Guest Blog: Diane Allen Homeschool

This week we’ve going to be looking at a guest blog from Diane Allen’s homeschooling. Diane was given a pack of Crossbow’s Eye Level Reading Rulers and asked her honest opinion about her thoughts on the products and their usefulness.

As you’ll soon see, we were pleased with the response!


Everyone who’s taught a child to read knows that using a straight-lined reading guide, or a convenient finger tracing along under the words, helps keep young eyes focused on the words and tracking left to right.

The truth is, students who continue to struggle with reading often can benefit from continued use of some type of reading aide.  Crossbow Education has produced a set of colored, transparent, Reading Rulers to help these students.

As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a full set of these overlays from Crossbow.

The benefit of using colored overlays is well documented by education specialists.  The HSLDA’s special needs section includes the following quote:

At times, a child will experience a mild scotopic sensitivity syndrome, which means that the reflection of the white background of the paper makes it more difficult for the child to see the black letters that compose the text.

This syndrome is also known as Irlen Syndrome.  A quick Google search leads to a wealth of information on this problem.
Using colored overlays to reduce glare and sharpen contrast reduces eye strain.  Different readers will benefit from different colors.  A simple way to determine which color works is to purchase the  variety pack of 10 rulers in the 5 most popular colors.  Crossbow provides a helpful brochure of instructions that guide parents through a process of elimination with their student.

My daughter is old enough to figure things out for herself, so I basically just handed her the set and then asked for her opinion.  I was actually surprised that she took such an interest in the process, but in a few minutes she had settled on blue and purple of a particular shade.   Ginger said she could tell a difference in letter contrast and that her eyes felt more relaxed when reading.

Well….. just when you think something as simple as color transparency can’t possibly be helpful…….

While we chatted about how this product was working for her, Ginger reminded me that she hated the early readers I had her use when she was 7 because they came on brightly colored, glossy pages.  She said the blue books were OK, but that the red one and yellow one hurt her eyes.  When I questioned her about why she didn’t tell me that rather then crying and complaining she reminded me, “I was 7!  Would you have believed me?”.

Lesson learned mom.  If your young child is avoiding reading, complaining about reading or seems to fatigue easily while reading, they could be struggling with glare and print contrast which causes eye strain and fatigue.    Colorful overlays could be just the solution you are looking for.  I know that Ginger repeatedly asked for “her overlay things” and finally ended up using her favorite strip as a bookmark in her literature book.

While some reading overlays cover the whole page of a book. Crossbow Reading Rulers incorporate the transparency with a transparent reading ruler that also helps with eye tracking.   The old conventional wisdom advised parents and teachers to force children NOT to track with their finger in the mistaken belief that this would slow down their eye movement.  The reverse is actually true, especially if they struggle with tracking to begin with.

Who would use this product?   Parents of children who

  • complain about reading and avoid it when possible
  • grow tired easily while reading
  • covers one eye while reading or lay their head on the table
  • have a slow, halting reading speed
  • have trouble focusing on a printed page

Even if your child doesn’t verbally complain or show dramatic symptoms, you may find they “enjoy” reading more with transparencies.  It could be they are just unable to articulate their struggle to you.

Older students, like my daughter, who struggled with reading in the beginning often continue to have trouble when the print size decreases in advanced texts.  While my daughter doesn’t dramatically struggle with reading, most of the time, we have both noticed that she struggles with books that have lots of small print on a page.  That is why she has willingly and spontaneously used the reading rulers in two of her high school literature texts – the kind of books with pages of text in one column, and no pictures..

As an adult I might also use this for keeping my place on a field of many problems or lines of text.

The great thing about these reading ruler overlays is that they are small and inconspicuous.  They can be used as a bookmark, where they are conveniently at hand.

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