Personalized Reading Formats Make Better Readers

Readability Matters at SXSW EDU 2022A cross-organizational collective shared the stage at SXSW EDU 2022 in Austin to discuss the importance of personalized digital reading formats in Education. ReadWorks, Adobe, the University of Arizona, and Readability Matters presented insights from a new body of readability research intended to inform the design of better learning applications.

Kathy Crowley, Readability Matters, kicked off the session contrasting changes in readability created by changes to content or document structure and the instantaneous improvements in readability that can be created with simple typographical changes, personalized for the individual. She reviewed early research demonstrating significant results across both strong and struggling readers, both young and older readers. She introduced the tech proof of concept that readability Matters and Adobe completed demonstrating significant improvements in reading fluency were gained using alternate text formats generated using a prototype version of Adobe Reader with Reading format settings.

Rick Treitman, Adobe, highlighted Adobe’s investment in better reading, including releasing Liquid Mode with reading settings in Adobe Reader for mobile platforms, and investments in research, including the recent formation of The Readability Consortium with Readability Matters, Google and the University of Central Florida. Rick explained that results to date call for more research and answers to a number of questions to inform readability improving implementations by tech and edTech companies.

Dr. Susanne Nobles, ReadWorks, Reading Comprehension study results - word task up 15% accuracy, passage task up 21% in speed and accuracyDr. Susanne Nobles, ReadWorks, previewed forthcoming results of a reading study designed to assess readability-driven changes in reading comprehension. The study evaluated 94 students aged K through 8th grade. She noted that a test of word-based and passage-based tasks demonstrated no best (or worst) format for the students. The research demonstrated a 15% improvement in mean accuracy on the word task. The passage task results were a 21% increase in both speed and accuracy. The research team also included Dr. Shannon Sheppard (cognitive science) and Dr. Sofie Beier (typography.)

Dr. Shelley Rodrigo, University of Arizona, student response - difference in confidence, retention, ability, effectiveness and desire to readDr. Shelley Rodrigo, University of Arizona, presented student reactions to their use of text with readability feature changes at the university level. One of the students reported improvements in reading ability and effectiveness and also noted changes in her self-confidence and desire to keep reading. As much as the students liked using the better-formated text, they expressed frustration at the lack of features across all of their reading platforms and the difficulty of implementing better readability for themselves. Shelley called for the deployment of new features by the edTech community.


Registered attendees can access the presentations and an audio recording on the SXSW EDU site:


Personalized Reading Formats Make Better Readers

SXSW EDU - Personalized Reading Formats Make Better ReadersReading is on the cusp of a revolution! Small typographical changes to text format can maximize an individual’s ability to read quickly and accurately, and comprehend more. Digital reading allows the shift from what is best for the population to what is best for the individual reader. Insights from a new body of Readability research, including a sneak peek into results that demonstrate average comprehension gains of +20% for K-8 students, will inform the design of better learning applications.


SXSW EDU 2022About SXSW EDU The SXSW EDU Conference & Festival cultivates and empowers a community of engaged stakeholders to advance teaching and learning. SXSW EDU is a component of the South by Southwest® (SXSW®) family of conferences and festivals. Internationally recognized as the convergence gathering for creative professionals, SXSWedu extends SXSW’s support for the art of engagement to include society’s true rock stars: educators!

About Dr. Susanne Nobles, ReadWorks  Dr. Susanne Nobles is Chief Academic Officer at the nonprofit ReadWorks. The mission of ReadWorks is to support the growth of successful, joyful readers by providing K-12 teachers with what to teach and how to teach it—online, for free, to be shared broadly.

About Rick Treitman, Adobe  Rick is Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Adobe Document Cloud – specializing in Education. Rick’s work as EIR involves early-stage development of tools and solutions for Adobe’s customers. Current projects include readability controls in Acrobat and establishing the Virtual Readability Lab at the University of Central Florida.

About Dr. Rochelle (Shelley) Rodrigo, University of Arizona Shelley is the Senior Director of the Writing Program; Associate Professor in the Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English (RCTE); and Associate Writing Specialist (Continuing Status) in the Department of English at the University of Arizona.

About Kathy Crowley, Readability Matters  Kathy works at the intersection of technology and reading, She founded Readability Matters, a tech-for-good non-profit engaging cross-sector organizations to deliver personalized reading environments, empowering everyone everywhere to achieve more.