Brandi J. Clark

Writer and Educator

Who’s Johnny? This Might Be the Solution to All Reading Problems! Thanks El Debarge!

Please tell me you remember that song. It was from the movie Short Circuit. If not, you are in for a treat!

This video came to mind when I thought about reading only because it reminds me of this famous book, Why Johnny Can’t Read!


What I like about this title, “Why Johnny Can’t Read” is that it focuses on the reader first (Johnny) then the reading process, second.

I believe we need to identify the NOUN – the reader before matching the VERB – reading strategies/instruction.

My first project for the Lead Literacy Society is to come up with the “types” of readers that we see in our classrooms.

Is it possible that if we develop starter profiles for the variety of types of readers, we can then decide on what these readers need?


What I see happening right now is this…one solution fits all.  As seen here…imagine the “wrenches” as one approach.



Right now our one approach, in addition to general classroom reading instruction is Leveled Literacy Intervention. But as I wrote in this article, I don’t think it works for everyone. It can’t,  it is but one approach. It is a really decent approach but it needs to be matched with the right readers.

For this conversation, I would like to hear about the different types of struggling readers that you encounter.

(Note in future posts we will discuss the other readers who are reading at level and beyond. They have their own profiles too and they also need specific strategies.)

Here are some of the categories of struggling readers I have discovered.

  1. Students with Learning Disabilities such as Dyslexia. These students can appear to work to classroom expectations in most other subject areas but struggle with reading. They have average to above average intellectual ability.
  2. Students with Intellectual Disabilities. These students struggle with most other subjects. At times, they seem to present difficulties with memory, remembering sight words, comprehension and decoding.
  3. Students who have low exposure to literacy activities at home. These students could be at the targeted reading level but they have not had follow up support at home.
  4. Students who are inconsistent with their attendance. These students could be at the targeted reading level but have gaps in their learning due to lack of attendance.
  5. Students who are English Language Learners.  Some ELL’s can be expert decoders but lack comprehension.
  6. Students with Autism. These students struggle to relay their comprehension due to communication deficits.

Some students can be in several of these categories too. For example a student who is ELL with attendance issues.

This post addresses…

Step One: Identify categories of struggling readers.

In future posts we will discuss…

Step Two: Create “starter” reader profiles with the established categories

Step Three: Use classroom teaching experiences and research to come up with strategies for each category.

Step Four: Test these ideas out in our classrooms

Step Five: Come up with A Guide to Supporting Our Struggling Readers: Practical Solutions and Advice from the Lead Literacy Society

So PLEASE comment below or own our Facebook page.  I want to hear from you.

Do you have new categories?

Feedback please!

Until Next Time,

Coach Clark

Back on the Literacy Track! Who’s with Me?

It was on one of those Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah days…

The kind where you sit down to eat lunch and your lunch partner subtly says something that puts your life back on track.

Yes…a Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah-AWESOME day….

I was telling my lunch partner that I was missing my literacy people. I was missing those deep discussions I used to have daily.

She said, “Oh, you just need to find your tribe, again.”

“Oh, OK,” I said pondering that for a quick second.

And then the conversation swung over to This Is US and how much we were not enjoying season 2.

Anyway…I let the idea about “finding a tribe” simmer for a few weeks.

I wondered, “How do I do that?” I knew that it had to be something I created and managed. Something bigger than what I was doing.

A few weeks later…just before Christmas…lightning struck…twice…on the same day.

I was at a Professional Development session, early, because I love that time in the city before everyone is stirring. Besides, I wanted to discuss a project with the presenter.

In conversation…these words she said hit home, “You know…it’s a perfect time for anyone to have their stuff out there.”

Out there! Right! Like I used to be. EVERYWHERE on the net!

Then the other presenter while reflecting on Literacy said, “And we have expertise in the room.” He looked over at me and I thought, true and I had worked hard for that literacy expertise.

Later on at home, I went through my digital past and was reminded of the excitement of being part of something bigger. Something outside the walls of my job. Even when I was in a district position, I was, at one time, beyond those walls too.

Back in 2009 – 2014, I earned a Master’s degree in Education. The focus was on Language Arts with some Library Technology courses. I started a blog and began interacting with classmates. Realizing for the first time that I could write entertaining nonfiction and make people laugh. I continued to blog, engaging with other bloggers and building a literacy brand,

For about 4 years I was on twitter daily…participating in EDCHATS every Tuesday, communicating with educators around the world.

I began creating Livebinders and even got nominated for top 10 Livebinder of 2012.

I presented locally on numerous occasions and internationally in San Antonio. I knew those experiences were to be treasured and I can honestly say, in those moments I treasured them.

I began to submit my writing, first published locally in  Literacies, Learning and Libraries …. and then internationally in Educational Leadership. Seeing my work along side my literacy idols was thrilling.

I was on my way…I was building momentum…

… so what happened?

I got small. Played small. For whatever reason, I thought that being in a school offered me the chance to work with less people, more often, and go deeper. But that’s not how it works. On any staff, you will only find a few who are literacy obsessed and willing to invest their time learning more. Which makes sense…on any staff you will have a collection of talents and passions for all subject areas not just literacy. Any educator who wants to find a tribe does need to look beyond their own school.

So I know I need to find a larger tribe. I thrive on discussing literacy with people who are equally passionate. These people are everywhere, it runs in their blood too, regardless of age and experience.  But in a school, they are a very small number. Too small to play with.

The conversations I loved most recently, are the ones through e-mail. Former colleagues reaching out to discuss literacy strategies for our schools. Sometimes it is at professional development sessions. Those powerful exchanges that remind you that your “people” might not be your day to day colleagues but they are still very much apart of your professional learning plan.

So I have decided to live larger…

I have created the Lead Literacy Society (LLS). It is for those that love literacy…that’s it. I can’t even explain the criteria to you because you either feel that passion for literacy or you don’t.

I have subscribed to The Reading Teacher for current up to date information trends and practical ideas.

I have embraced new opportunities. Namely, a district opportunity to earn Level one and Level two Google Certification. I need to be part the Google world if I am ever to bridge literacy and technology platforms effectively.

The passion to immerse myself in literacy has stirred up new “wonderings” about the state of curriculum changes in my province. I would like to take more of an active role in that process and discussing ideas with all you join the LLS.

Will there be a shirt …maybe?


Discussion and debates…for sure!

So, if you are interested click like and follow on the LLS Facebook page. I can’t wait to get started.

I will leave you with the words of Cheryl Strayed (author of the book Wild and Brave).

“Ask yourself, ‘What is the best I can do? And then do that.’

Talk to you soon!

Coach Clark