted for students learning English and special education students. Almost two-thirds of teachers said that the large print text resulted in faster acquisition of English by ELL/ESL students.


Thanks for sharing stats from Project Tomorrow!  Another question librarians and educators ask is if  large print books are still valuable in the age of e-book technology and font size?

This is an interesting question as there’s a common misunderstanding that because the font size can be increased with e-books that they could offer the same results as the print book. While we believe that students can gain from all reading resources, studies have shown that retainment, enjoyment, and comprehension increase when reading the print format. The average student spends 9-10 hours on a screen a day with eye fatigue setting in after only 90 minutes. When asked, more than 50% of students in grades 3-12 said that school reading experiences would be more enjoyable if all books were in large print. Project Tomorrow also found that students who read large print text have increased student growth in Lexile levels and higher student comprehension scores even when reading large print books above their reading level.  Additionally, 69% of reluctant readers said that they enjoyed reading the large print text more than any other class books during the school year.


I’m learning so much from this myself!!  So, let’s get tap into our more creative side.  What would be some creative ways to display large print to capture attention?

Media specialists and teachers are so amazing. They are the experts in increasing engagement. Most educators place their large print titles in a separate area, near their new books or graphic novels, when introducing the new format to students, parents, and teachers. I’ve seen great displays and and one that comes to mind was “Magnify Your Reading.” Media specialists are fantastic at book talks, like you, Naomi, and always bring the large print, simply showing the students an available format that can be less frustrating or overwhelming. Recently, I’ve had several media specialists and teachers add large print to their book discussion groups, lit. circles, and classroom collections. One librarian shared that she sees it as no different than offering other formats, like graphic novels, as literacy intervention resources that inspire reading and build confidence.


Thanks for sharing that display!  Finally, what are your future projects with Thorndike Press and large print?

We are thrilled to launch the Project Tomorrow white paper with a webinar on EdWeb, “Support Positive Literacy Outcomes with Large Print.” In addition, with the confluence of September being National Literacy month and the amazing results from the research, this sparks opportunities with mainstream media. We will be working with the District Administrator Magazine to share our results in October, holding several webinars with School Library Journal in January, attending all major national and regional shows, and offering free professional development to districts. I’m very excited to share that we will also offer a session at TLA 2020, “Reading Success Matters: Increase Literacy and Reading Engagement with Large Print,” with amazing panelists: Becky Calzada, Library Media Services Coordinator, Leander ISD, Carter Cook, Director Library Services, Fort Worth ISD, Julie Moore, Media Services Coordinator, Arlington ISD, and Renee Newry, Media Services Coordinator, Irving ISD.

Thanks Sabine for sharing your time and information!  I really enjoyed working on this post with you!