America's Reading Ambassador, Danny Brassell gave me an exciting interview in this episode. It was fun because Danny is as excited about reading as I am. He's the author of several books about reading and leadership.
Main takeaway from Danny to parents: "Teach children how to read. Not what to read."
In addition, Danny has this quick tip for parents who think their kids watch too much TV and not enough reading: Turn on the Closed Caption feature on the television.
Closed Caption is the reason Finland's kids are top readers even though they watch more television.
This interview is filled with anecdotes and stories that will warm your heart and let you want to go read to your kids right now.
See what Danny and his partner are doing to help eliminate cyberbullying with Cybersmarties.
Get your free gift from Danny: www.freegiftfromdanny.com
Links to SoloMoms! Talk (free Ebook, Monthly Meet up, etc.)
This page contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I may make a small commission with no additional cost to you.
Danny Brassell audio
[00:00:00] J. Rosemarie: I'm excited to share that Solomon's talk is now on YouTube. Check out these interviews and our new channel SoloMoms! Talk TV. There. You will actually see the interaction between myself. I might guess you will also find bite-sized clips of daily inspiration to help you manage the struggles of everyday life.[00:00:19] So click Solomon's talk TV below to watch now. Today, I'm speaking with Danny Brassell, America's leading reading ambassador. Welcome, [00:00:29] Danny. [00:00:30] Danny Brassell: Thanks so much for having me, Jen. Thanks for all you do to promote joy in the [00:00:33] world. Thank you. And so we're going to talk about one of my favorite subjects reading.[00:00:38] J. Rosemarie: I'm up to, I think, of close to 200 books this year. Wow. Last year. Sorry. We're in a new year. So, yeah, I'm an avid reader. Tell us about Danny and then we'll get into our favorite subject. [00:00:51] Danny Brassell: Well, it's, it's funny, Jen that I'm now nicknamed America's leading reading ambassador because I grew up hating reading. The only thing I used to read was a TV guide.[00:00:59] My father was [00:01:00] a librarian and I always hated the public library. Always smelled funny to me. The furniture was always uncomfortable. There was always some elderly woman telling me to be quiet. There's always a homeless guy thinks he's a vampire hanging out in the library. I always hated it. And it wasn't until I started teaching in the inner city, in south central Los Angeles.[00:01:18] And I saw that a lot of my students didn't grow up with the advantages that I grew up with. And I said, shame on me. I mean, I was very blessed, Jen. I had both of my parents in my home. We were lower middle-class, but we always had food on the table. My parents always read to us and in front of us and we always had access.[00:01:37] It's a wonderful reading materials. And so it really became my passion and my mission to spread the joy of learning for all of my students and getting them excited about reading it. Now I work with people all over the world, talking about the importance of reading and making, reading fun. [00:01:50] Thank you. I thank you for that.[00:01:52] Now as a mother of three sons, God bless you. I understand the difficulty in getting a [00:02:00] guy to read when they got into trouble. The two youngest ones are really close in age and you know, they're rumble. Sometimes I, when I want quiet, I'll give them read a book, you know, cause they say, mama, I'm bored. And I was, I read a book and then look up and be like, you know, I'm from Lala line.[00:02:15] Why is it so difficult to get boys to [00:02:18] read the question, Jen, it's really a, what inspires my work. I find. Schools do an adequate job of teaching kids how to read. But the question I always ask teachers and parents is what good is it teaching kids 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.[00:02:36] I've never had to Telecare go play a video game. And I never want to have to tell a kid go read a book. I want them to choose to do it on their own. And what I find is the failing in most schools, especially with boys like your son. Is we're forcing them to read things that they have no interest in reading.[00:02:52] You know, the research is very clear on this gen. It really doesn't matter what you read, what matters is how much you read it. Doesn't matter if [00:03:00] you're reading James Joyce or James and the giant peach people read more. Read better. I can always tell people that the little boy who only reads captain underpants is going to be a better reader than a little boy who refuses to read anything.[00:03:14] Captain Underpants is the gateway drug to Shakespeare, but first of all, we got to get the kids excited about. And that's really one of the things you know, you're not alone. Four out of five of struggling and reluctant readers are boys. And it's because boys and girls are very different. Little girls will read books about little boys, little boys have no interest in reading books about little girls.[00:03:35] There's a great scene in one of the diary of the wimpy kid books by Jeff. Where the mother decides to have a mother son book club. And she invites all the boys from the neighborhood to bring books to her house. And they'll all read together. And the mother, the books that she has brought are like Sarah Plain and Tall, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables.[00:03:57] And the books that the boys bring are like [00:04:00] how to cheat it. Video games will come bodily functions, all about dinosaurs, things like that. Especially if you have three boys those are the types of things. And I guarantee you, because you're a parent on a parent, we can have three kids and all of them are completely different.[00:04:15] So I always let the child's interests guide. What kinds of books I'm going to get them excited about? Oh, wow. [00:04:21] J. Rosemarie: I just had an aha moment. So the key is the kids to let them read what they want to read and don't have this preconceived notion of what they should be reading. [00:04:32] Danny Brassell: Yeah. For some reason, people think that reading has to be Dostoevsky, War and Peace, and they say that, oh, people aren't reading that much in the 21st century.[00:04:41] I completely contradict that. Notion people read so much more now than they did in the 19th century. I was with a fourth-grade boy and his teacher told me he doesn't like to read. He won't read anything. And in one hour gen. That kid must have texted about 20 of his friends. You sent several [00:05:00] emails. He surf the internet.[00:05:01] He's highly literate. Now he's not a novel, but he is reading extensively and we have to broaden our definition of literacy. And what literacy is. [00:05:11] J. Rosemarie: Thank you. That, that makes absolute sense. Oh boy. All right. So I know you talked about you back girl in schools and what got you interested in reading, because even though your father was a librarian or working for the library, you didn't seem to have any interest.[00:05:29] So what got you interested? [00:05:32] Danny Brassell: That's actually a good question, Jen. Nobody ever really asked me that question in college one semester I, I studied abroad in Spain and it was a great experience for me, Jen, because. For the first time in my life, I was discriminated against without realizing it. I was born with all kinds of advantages.[00:05:48] I never realized I was born white male and American life was pretty easy for me. And I didn't realize how until I went to Spain and people treated me very differently because I didn't speak Spanish. [00:06:00] Treated me like I was stupid. Well, I'm not, I'm not that stupid, but I didn't speak Spanish very well. And when you're learning a second language, you get headaches all the time.[00:06:09] You have nightmares, it's very trying on your brain. And so one of my classmates, she handed me, John, Grisham's the Pelican brief, and I was so starving to read anything in English. I read that book in like a day and then I got excited and I got a time to kill. And then I remember spending $30 for a used paperback, beaten up copy of the firm.[00:06:32] And then from John Grisham, he's the one that whet my appetite from John British and my advanced to Mary Higgins, Clark and Sidney Sheldon. And then I just started reading anything and everything, but I found that passion for reading. I mean, I've worked with so many boys like your sons. I I'll give you an example.[00:06:48] I, when I was teaching second grade, I had a little boy named kiosk. And Chiara's first grade teacher told me kill. I don't know nothing. I'm like, well, thank you. Well, Chiarra who didn't know nothing comes [00:07:00] into my classroom one day and he's like, Hey, Mr. Marcel, you see Barkley last night, he had 18 points and 16 boards.[00:07:06] I'm like, thank you, Kiarra. Because from that day forward after lunch every day, I sit with Kiarra on my lap and together we would read the LA times sports section together and would, you know, a Jen by the end of the year, Kiarra was one of the best readers in my classroom. And all that kid ever read about were sports, because that's what he was interested in.[00:07:25] Again, I'm not saying that literature's not important, but I'm saying you got to whet their appetite before you get to that, you know you can't start. With the medicine you got to your from some applesauce or some ice cream to get them to let the medicine go [00:07:40] J. Rosemarie: down. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. I agree with that. You know, from experience and just talking to you, I'm realizing that we need to get rid of, we have as mothers, cause usually it's also try to push them to read, to go to college, to all these things we have to get rid of.[00:07:56] Preconceived notion that unless they're reading [00:08:00] Shakespeare then are reading and then, you know, try to allow them to explore their interest. Absolutely. [00:08:08] Danny Brassell: I mean, I was an interview last week with Nigerian television in Nigeria was colonized by the British and it finally got, gained its independence in the 1960s, but it still has a British system of education.[00:08:21] And so the kids are being forced to read Jane Austin and Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. And. I'm not putting down any of those authors, but if you want to get Nigerian kids excited about reading, maybe you should introduce them to Chinua Chevy and some of the other wonderful Nigerian authors out there where they're like, oh, there's somebody like me.
[00:08:38] And again, I'm not saying you have to only read P Q, but that's a great entry point to get you excited about it. [00:08:45] J. Rosemarie: Yeah. Cause he pointed these reading. It's not what the read is to get to the reading first and then, yeah. Okay, great. And this, this isn't the same thing. My kids love video games, and I will get to death of them playing video [00:09:00] games until the Iraqi war.[00:09:01] And then they were playing red alert and they were able to tell me different things with the game. And I'm thinking, did you listen to that on the news? And they said, no, it's in red alert. I know they were actually keeping up with the Iraqi war through the games. You know, like I said, it has nothing to do with reading, but [00:09:20] Danny Brassell: I was actually just working with a boy and his mother was frustrated because.[00:09:24] He likes her video games. And I said, well, let's get I'm reading books about video games. I'm like, here's a book. That's going to show them how to get to the next level in the game that he's trying to play. And that can do you, do you know that kid who would never read anything? The moment I gave him a chapter on how to beat the video.[00:09:40] He was like in 20 minutes. No problem. Cause he was interested in it. I mean, absolutely love reading books about leadership. I love, I love reading biographies, but if you give me a romance novel, it'll probably take me 10 times as long to read that because I'm not as interested in that. Whereas maybe you, Jen love romance novels and you just speed right through.[00:09:58] All of us are a little bit [00:10:00] different. And that's what I always say is the interest. Yes, [00:10:03] J. Rosemarie: that's true. I, no, I never did like Romans novels. I actually hated Romans novels until I found out about Navy seals wrote. You see where my mind went there. All right. So tell me why you think people don't like to read.[00:10:24] I know [00:10:25] Danny Brassell: again, Jen, I think that schools really teach you how to hate reading. I, I think they're force-feeding. I mean, I remember when I was in high school, I was forced to read the Scarlet letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. And again, No offense to people that love the Scarlet letter. The book is about Hester Prynne who's committed adultery.[00:10:42] And so she has to wear a large, a on her chest. And I asked my teacher if I could wear a large B online chest, because I was so bored reading that book. And again, what are we trying to accomplish? If we're trying to accomplish critical reading skills? Well, I know [00:11:00] plenty of people. They might not be able to keep up with the classical novel, but they're very up to date when they read the New York times every day, or they're scanning the internet looking for information, you know, because that's, that's one of the important things about us as teachers.[00:11:13] I always tell people there's no such thing as fake news. There's only people who depend on one news source. You shouldn't let other people think for you. I gave you this wonderful thing between your ear. Used to learn how to use it. I mean, I've started my teaching career teaching high school, social studies and history.[00:11:31] And the first thing I always teach people when I teach history is that history books are usually written by the winners. Every event in history has multiple points of. And it's really funny that we consider different points of view. You don't have to agree with different points of view, but it's important that we learn how to listen and be respectful of one another.[00:11:50] The other thing I always wanted to teach my students, I said, Hey, I'm not going to teach you what to think. I'm going to teach you how to say you should be questioning anything that's being [00:12:00] said to you all the time. And I think we'd all be much better off. If people wouldn't just be this nodding Colt and listen to specific figures all the time.[00:12:09] I think you should be challenging people and trying to get diverse points of view. That's one of the reasons I love meeting new people like you generally, you and I don't have to agree on everything, but it's really important that we listen to one another. I try to teach kids to be able to disagree without being disagreeable towards one another.[00:12:27] You don't have. To be rude, to disagree with another person. That's true. [00:12:31] J. Rosemarie: One of the things we used to do in high school, I went to junior high in Jamaica and of the big thing we used to do, we used to debate a lot and you know, it taught us how to disagree with our opposing forces without, you know, being nasty or horrible to them.[00:12:45] So, yeah, for sure. [00:12:48] Danny Brassell: But I remember I had a nun in second grade. And I was yelling at a classmate and she said, the louder, your voice gets usually means you're losing your argument, Daniel. And I'll never forget that because [00:13:00] she's right. You know, solid argument. There's no problem with just being able to mindfully debate one [00:13:05] J. Rosemarie: another.[00:13:07] Well, I, I really appreciate it. You know this conversation because it's so important. And we, we tend to be losing, we're losing interest in reading because there's so much crap to read. You know what, I'm sorry, it's just true. Right. But we also, I've learned about. Successful people. And that's one of their biggest thing is that they read a lot.[00:13:30] How does reading and success in life? [00:13:34] Danny Brassell: Well, that's, that's a great question. Again, Jen, I should be paying you for these questions. You know, I've done a lot of research on this in various fields, from business to government, to even sports. And there's plenty of. Readers that don't become leaders, but I have never read about a successful and effective leader.[00:13:53] That's not also an avid reader. I mean, from Elon Musk to LeBron James, to pit bull, [00:14:00] these are successful people in the way. The reason, one of the primary reasons they're successful is they're very curious and they constantly want to improve. And so one of the ways they do that is by reading. I could have kissed LeBron James, when he was playing for the Miami heat before.[00:14:15] The NBA finals. They showed him in the locker room wearing reading the hunger games by Suzanne Collins. And I could have kissed him cause I'm like that photograph just did more to get little boys excited about reading it, anything I can. And so this is what I'm always preaching to people is, Hey, if you want to get better at anything I'll give you an example.[00:14:34] I was watching a wonderful speech by Tony Dungy, who was. The football coach for the Indianapolis Colts, they won the super bowl and he gave a wonderful speech where he was talking to all of these young men that wanted to be professional football players. And he said, well, how do you become a professional football player?[00:14:53] Well, 99% of professional football players came from college. It was well, how do you get into college? Well, you [00:15:00] have to get good grades. And how do you get good grades by reading? And then he said, So that was a great point. But then he said, when you get to the NFL, you said that the skillset athletically, most of the guys are very similar in terms of being strong, but he said, what separates pros from the people that don't make it in the pros is their mental ability.[00:15:21] You said we don't do spend a lot of time in practice hitting one another. And we spent a lot of time studying and better readers. Smarter players are the ones that lasts in the NFL. And again, I could have kissed the man I'm like, this is a great message showing, showing kids the importance of reading there.[00:15:37] But again, you can look at any types of leaders. I was, I was sharing with an audience the other day about presidents. I love studying different presidents and president Teddy Roosevelt. They say even when he was president of the United States, He spent, he would read three books a day, almost as many as you gen three books a day while he was president.[00:15:57] The story I was sharing with the audience the other day [00:16:00] was there was a press conference in the early 1960s with president Kennedy and a reporter asked him if he read anything for fun. And President Kennedy said, oh, I'm reading this. Delightful spy series by this guy named Ian Fleming. It's about this agent double O seven James Bond because of that statement, all of a sudden those books started selling like crazy and Hollywood bought the rights and that's why they created the James Bond movie series, a flippant comment by President Kennedy.[00:16:30] I always loved it president for. I said that when he was president, he always started his day by reading the sports page and a reporter couldn't believe it. He's like, you're the leader of the free world. How do you read the sports page before the front page? And he said, well, the front page just shows me its failures.[00:16:46] The sports page celebrates his triumph. And I thought, wow, that's a really great perspective. I think all of us need to, you know, and I shouldn't have said this earlier. I said, ah, it doesn't matter what you read. Cause one of the things I do point [00:17:00] out to kids when I'm talking to them is that you are what you read.[00:17:04] So read good stuff, you know, things that fill up your soul. One of the best decisions I made in 2021 was I decided to stop watching the news. Because there was no point. Every time I watched the news, I just got frustrated and it made me feel sad and angry. I'm like, why am I doing that? So that's why I'm doing so many more podcasts and things.[00:17:23] I'm like, I want to listen to things like what you're doing, gen things that promote joy and, and yeah. Better person. And that's what I tell kids. I'm like, if you want to get better read things that are going to lift you up, not tear you down. [00:17:35] J. Rosemarie: Yeah. For sure. We can always find bad things to read that.[00:17:40] That's right. So what is Danny grateful [00:17:42] Danny Brassell: for today? I am grateful to be spending this time with you, Jen. Thank you. I love that question. I think all of us should spend a little bit of each day in gratitude, you know, just when you think you've got it really bad. I was actually saying this to it, a business lady to the [00:18:00] day.[00:18:00] Cause he was griping to me about making his quotas. And I said, well, if you feel that bad, why don't you spend some time in the cancer ward at the children's hospital? You'll you'll gain a little bit of perspective, pretty grateful. You know, when I taught, I used to teach English as a second language to engineering students at the university of Southern California.[00:18:19] And it was fascinating, Jen, because I always ask my students, what's the thing in America that impresses you the most. And they always said the same thing and it always shocked me. They said, oh, the fact that you can criticize your political leaders without going to prison. Holy cow. [00:18:34] J. Rosemarie: Big. [00:18:36] Danny Brassell: That's just, that was amazing.[00:18:38] It gave me a lot of perspective. It gave me a perspective. [00:18:42] J. Rosemarie: Yes. Thank you. I appreciate that. And how can we get in touch with you? And can you tell us, you know, what you have to [00:18:49] Danny Brassell: awesome. Great. Well, I want it to serve you and your audience. So if everybody goes to free gifts from danny.com, again, that's free gift from danny.com and I'm sure you'll put it in the show [00:19:00] notes and you give everybody a complimentary electronic copy of my.[00:19:04] Read lead and succeed. This is a book I wrote for a school principal who was trying to keep his faculty positively 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.[00:19:21] So I also give you a children's picture book that demonstrates the same concept. You can read that in five minutes. Because I want all of us feeding our souls by reading positive things every single day. I'm also going to include a free access to a parent training I do, which gives you a night whet your appetite for my reading program.[00:19:40] I've got the world's top reading engagement program where in just a couple of months, I can get the kids to read more, read better and love reading. I mean, it's great because in just two months, Most kids improve their reading by two to three grade levels. That's all fine and good, but what is near and dear to my heart, what's important to me is that kids [00:20:00] that hated reading now love it.[00:20:02] And it doesn't matter what school does to them to trauma, to traumatize them. They're going to want to read on their own for the rest of their lives. So you'll have access to all those things. And I'm excited about that. I'm also. I'm very excited. I'm working with my partner, dear Dearman Hudner is the founder of a wonderful program in Ireland called cyber Smarties, which is a social media platform for kids that teaches kids positive interaction habits.[00:20:28] And so if a kid types in your ugly. Actually send the message. It asked for better ways of doing it. And we find that within two weeks, it's eliminated cyber bullying. For moment, it's actually a working with over 200,000 children in two countries right now. We're expanding it throughout the middle east Africa, Indian Pakistan.[00:20:49] So those are the things I'm very excited about. Jen I was really excited to get to spend some time with you today. I was looking forward to this. Thank you. Thank [00:20:56] J. Rosemarie: you. Me too. And thank you for sharing all you have to [00:21:00] offer and talking to me about my favorite subject reading. So anything [00:21:04] Danny Brassell: else? Not at all here, I'll give you, I'll give your audience one quick tip as parents.[00:21:08] This is probably the most popular tip I give to people. I, I believe in embracing technology, not fearing technology, and I have a feeling that television. It's here to stay. Well, President Bush, senior 30 years ago signed a very important law in the United States that every television set sold in this country has to have closed captioning.[00:21:27] So here's a quick tip for all the parents out there. Turn on the closed captioning on the TV and parents always say, well, wait a sec at the shows. And the subtitles are in English. What good does that do? Well, that's a good point, but let me make another point. Have you ever watched a show with subtitles and not looked at the subtitles?[00:21:43] That's very difficult to do. Your brain is directed towards that text and there's actually research that supports this. If you look at reading scores around the world, The more kids watch TV, the lower, their reading scores drop, except for one country, the country where kids watch the most TV also [00:22:00] has the highest reading scores in the world.[00:22:02] It's Finland and people always ask, well, how can that be? I'm like, well, because Finland makes really bad TV shows. And so what they do is they import all these old American sitcoms, like welcome back Kotter and the Brady bunch. They have to subtitle them for the kids. The kids are reading all the time. So a quick win for all parents listening right now is turn on that closed captioning on the TV.[00:22:22] That [00:22:23] J. Rosemarie: makes absolute sense. Thank you very much, Dr. Danny Brazelle for sharing that profound tip with us today. I like it. I don't even use it for myself if I had a sheet. [00:22:35] Danny Brassell: Thank you. Thanks for all you do. Jen. [00:22:36] Be blessed. [00:22:37] Sure thanks. SoloMoms! Talk! 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Speaker, Author, Coach, Results Leader
I began my teaching career in South Central L.A. (Compton), and I have spent the last 25 years showing people how to read MORE, read BETTER and LOVE reading, as reading is one of the essential keys to success. I co-founded the world's leading reading engagement program five years ago, and we have big plans for this upcoming year. One of my greatest joys is helping moms learn ways to get their kids reading (particularly, boys).