Faster Read Project

The ‘Faster Read’ (FR) innovative pedagogy aims to develop the reading comprehension, interpretation and engagement of students, including ‘struggling readers’. It combines immersive, whole-text reading of culturally diverse, engaging novels, dialogic class and peer talk, and reading strategies, with teachers explicitly engaged with theories of reading. Post-Covid, its relevance has intensified, with ‘lockdown’ reading and learning losses widening for students from disadvantaged contexts.

The original, interdisciplinary research was conducted in Southern England in 2014-15 at the University of Sussex by colleagues in Education, Dr Julia Sutherland (PI), Prof. Jo Westbrook, and Prof. Jane Oakhill in Psychology (Sutherland et al, 2023; Westbrook et al, 2019) from CIE and CTLR Research Centres. The quasi-experimental, mixed-method study included 413 students of 12-13 years, primarily in ‘low-attaining’ classes and their 20 English teachers, in diverse schools, including areas of poverty. ‘Struggling readers’ (defined as having a reading age 1+ year lower than their chronological age) made, on average, 16 months’ progress in reading comprehension in 12 weeks, measured by standardised tests. Qualitative data showed that students’ reading engagement, use of reading strategies and quality of dialogic peer discussion of texts greatly improved, with some reported impacts on writing, school engagement and attendance.

Impact studies (2017 and 2022) show that over 200 schools in the UK are now using the Faster Read approach for Primary-aged children, typically 7-11 years; Secondary students - Key Stage 3 (11-14 years), GCSE (14-16 years) and A Level (16-19 years). There is also currently international interest in the Faster Read in Tonga, Australia and the USA.

Sussex Team

portrait image of julia sutherland

 Julia Sutherland (PI)


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 Jo Westbrook