Visit for parenting workshops, parent coaching & children's activities!
Oct. 10, 2022

Episode 68: If it isn't Fun, They're Not Going to Learn with Dr. Danny Brassell

In this episode, DJ speaks with Dr. Danny Brassell about getting your children to read more, read better and actually love reading! Listen in as Dr. Danny explains why  “Captain Underpants is the gateway drug to Shakespeare.” And stay tuned as he shares some of his proven techniques to incorporate reading outside of the classroom every day and how to flip the script to take it from teaching kids the misery of reading to sharing the wonder of reading. 

A highly-sought after speaker, trainer and coach known as “Jim Carrey with a Ph.D.,” Dr. Danny Brassell has spoken to over 3,500 audiences worldwide and authored 16 books, including his latest, Leadership Begins with Motivation. He helps entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners boost their business and impact by improving their communication skills.

• [7:17] “In 67 days, just over two months, I guarantee we’ll get your kid to read more, read better, and most importantly, to love reading…” 
• [10:03] “Wait a sec, are you telling me if I can get my kid to read for 10 minutes a day outside of school, I can take them from an F to a C?” 
• [11:32] Dr. Danny shares a technique he used on his own children about embracing TV and technology but charging an “admission” of a book to read before allowing the children to engage with the technology. 
• [13:54] Danny shares that turning on the closed captioning on your television set helps children tremendously with reading - especially if there are not a lot of books in the house. 

For more information on the Imperfect Heroes podcast, visit:

The Book Without Pictures by B.J. Novak

Just Disgusting by Andy Griffiths

Amelia Bedelia

Mike Rowe Foundation  Free e-copy of Read Lead and Succeed; Weekly newsletter, All access to 5-day reading challenge


DJ Stutz  0:13  
We think you should know that Imperfect Heroes podcast is a production of Little Hearts Academy USA. Perfect. 

You're listening to Episode 68 of Imperfect Heroes Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. And I'm your host, DJ Stutz. Dr. Danny Brassell is a highly sought after speaker. He's a trainer, and he's a coach. And he's also known as Jim Carrey with a PhD. He made me laugh as we shared a great conversation about how to help our kids gain a love of reading. Dr. Danny has some great ideas that makes so much sense. And his successes show it, there's so much to learn. So let's get started.

If you enjoy this episode, I would love for you to let our guests know, just scroll down to the bottom of our podcast page if you're listening on Apple podcasts, and just click on that fifth star. And by adding a few short words about the episode, you're going to let my guest know what you think about their message. And it really does help our podcast to grow. So taking the time to give the podcast that five star rating and a review helps to expand the podcast and makes it easier to find. And then we are able to help more families. 

All of my kids had various levels of interest in reading. Like many parents, the Harry Potter series was a godsend for my youngest son, and my youngest daughter. If you've been listening long to this podcast, you will know that we adopted my youngest daughter when she was 12. And she had been in foster care for over seven years. So fantasy books and especially books with a series were an escape for her as she moved between 11 foster homes in that time, especially the Twilight series. And there's a tween religious series called tennis shoes among the knee fights. And then of course, there was the Harry Potter series. And my youngest son was also into Harry Potter. But before that, his teachers were saying he was behind in reading. And after talking to him, I found out that he thought the books they were assigning were just stupid. And I didn't really blame him. So I went and I happened to find a simplified version of the classic Red Badge of Courage, which is about war, and he ate it up. And it wasn't that he couldn't read. He just needed something that interested him. And as I was talking with Dr. Danny Brassell, I certainly picked up on his amazing sense of humor, and how he brings that to inspire kids in education. So whether they're two or 12, they will relate to any subject that they're interested in, and they will learn. So let's listen in. 

Welcome, everyone, I'm so glad you chose to spend this time with us. I am here with author and leading reading educator, Dr. Danny Brassell. And Danny teach us a little bit about the books you've written and some of the things you have going on.

Dr. Danny Brassell  3:45  
Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me, DJ, more importantly, thank you for your service as a teacher for all those years I deal with retirement from what I see most of the teachers I know become like Al Pacino and the Godfather three, just when you thought you were out. They bring you right back. True, it's true. So let me get actually get to your question. I've written 16 books. The latest book I wrote is called leadership begins with motivation, which is kind of my homage to Paul Harvey. I grew up listening to Paul Harvey on the radio. He passed away a couple years ago at the age of 325 years old. When I was a kid, I used to always wait for 1215 every day because he come on the radio side. He'd say, I'm Paul Harvey with the rest of the story and tell you this cool story and you're trying to figure out who he's talking about or what company's talking about. And so whether I was teaching my little ones or my older ones, I always started off classes with the Paul Harvey story. But the problem with a lot of those stories is they talk about companies like Sears Roebuck, today's kids have no idea who that is. So I decided to create an updated version. So the examples I give are more of like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos actually was intrigued. Staying DJ after I wrote this book, completely unintentionally, as I was reading it, I'm like, Whoa, most of the examples I gave in the book were of white male Americans. And so the book I'm doing right now, is predominantly female minorities and international examples to get kids excited about reading. So that's the last book I wrote. Before that I've written all kinds of books on reading, reading strategies, vocabulary, strategies, comprehension strategies, just types of books that teachers and parents can use to get their kids excited about reading. I mean, I find schools do an adequate job of teaching kids how to read. But the question I always ask people is, what good is it teaching a kid how to read, if they never want to read, I teach kids why to read, because I've never had to tell a kid go watch TV. I've never had to tell a kid go play video game. And I never want to have to tell a kid but don't read a book, I want them to choose to do it on their own. And so that's what you and I were talking earlier, I love speaking with teachers and parents and given all kinds of little quick tips they can use to get their kids pumped up about reading.

DJ Stutz  6:03  
I love that that's so important to to get those strategies going on very early, and having books be maybe some of our little teeny guys their favorite toys. So I have five kids, two boys, three girls,

Dr. Danny Brassell  6:22  
we need educators to continue breeding. So thank you.

DJ Stutz  6:26  
Well, thank you. I've got 12 grandchildren. So the beat goes on. Anyway, but my youngest super, super, super ADHD. And it was funny though, I have some pictures of him. He was two, maybe three years old. And he would have like 10 or 15 books in bed with him. So instead of stuffies, he would have books and he would just scream if I tried to take because I thought that can't be comfortable.

Unknown Speaker  6:58  
But he would just scream if I would take these books away. I want my book.

DJ Stutz  7:05  
That was kind of fun to have him do that. What are some strategies that you offer for very early on?

Dr. Danny Brassell  7:17  
Well, I mean, I have the world's top reading engagement program online, the reading We're basically in 67 days, just over two months, I guarantee will get your kid to read more, read better, and most importantly, to love reading the two numbers. I always point out the parents CJ are the numbers 67 and 20. So 67. Let's take that number first. So a lot of people will tell you it takes 21 days to change a habit. And so those people I say show me the research on that I actually know exactly where that number comes from. It comes from a wonderful book, written in 1960 called PSYCHO CYBERNETICS by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. And in the preface of that book, Dr. Maltz, was a plastic surgeon. And he mentioned in the preface that he noticed it took most of his patients about 21 days to get used to their new face. Well, a lot of self help gurus, personal development people, people I actually respect by the way, they took that number and started telling people takes 21 days to change a habit. And it's completely bogus. It's based on no research whatsoever. So back in 2009, researchers at the University of London did a habit formation study. And they found it took anywhere from 18 to 254 days to change a habit. And the average was 66 days. Well, I don't like the number of 66. So I throw in a bonus day, 67 days. And it depends based on the type your habit you're trying to create DJ. So for example, if you want to drink a glass of water before breakfast, that might take 18 days to turn that into a habit. But if you want to quit smoking, that's going to take you 254 days to change that habit. Here's why this is important to me. Let's say you go on a diet and you follow it religiously for 21 days. But then on day 22 You fall off the wagon. Well, you blame yourself. And that's ridiculous. Because research shows on average, it takes three times longer just to develop that habit. So I think it's very irresponsible. When I see people saying 21 days to change a habit. The second number, this is an important one. I want everybody listen to this 20. So researchers were looking at Habits of Successful students around the world, trying to figure out what were the commonalities they found one that started with them. It was the number of minutes spent reading outside of school. So they looked at the low kids, the average kids and the high kids, the kids in the 20th percentile the lowest students so your F students, they average less than a minute a day of reading outside of school. That didn't surprise anybody. It's probably why the kids are at the bottom of the class. Right? But this did startle researchers, the kids in the middle class and the 75th percentile. Your C students are average students. They average 9.6 minutes today reading outside of school. And so when I'm doing a live training with parents like last week, this is Usually, when I have the first hand raise, and the parents says, Wait a sec, are you telling me if I can get my kid to read for 10 minutes a day outside of school, I can take them from an F to A C? That's exactly what I'm saying. There's actually a lot of research to prove this. But that didn't startle researchers, as much as this number, the kids near the top of the class and the 90th percentile, you're a minus students, some of your top students, do they average three hours a day reading outside of school? No, do they average one hour a day reading outside of school? No, the average was just over 20 minutes a day, my entire goal in life is to show parents how to find those 20 minutes a day outside of school to get their kids reading. And so there's two things that parents need to be aware of. And this is going to make everybody really happy. First of all, the numbers don't have to be consecutive, the minutes don't have to be consecutive. So you can do five minutes here, five minutes there. Second of all, being read aloud to is just as powerful as a kid reading on their own. And so I always ask people, when should you start reading aloud to a child, preconception, when should you stop reading aloud to a person when they're six feet under I mean, even to this day, I love being read aloud to. And so if people can just remember those two numbers, 67, and 20, they will do all kinds of things. And there's all kinds of ways. I show parents how to develop habits, I have three children of my own. And from a very young age, we I have a feeling televisions here to stay, and I don't resisting technology, I believe in embracing technology and figuring out how to use it to my advantage. And so from a very young age, we established the habit in our household that whenever my kids turned on the TV, before they could turn on the TV, the price of admission was they had to bring me something to read. So when they were really little, they used to bring me picture books, and we'd go through a picture read aloud together. Now they're all teenagers. And so they'll bring me usually something on their iPad and article that they've spotted. And we'll read aloud the article on the iPad together. So that's a habit. Another big one, I always this is the easiest habit that we can get all parents do on your your kid is going to be in great shape. So again, I think television is here to stay. If you look at reading scores around the world, the more kids watch TV, the lower their reading scores are in every single country in the world, except for one. The country that watches the most TV in the world actually has the highest reading scores in the world. It's Finland. And a lot of people ask, well, how can that be Danny? I'm like, Well, it's because Finland makes really bad TV shows. And so what they do is they have to import like Gilligan's Island and Brady Bunch and they put subtitles on all those shows. The kids are reading all the time. Now when I say this to parents here in America, a lot of people say well wait a second, the shows in English and the subtitles are in English. What good does that do? Mike? Well, that's a fair point. But let me make a point DJ, have you ever tried to watch a show with subtitles and not looked at the subtitles, it's very difficult to do, your brain is directed towards that text. And so this is just a real simple way where I always tell parents, I'm like, I think if the kids watching TV anyway, let's figure out a way to make TV work in our benefit. And that's one of the easiest tips I can give to parents of all ages. I'm sorry, I turn down answers to your questions.

DJ Stutz  13:19  
I love that answer. It's great. And it's funny that you mentioned that because my son, I'm staying with my son right now while we're building a home. And he always has the subtitles on their TV shows. And for me, it's kind of interesting, because sometimes if the conversation is low or goes too fast or whatever, it's nice to have those subtitles, I'm starting to find myself getting used to them. But I never thought of it relating to, you know, his kids, they're really young.

Dr. Danny Brassell  13:54  
Well, President Bush Senior over 30 years ago signed a very important law in the United States. It says every single television set sold in America has to have closed captioning. So I always tell usually parents that tell me they have nothing to read at home. I'm like, Oh, I have a feeling. I'm pretty sure you have a television sets. So it's one of the easiest ways to really incorporate reading into the day and those minutes count.

DJ Stutz  14:18  
I never have thought of that. Now. I'm really excited. That is a great tip that our parents can take right now and move forward with and it won't make any changes in their lives that they have to take time out of their day. Great idea. Thank you for that. Oh, well, it's perfect. And so then what else have you got with maybe it's interesting watching kids for me because I always taught kindergarten. Watching them make the transfer from all picture books to maybe those first chapter books. And so that can be a bit of a challenge for some kids making that they use the pictures to give them context for words.

Dr. Danny Brassell  15:09  
Absolutely. Yeah, I know, it can definitely be a challenge. This is what I always tell, because I've worked with incarcerated parents, I've worked with intoxicated parents, but I've actually never worked with a parent that doesn't want their kid to do really well. And they always love hearing me tell them nice things about their kids. And one of the things I tell people is, you know, when I taught kindergarten, I used to tell my kindergarteners, I hope this isn't the best year of your life. I hope it's last year and the year after that. I mean, the wind feels a lot bigger than the rear view mirror. On the application, a Harvard it doesn't ask you, when you learned how to read, you just learn how to read. Some kids pick it up immediately in kindergarten, because it takes them till third or fourth grade, you and I'll both be able to say I've taught all age levels, from preschoolers to rocket scientist. And I always tell people, just so you know, four out of five, you're struggling and reluctant readers are going to be Boys, boys and girls are very different little girls will read books about little boys, little boys don't like reading books about little girls. And there's some exceptions there. So I always tell parents don't freak out. I mean, kids get in at different points. I've never been able to prove this. But my suspicion why a lot of boys struggle in early elementary school is because if you look at kindergarten through second grade teachers across the United States, 96% of them are female. And I'm not knocking that at all. But I have a feeling that a lot of women tend to read books that are interesting more to girls than to boys. There's a great example. In one of the diary of the Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney. He's got this great story where the mother of Greg haffley wants to start a mother's son book club. And so she invites her son and all the boys in the neighborhood to bring books to the book club. And so she brings her books and the books she chose are like little house in the prairie Sara, all Little Women and the boys the books that they've brought are like how to cheat a video games, the book of bodily functions, you know, dinosaurs and and race cars. I mean, here's something I want everybody listening to pay attention to. The research is very clear on this. It doesn't matter what you read, what matters is how much you read. It doesn't matter. If you're reading James Joyce, or James and the Giant Peach, people who read more read better. You know, the little boy who only reads Captain Underpants is going better reader than the little boy who refuses to read anything. Captain Underpants is the gateway drug to Shakespeare. You got to get them hooked, though. And I think that's what I see too often in schools, schools are teaching kids the misery of reading, whereas I try to show kids the wonder of reading. So it's a lifelong passion that they pursue on their own. And this is why I always have to work with the parents because I'm like it the parents can celebrate reading at home. You know, you already gave an example with your son about him reading in bed and having 10 or 12 books. I mean, that's fantastic. If that's what the kids into good parents and good teachers that use drop. It's the kids are talking about NASCAR games, NASCAR books that they're talking about below. Give them a biography on Jennifer Lopez. I mean, I had I'll give you an example. I taught second grade DJ. I had a little boy chiar and Drs. First grade teacher told me Chiara don't know nothing like Well, thank you for that. Well, Chiara, who don't know nothing comes into my classroom one day, it's like, Hey, Mr. Sal. You see broccoli last night at 18 Point 16 boards and like, Thank you, chiar. Because from that day forward, every day after lunch at sickcare on my lap, we read the LA Times sports page together. And when you know it, by the end of the year, he are was one of the best readers in the class and all that boy read about were sports, you know, we got to find out what the kids are interested in. I mean, I've seen teachers, they'll ask a kid, well, what's your favorite sport and it'll be like soccer and like, well, I like basketball. So I picked out a basketball book. Like the kid just gave you a clue. Random soccer balls. You know, I've worked at a preschool in downtown Los Angeles for homeless Latino kids. And I had a little boy, three years old Francisco. I'm like, What's your name? He's like, Flint, Flint, Flint. I show him this dinosaur book and all the companies like dinosaurs Rex. kid can't pronounce his first name, but he can pronounce some multisyllabic dinosaur name. That's, yeah, got to get that book to him. So I mean, it's pretty basic psychology lets people do what they like to do. So let's figure out what kids are into and figure out how to incorporate reading into that passion. It's called habit stacking.

DJ Stutz  19:38  
I love it. And that's a thing that I used a lot in my classroom. I think having five brothers kind of figure out the boy sick. Yeah, yeah. And even growing up I my best friends were boys and girls. So but that's just how I went but it It was interesting, though, because in kindergarten, first grade preschool, all those primary grades you tend to have well now we're on the ocean theme of this right now we're on the insect theme. And every book in the room is that based on whatever theme it is that you're working on. And so I think it's really important to draw that in, though with what what do you want to know about space? What do you want to know about the ocean? I can tell you that there are four year olds, who they knew all about the Abyss about the trench, all the layers of the ocean, who lives were how to kind of give you some clues on to how deep they go into the ocean. If you're looking at the eyes in the bioluminescence and all they can say bioluminescence, I had kids who were in speech therapy, right. And they could say bioluminescence, though from our ocean. And the girls like the, like the sunlight layer animals, because they're cute and pretty, and blah, blah, blah. What are the boys like? This the midnight? Yeah, I want that angler fish she you know, and all the scary looking ones. And so I think you are really right on with having books, from things that the kids are going to love and feed into. We talked before we were recording a little bit about the book without pictures by BJ Novak. And when I've had preschool when I've had kindergarten, that is almost always their favorite book by the end of the year. What was your favorite book? Because you say ridiculous, stupid things. But what a great way to teach them sounding out letters because they're nonsense words and you've got to know what the letters say. So how are you thinking then about teaching phonics? Or how do we want to go about teaching our early kids? Those fundamentals of reading?

Dr. Danny Brassell  22:25  
Yeah, so here's a quick tip I give people deejay is English is not a phonics based language. Spanish is, I mean, anybody had to read in Spanish in six weeks or less my MIMO moves nice and consistent. Look at the symbol A, in Spanish, what sound does it make? Ah, always, ah, in English, ah, app a. So I'm gonna about to vomit next at it's not a very useful strategy. I have literally asked 10s of 1000s of people, how did you learn how to read, and I have never once DJ had a person say, Oh, my grandma, Nana, she used to sit me on her lap, and sit on the rocking chair. And we'd rock together back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And Nan as she looked at the book and pointed the words and go alligator, but ball, I've never had something to say. That's how they learn how to read. You know, I bet you most of us, the way we learn how to read is just how your son was learning how to read was just enjoying books together. You know, anybody that's a parent will tell you that your child is always bringing the same book to you every single night to read because they're memorizing that book. I mean, my oldest daughter Kate used to always bring me this book called Balto about this stupid wolf dog up in Alaska. A lot of people like I like bounce. I'm like, Yeah, we did. 875 times. We'll see how much you like Valentino every night. She's like, what's gonna happen next? I'm like, I don't know. But this is what we do. We're in the competence building industry. We're trying to build positive competent experiences. I mean, we're Why do you think kids perform so poorly on standardized tests? Have you ever looked at the stories they have you read they're so bullying their labor? I mean, if you have BJ Novak write that test. I'm not I'm not kidding. You know, that's get kids laughing get them enjoying taking the test rather than making them do these silly unsubstantiated exercises. To me. It's really lazy teaching when you have standardized testing, and you're constantly looking at what's it going to take to get this? I'll give you an example. I was working with a third grade teacher and she told me Well, Mario won't read anything. I'm like, Oh, I'll get Mario reading within an hour. I was wrong DJ it only took me 20 minutes in the book. Mario, he liked it so much. He memorized the first chapter by the next week. The book I handed Mario was called just disgusting by Andy Griffiths. Not the Sheriff of Mayberry. This was an Australian. He wrote the day my but when Psycho and the first chapter injustice gusting is the 101 most disgusting things. I don't remember all of them. I can remember some of them though. So it's like number 12. Dog poop. Number 13. Stepping in dog poop. Number 14. Trying to wipe the dog poop off your shoe and get on your fingers. Number 15. eating a hot dog. It tastes like dog poop. Number 16. Realizing the hot dog tastes like dog poop because you forgot to wash your hands. I mean, that's how you get a boy excited about reading? I mean, don't get me wrong. I think Little Women is a wonderful book. But if you want a little boy to read that book, you better put diarrhea in the title. I mean, I have kids that they can't read the word from were read. But they can read vomit. They can read diarrhea. You know, that's a clue. We need to look at those. Is that highbrow literature? No, of course not. Do I think kids have to read something higher? Eventually? Yeah, but you got to get them hooked first. I mean, I know you're supposed to eat your fruits and vegetables. But sometimes you have to mask them an applesauce to get the kids interested in the flavor.

DJ Stutz  26:05  
Yeah, I think, too, there's a push. And I found it hard in these early primary grades where they want you to have X percent of the reading within the classroom being like a manual on how to put something together or whatever. And I found that to be a little bit difficult with the little guys until the How to was to build something they wanted to build. So they could pick something. And I would on my planning time, whatever, one, get out X amount of sticks number two, and then seeing if they could like a catapult, you know, you can do a very basic catapult. And you can add the pictures of what they're getting, and how they're doing it so that they can see if they've done it right. But what do you think about this push them very early on doing some of these nonfiction. Very straightforward.

Dr. Danny Brassell  27:14  
Yeah, there was a researcher in the mid 1960s that I've always turned to her name was Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins, lots of valuable things. She said, Supercalifragilistic expialidocious. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. But she said something which is guided my teaching and administrative philosophy now for over 25 years DJ she said, for every job there is to be done. There is an element of fun translation games are good make it into a game, especially with the little ones, you know, everything should be a game. And so what using your example, we used to write a book together as a class now one of my I'm saying write a book with kindergarteners and little ones. A lot of them aren't literate yet. So they're going to dictate to me this is called the language experience approach where kids are actually learning Oh, whatever is said can be read. It's it's kind of a, I always say I'm a magician. Look, tell me a word. And I can write that right on the page. And now kids are starting to associate that we're making it into a game. And so we would do something like how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and the kids say, Well, you need peanut butter and you need bread. I'm okay. So what do you do? First of all, I put the peanut butter on the bread. So I take a jar of peanut butter and put it on the bread and the kids like no, no. Oh, you open up the jar on my Oh, so that's the tip. So now we have to open up the jar. And what do we do next? Now put it on the bread and like I put the whole jar? Oh no, you're taking the knife and take Oh, but what we're doing is we're taking you something that really could be lame, and we're making fun. And so I believe in nonfiction. That's great. There's all kinds of interesting things that we can be reading to kids. I love nonfiction stories, too. I was actually in New York City a few weeks ago. And there was actually a Paul Harvey story. I was reading to them. A lot of kids don't know that New York City before it was called New York City was called New Amsterdam because the Dutch settled there first. Well, back in 1664, the British were trying to invade the entire eastern seaboard. And so they invaded New Amsterdam and the Dutch surrendered without firing a shot. And so pretty soon, the British started making fun of the Dutch and everything negative became Dutch. And some of those expressions have now lasted for over 350 years in the English language in America. So for example, when you go Dutch on a date, it means you're both paying all the adjustments uncle is not a nice thing to say to a person, a Dutch wife meant she was a prostitute. Dutch courage meant you were drunk. But there's one thing the British used to say to the Dutch which infuriated them. You know how every ethnic group has a type of food we like to associate with that ethnic group. The Dutch they really like cheese. And so the British started going around calling the Dutch John cheese and this made the Dutch so angry. They started calling the British John cheese in Dutch young keys, you know, the rest of the story. See, that's how you get kids excited about nonfiction.

DJ Stutz  30:09  
For sure. I love that. That is so cool. Yeah, I think that giving them that experience and seeing that first off, you've got that Amelia Bedelia approach. Yeah. Oh, I know, she's wonderful. But then also getting it and making whatever that you're looking for. Interesting. So it's easy for to get kids involved in a nonfiction book that dinosaurs course, right? Now animals of the Abyss, they're gonna dig that big time, again, with the disgusting stuff and the gross stuff. And all of that is so exciting for the boys. And now you're not leaving the boys behind? Absolutely. So let's say you've got a kid that's up in fourth grade, something like that. And they're really still struggling with reading. Does your approach change any?

Dr. Danny Brassell  31:08  
Yeah, I mean, I got this idea from watch a Little House on the Prairie on television DJs. When I watched that show, I'm like, huh, the kids are in a one room schoolhouse. And they're different sizes. And I don't know who decided to start classifying kids by age. But that's just as random as shoe size. I mean, you give me a first grade girl and a first grade boy, and nine times out of 10. That girl is well above the ability of that boy, I mean, boys eventually catch up. Because middle school girls start becoming self conscious about being intelligent. So they have to allow us male folk to catch up. But you know, one of the things I'll do is I'll take my fourth grade struggling readers, and I'll send them down to kindergarten to tutor the kindergarteners because what did you just do? You just made them the more competent peer. Now the kids are looking up to that kid like, whoa, you know, so much, I don't know. And what we're trying to do is build confidence. I mean, people are drawn to things that they feel comfortable doing. We don't like doing things that we're uncomfortable doing, even though that's how we progress. And so I'm constantly just trying to build up the confidence. I'm a big believer in, in, in cross age, tutoring, letting the kids do things. So if I have a fourth grader, you know, I mean, I'll work with parents, and they're like, what's your best tip? I'm like, swap kids, like, What do you mean? I'm like, Well, I mean, I have three children of my own. And I guarantee you, they won't listen to anything I say, DJ, if you say the exact same thing, all of a sudden, it's like Moses on the mountaintop, you know, and it's and that's just consistent. Your five kids would listen to me better than they would listen to you. It's just basic little fun tricks and strategies. I mean, we call them strategies, but really, they're just tricks to the trade that I've learned with kids. I'm constantly just kind of questioning myself, okay, how do I take this lame stuff and make it interesting? Or how do I make this kid feel a lot more competent? So they will start taking risk? Well, I have to create a supportive environment where I celebrate risk taking just basic things like that. And for those parents that are freaking out about their fourth grade or being a little bit behind. I mean, first of all, I always encourage parents, get your kid tested early, let's find out what's fine. They have a reading disability, just so you know, all reading disabilities are curable, but it's a whole lot easier to cure in kindergarten, than to wait until they're in seventh grade. Because I'm a parent, too. I know the pressure on parents, every parent, you're at that party, and somebody's bragging that their three year old has composed a symphony. And meanwhile, like, Well, my son, he's learned how to pick his nose with two fingers at the same time. I mean, the kids are different. You know, a lot of my kindergarteners that are the top of the class are dealing drugs by middle school, and a lot of the kids that are sniffing glue in the back and eating paste and stuff. They graduate valedictorian, you can't judge people based on just random moments. I mean, I was on the stage a couple of weeks ago on this woman, she was introduced as Miss Ohio 1975. And I'm like, wow, that was almost 50 years ago. You're still getting introduced on something you did almost 50 years ago. me Come on, bro. A little bit.

Unknown Speaker  34:15  
Yeah, for sure. You've done nothing else since

Dr. Danny Brassell  34:20  
I don't get introduced like oh, when the winner of the phonics Spelling Bee from kindergarten. Here's Dr. Danny Purcell. I mean, it's pathetic, like, come on.

DJ Stutz  34:31  
Oh, that's hysterical. You brought up something that I'm really interested in, too, is getting kids tested early on. So dyslexia is a big, I think it's probably the most well known.

Dr. Danny Brassell  34:48  
Yeah, it's about and it's most common. It's most undiagnosed, most uncommon reading disability out there. And I always tell people, you know, first off, you want to get tests and second of all don't feel bad about that. I mean, over half of them fortune 500 CEOs are dyslexic people like George Washington was dyslexic, Richard Branson if we're going to go into industry billionaire Richard Branson's dyslexic go into entertainment, Sylvester Stallone and Tom Cruise will be Goldberg, all dyslexic, you know, so it's not something to be ashamed of. One of the strategies people have to understand is, first of all, if your kid does have a reading disability, school districts provide all kinds of services for these kids, make sure you utilize these services, public libraries provide all kinds of services in the state of California, they have this wonderful program called first five, which shows that any kid under the age of five, actually starting at 18 months, you can have your kid tested to see if they qualified for speech services. And regardless of your income level, it's free, because that program is sponsored by the tobacco tax in California. So I always whenever I see somebody smoking in California, like just say you're doing it for the kids. Thank you for that. Thanks for. But again, there's I mean, all of my kids, all were born in California, every single one of them was tested 18 months, and they all qualified for services, we got preschool services, speech therapists, services, there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, I'd much rather have my kid in a small group setting when they're young. Once they start becoming like middle school and high school age, it becomes trickier and trickier. Because you're also dealing with like that kids been labeled through the years and starting to have very low self esteem. And I don't like that. The big tip I tell people, though, if your child's dyslexic, I mean, Dyslexics tend to process things auditory, much better than visually, right. And so that's where reading aloud comes in handy, have audiobooks that the kids listen all the time to audiobooks, they'll, they'll still develop their literacy that way, it's not something to be ashamed of. It's something Okay, let's identify it. Let's figure out how we can work on on help on the kid. That's it?

DJ Stutz  36:56  
Well, and one of the things that I've always felt bad is at least in Colorado, but I think basically everywhere they have this expectation of by the end of first grade, or no, I'm sorry, by the end of kindergarten, that all of the children should be able to identify 100 sight words, right? And so I made it into a game

Dr. Danny Brassell  37:24  
that's actually written in the Bible is by the age of six, thou shalt read 100 site,

DJ Stutz  37:29  
I think it's there. 849 Yeah. It is, it's totally random. But here's the deal. If they get there, and they're not there, by the end of kindergarten, they have a read plan. All right, well, and I'm all for getting kids help with reading, that's fine. But the thing that bothers me is that in first grade, they are pulled out to go to the reading specialist with all the other dummy kids, right, all the other kids see them leaving to go to this reading specialist. And so they know, oh, he can't read or she can't read and the child themselves, start self labeling. But I don't say really self labeling. We've imposed that label on that kid, we've drawn that kid to making that self diagnosis that I'm done, I can't read, I have to go to this special thing. And I just see what it does to the self esteem of the kids, the other kids treat them a little differently. Teachers, as much as we don't like to admit it, you do treat kids who have those disabilities a little differently. And so where are you on all of that?

Dr. Danny Brassell  38:55  
Yeah, I mean, I think it's ridiculous, but it into terms of other things. A football team. Okay, so you won two games last year, this year, you need to you need to win nine games. Let's go look at business. Oh, by the end of your first year at this company, you need to increase productivity by 50%. Let's look at Congress. Okay, by the end of this year, you need to pass over half of your bills. It's completely random. It's unfair. I mean, some kids get it immediately. Some kids take I mean, I put it in terms of teachers, you got one teacher, she starts off the year with the kids in the 75th percentile, she gets up to the 85th percentile. You got another teacher gets all ESL kids in the first percentile. And by the end of the year, she gets them up to the 40 percentile based on federal mandates and state mandates. This teacher is a failure. In my book, she's a hero. I mean, and this is a point I want everybody to get. Who cares about the finish line when you're not looking at the starting line? That's like your unknown. It's like your annoying friend that likes to brag that their crypto is worth $10,000 I'm like, yeah, if it started off At 9999 That's not a lot of growth, I want to see where the growth is happening. I mean, some kids are starting school, when I taught preschool, that was the big thing I learned DJ, some kids start way up here. And some kids start way down here. And that's where your gap is, it happened before that kid ever even entered school, things that parents can do to make sure that they don't have that gap, sing with your children do lots of poetry. I mean, I do songs and poems all the time. I was in a choir when I was a kid, I'd be like, amazing grace, my mouth the rest of the words, but I didn't know the rest of the lyrics. But somebody other kids had my back. And they knew the lyrics. And it was cool, because after about three weeks, I figured out the rest of the song, but the teacher never put me on the spot. I never put a kid on the spot, until I know that kid's going to succeed. And so this is our job. How do we put I mean, I'm a coach, also, there's no way I'd ever put a freshman in the game. If we're down in the game, I don't want to put him in a pressure situation like that you put the freshmen in, when you're up for touchdowns already. And I'm just trying to give the kids some experience, right? I want to give kids experience, but I want to give them positive experiences and nothing that's going to, you know, harm them for the rest of their lives.

DJ Stutz  41:16  
I agree. And reading is certain synapses firing off at the right time. And that's when it'll start clicking is when those neurons find the right path to make it all make sense in the brain. Am I saying it correctly?

Dr. Danny Brassell  41:34  
I'd say you're sounding very intelligent. I'm setting all this vocabulary or something. But yeah, yes, you're saying it correctly, DJ, I mean, and again, different strokes for different folks, every kid develops at different time periods, you know, some kids, kindergarten, they're acing thing, some kids are third or fourth grade, some kids seventh grade, you know what I've seen it, but I never give up on the kid. You know, there's always a chance, there's always a way. And this is why you and I are both into early education. It's actually one of the few things you'll see Congress agree on, we know that if you aren't reading very well, by the end of third grade, there's less than a 25% chance of catching up. But we also know that if we give you all kinds of extra help, in these early years, we can help you and that's why you see like Headstart, getting lots of funding and, and title one funding and things like that, you know, I'm a big believer in an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I don't want a problem to create, I don't want to have play catch up. If I can prevent things, I'm always looking for ways to prevent them. But again, I'm using the approach, I just don't think kids respond very well to drilling kill, it's kind of like that type of philosophy might work in the short term. But if you want long term mastery, what we need to do is embed a passion in kids so that they'll seek knowledge on their own without somebody prompting them to do it.

DJ Stutz  42:57  
Great, very much agree. What do you see coming maybe down the pike with education? And I don't know if that shows up on all of some of the new things that are coming out? Do you find them productive, not productive? What are some of the things parents maybe want to look at legislatively that might be coming down from departments of ED or even teachers unions?

Dr. Danny Brassell  43:20  
Yeah, so DJ, one of my friends and mentors, Jim Trelease, he passed away recently, but Jim wrote the read aloud handbook, which I believe every parent, every teacher in America should have a copy of it. And Jim, Jim has taught we say, if reading aloud cost $129. Every parent in America would rush out and buy it. If we found out kids didn't like it, they would mandate it in the public school system.

It's the simple things that we're we try to overcomplicate way too much. I'm one of these dorks that actually reads every government report of the last 100 years, you know Why Johnny Can't read A Nation at Risk, a nation of readers, the National Reading Panel, and all of these reports are usually about 2000 pages long. It's usually around page 100, where there's a paragraph that says, the research seems to suggest the single best way to improve reading is to read aloud to children. And then they never mentioned it again, because you can put in a fancy package. And it sounds way too simple. I'm telling you right now. It's the simple things that make the greatest impact. My answer to what do I see in states and in the federal government and with teacher unions, I've seen nothing but misery. I see complaining, I see people that are trying to package their programs. When I taught in Los Angeles, we used to have the open court scripted reading program. I have my own. It's called the Open Book program. You take a book, you open it, and you read it. It's amazing how much better you get at reading when you're reading something you want to be reading. And so like you said earlier, DJ, if the little boy is into the abyss of the ocean floor, then I'm going to start reading some things like that, figure out what kids are interested in. I think the way you make education interesting is you make it fun so that I don't actually ever have to tell a kid to do homework. I mean, I used to have my high school students, rather than do a lot of the assignments, I saw them being thrown out and other classes. I'm like, well, let's, I want you to start your own company, I want you to create a website, you know, and these kids, that people would say, Oh, they wanted their homework or whatever. They were spending probably 30 to 40% more time than other students, because they were interested, oh, I'm going to create a company, you know, this is I mean, and they're covering all the skill sets. But I made it an interesting and worthwhile act to this country's crazy DJ. I mean, we graduate students with calculus, they just don't know how to balance a checkbook. I'm not saying Oculus isn't important. But you have to show kids how they're going to use this stuff. And so I'm constantly trying to figure out well, how do I get the kid? So that I mean, I got my little entrepreneurs out there. I used to counsel high school juniors, and I don't know if I could actually justify telling parents that their kids should go to college nowadays, because I'm like, the expense is ridiculous. So you don't need a job. And I don't know if they're teaching you what you actually need to be learning. I'm not saying don't get me wrong. I'm not saying College is a bad thing. I'm saying, I don't know if you should go into debt, to get a degree that might not get you a job. There's things in this country, I think you're crazy. Like, I'm a big fan of Mike Rowe used to host Dirtiest Jobs. He has a great podcast called The Way I heard it. And he's got a foundation. That's one of my favorite podcasts. He actually argues something I agree with, you know, a lot of people think the point of the American education system is to produce college graduates and like, no, that's not true. There's two things you need to know first of all, is not mentioned anywhere in the US Constitution, that you're guaranteed a right to an education. That's a beautiful thing that we give in this country. And second of all, the point of our education system is not to produce college graduates, but to produce taxpaying citizens. And if you want to learn as a trade, like become a mechanic or a plumber, I mean, there's all kinds of jobs that require these types of skills that don't require a college degree. But for some reason society deems these is beneath us. And I think it's crazy, we should be investing a lot more heavily in vocational programs, I can tell you right now, if you want to become a truck driver, right now, you'll make $85,000 a year, if you want to become a public school teacher, you're going to make half of that. What I be, I've been telling people, I've read it on social media, it's like, we don't have a teacher shortage in this country, we have a shortage of people with master's degrees that want to work for $40,000 a year. That's exactly right. And so I see doom and gloom, if I'm going to focus on Government Solutions. I see. If we just focus on practical things. It doesn't have to be overly complicated. My job is to get kids excited about reading, the more excited you are to read, the more likely you are to read more you read, the better you get. And so again, long answer to a short question. But I I'm an optimist. I see. You know, I look at technology right now. There's some poor kid in North Dakota, maybe you didn't have breakfast today, maybe a broken home. What if that kid has a laptop and an internet connection? That kid has the same access as the head of Google? I mean, the world just got a whole lot smaller, right? I get really excited. I mean, people say, Oh, kids aren't reading. When are you kidding me? You know, you're using definitions from 100 years ago. I mean, I was with a fourth grader. teacher told me he couldn't read in an hour. That kid must have texted 20 of his friends. He sent some emails. He was surfing the web. He's highly literate. I mean, he's not reading, you know, Dostoyevsky, but he knows how to read all these people that say that people aren't reading um, I think that's totally bogus. I think people are reading a lot more today than they were 100 years ago. Now. It might not be classic literature. What they are reading and I don't know of a single job where your bosses going to say, You know what, I need you to do that. Purcell Purcell by tomorrow, I need you to read. I need you to read The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald do that. I've never had anybody say I had to read any classic literature except when I was a student in the public school system.

DJ Stutz  49:31  
And that's the truth. That's the truth. Well, first off I want to ask Where do my listeners need to go to find more about Dr. Danny Purcell?

Dr. Danny Brassell  49:45  
Well as a thank you for everybody hanging in there with me for you haven't been DJ I want to give everybody a couple of gifts. So if you go to free gift from, again, free gift from I'm gonna give you two things. First of all, I'm going to give everybody a complimentary eat cow read my book read lead and succeed, which is a book I wrote for a school principal who was trying to keep his faculty constantly engaged. So I said, Okay, I'll write your book. So every week, I give you a concept, an inspirational quote, an inspirational story, a book recommendation on a book you should read, but you're probably too lazy because you're an adult. So I also give you a children's picture book recommendation demonstrates the same concept, you read that five minutes, I'm also going to give you all access last summer, I did a five day reading challenge online for about 700 parents during the pandemic. And so I'll give you access to that five day reading challenge, where every day for an hour, you're going to see me giving you all kinds of ideas on how to get your kid excited about reading. This is the format that I use the reading program that I run, again, I'm just concerned about how do we get kids excited about learning I mean, because I'm not always going to be there. I don't believe I can motivate another human being I can only inspire that human being to motivate themselves. I'm a big believer, the student is ready, the teacher appears. And so again, if you got a free gift from, those are those are gifts from me to you. And I thank you for all that you do. DJ, appreciate it.

DJ Stutz  51:08  
Oh, thank you so much. You know, before we go, I want to ask you one last quick question. How would you define a successful parent?

Dr. Danny Brassell  51:18  
You know, a kid your kid. I'll give a President Bush Senior, he gave a great answer. One, it was his 90th birthday. And they asked the former president united states, what's your greatest accomplishment? He's like, the fact that I'm turning 90 And my kids still call me every week.

DJ Stutz  51:38  
That is a great answer. I love it. Well, Danny, thank you so much for spending this time with us. I really appreciate it. I hope that our listeners really take advantage of your free gift. That sounds like such a great plan. And I look forward to talking to you again.

Dr. Danny Brassell  51:57  
Anytime. Thanks for all that you do. God bless.

DJ Stutz  51:59  
Thank you. Wasn't that great? I love him. So let's recap. Dr. Danny brings up such a great point in what good is it to teach your child to read if they just don't want to read. Number two, reading just 10 minutes a day outside of school will take your kid to a C average. And reading just over 20 minutes a day, outside of school, we'll take your kid out into the A category number three, put those closed captions on your TV, that was a great idea. And four, don't freak out. If your kid isn't reading by the end of kindergarten, trust me, they'll be fine. And number five, it doesn't matter what you read, it matters how much you read. And number six, with every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Thank you Mary Poppins. So whatever really the task is in homework and subjects and whatever, find the fun in it, and your kids will latch on. Number seven, if you suspect there's a problem, get your kid tested and get them tested early. All reading disabilities are curable. Isn't that a great hopeful statement that he made. And then find the right subject and your children will read. And the last one, not all reading is in books. They can be reading on their tablet, they can be reading signs, they can be reading the closed captions, it doesn't matter. As long as they're reading. They're doing fine. So many states have early intervention programs like the one Dr. Danny mentioned in California. I know in Colorado, it's called Child Find. So do a little research or ask your pediatrician to get you pointed in the right direction. And they'll help you out. And if you are interested in finding Dr. Danny, all of the contact info is there in the show notes. And I've also included a list of the books we talked about, as well as a link to the micro Foundation, which we mentioned. parent teacher conferences are already here in some areas, and I'm here to help. Have you ever left a parent teacher conference thinking? Well, that was waste of time? Is this your very first conference with your first child, there are things that you can do to prepare so that you're using your time wisely. Remember, you're only going to have maybe 15 to 20 minutes tops to get all of this information about your kid. And so I have a workshop for you that I've cut down to $10 from my usual $20 And when you are done, you will walk into the conference with confidence and knowing what to ask and what to share. And you will walk out of the conference thinking I'm so glad I went. So that link will be in the show notes. 

And next week, I am talking with Dr. Walt Karnovski. who is a specialist in ADHD. Do we medicate or do we not? Whether we have a kiddo that is just energetic and busy? Or if we have a child with a diagnosis of ADHD? There's a lot of great information for you in that episode. So until next time, let's find joy in parenting.

Transcribed by

Danny BrassellProfile Photo

Danny Brassell

Results Leader

A highly-sought after speaker, trainer and coach known as “Jim Carrey with a Ph.D.,” Dr. Danny Brassell has spoken to over 3,500 audiences worldwide and authored 16 books, including his latest, Leadership Begins with Motivation. He helps entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners boost their business and impact by improving their communication skills.