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Colored Overlays

Kimberly Sotello


What Are Colored Overlays and How Do

They Work?
Colored overlays are

letters and words to look

defined as sheets of colored

distorted to the reader

plastic designed to be

(Henk and Rickelman,

placed over a page of text

1990). This in turn, causes

(Wilkins, 2002). These

visual stress with

sheets are said to reduce

symptoms such as fatigue

Strategy 1

Who Will They

Work for?

Colored overlays are for

individuals who suffer
from visual stress or
fatigue. They find
themselves straining to
read after a long period of
time (normally, ten
minutes). The words
begin to move on the
page and the reader
becomes frustrated with
their reading. This
strategy has also been
applied to individuals
with dyslexia, a learning

visual stress and fatigue

after very little reading,

that are found within

eye strain, frequent

various readers (Lewis,

skipping of whole lines or

Rowland, Smith, Tweedie

words movement of print,

and Wilkins, 2001).

blurring of print, etc.

For some readers,

text against a white
background causes the

(Kendall, OConnor,
Olsen, and Sofo, 1990).

Colored overlays work on

Why and how do they

(school children), the

two assumptions: (1) that


students reported that the

there are certain colors that

are effective in improving
reading speed and (2) these
colors differ from one

First, colored overlays

reduce the contrast of the
white text (Wilkins, 2002).

overlays improved the

clarity of the text. Multiple
research studies have
concluded that colored

individual to the next

The results from Lewis et.,

overlays improve reading

(Wilkins, 2002).

al., claimed that for about

fluency (speed) and

50% of their test subjects

decrease visual fatigue and


How to Use Colored Overlays in the Classroom

If you are an educator that has

student need to find the

appear as moving to the

a student struggling with

correct color for them. This is

student. Finally, you continue

reading at their appropriate

essentially, a trial and error

with your normal reading

grade level, you should first

process until you find the

instruction. Colored overlays

have their overall vision

right fit for the student. This

are not intended to be a cure

screened first. This will rule

would mean that it improves

for students, but instead as a

out potential visual

their reading fluency, speed

reading aide and should be

accommodations such as

and duration. The words on

treated as so.

glasses. Second, you and the

the page should no longer


Irlen, H., & Lass, M. J. (1989). Improving reading problems due to symptoms of scotopic sensitivity syndrome
using Irlen lenses and overlays. Education, 109413-417.
O'Connor, P. D., Sofo, F., & Kendall, L. (1990). Reading disabilities and the effects of colored filters.
Journal Of Learning Disabilities, 23597. doi:10.1177/002221949002301006
Rickelman, R. J., & Henk, W. A. (1990). Colored overlays and tinted lens filters. Reading Teacher, 44.166-168.
Wilkins, A. a. (2002). Coloured overlays and their effects on reading speed: a review. Ophthalmic & Physiological
Optics, 22(5), 448-454.
Wilkins, A. J., Lewis, E., Smith, F., Rowland, E., & Tweedie, W. (2001). Coloured overlays and their benefit for
reading. Journal Of Research In Reading, 24(1), 41.