The Best Fonts for Children’s Books

When you’re self-publishing, you’re wearing many different hats. A traditional publisher will provide an editor, a designer (or two), an illustrator (if needed), layout pros, a marketing team, and more. You’re stuck doing most (if not all) of these jobs when you choose to self-publish. And because your experience in most of these fields is probably limited, it’s easy to screw things up.

Typography isn’t the most glamorous part of your children’s book, but it’s one of the most important parts. New readers are learning how to recognize letters and words, and most do this by sounding out each letter. Young readers need clear, inviting fonts that are typeset for easy reading. I’ll keep this simple and straightforward so you know what to look for:

1. Simple Shapes

Choose a font with simple, clear, and standard letter forms. Think about how you learned to write your letters. You followed a very simple, unadorned guide. Aim for a font that would be easy for a child to copy.

Watch out for trouble letters – those letters that can look different from font to font. Letters like ‘a’ and ‘g’ can be one-story or two-story lowercase letters. Again, choose a font with the characters that children first learn to write.

2. Avoid Extremes

While I highly recommend sans serif fonts (as this best fits the “handwriting” rule), serif typefaces can be used as long as they avoid extremes that could confuse a young reader.

Aim for simplicity in every aspect. Choose the standard version of a font. Go for book or medium weight (not light or bold), and skip the condensed or expanded styles. If you must use italics (sparingly, I would hope), make sure that they are not overly stylized or complex.

3. Go Big

Set your font size fairly large (15-20 point). Provide ample space between letters, words, and lines. Remember that your artwork should be planned around your text. Not vice-versa. If you’re finding that you have to squeeze your text onto each page, it’s time to rethink your illustrations.

4. Keep it Clear

Don’t try to cram too much text onto each page. Keep your line lengths short. A dense block of text is intimidating to even an advanced reader.

Finally, pay attention to the contrast between your text and your artwork. Ideally, plan your artwork so that your text stands out clearly from the background. Never put text over a “busy” section of artwork, or it will be nearly illegible to young readers.

My Recommendations

There are a few fonts that really work well for children’s books. Helvetica Textbook, Plantin Infant, Sassoon Primary, and Tuffy Infant are all designed specifically for young readers, and I highly recommend them.