Episode 41 - An Integrated Approach to Supporting All Readers with Lakeisha Johnson, PhD

Episode Summary

What does it truly mean to invest in the livelihood of all children? Lakeisha Johnson, PhD, joins the READ Podcast for a timely and important discussion on an integrated, systems approach to supporting all students in schools, with a focus on vulnerable populations.

Utilizing an ecological systems framework to reading, Dr. Johnson explains the “both, and” of applying the Science of Reading in classrooms while ensuring that educators understand and invest in community-wide supports and programs to address other factors that could influence reading outcomes. This integrated approach both broadens and deepens the collective impact on the livelihood of children and families. Dr. Johnson cites her research on executive functioning and language, particularly exploring dialectical variation, and reflects upon her work as Director of The Village and creator of Maya’s Book Nook.

Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.”

1. An integrated approach to understanding reading and child development
Listen to 7:49 – 18:28 and 29:28 – 33:37 to learn more.

Approaching reading and child development through an integrated, systems approach enables researchers and educators to understand the ecological factors that may impact a child.

“[We need to understand that] it is bigger than just this one child. Of course, we think about the individual child’s characteristics, but a lot of the work that we do intersects with thinking about the child and their home [and community life]. It’s also not just about one teacher. It’s the whole school environment. What is the school culture around literacy?”

Ecological frameworks provide insights to the risk and protective factors in a child’s development throughout classrooms, schools, communities, and society. Read more about this framework:

Building a framework to understand and address vulnerability to reading difficulties among children in schools in the United States
Terry, N.P. et al., 2022

Special Issue: Education and Intervention in Vulnerable Student Populations: Science and Practice (pp. 9-26)

“There are also community factors... [which] may not be impacting this one child but can have a greater impact in terms of the system as a whole.”

An ecological framework model helps educators to increase their intentionality toward how they support for children in schools.

“Educators can have increased intentionality toward thinking about all of the things that could impact a child’s day-to-day life and how they’re learning.”

2. Executive Functioning and Language Variation
Listen to 18:59 – 29:23 to learn more.

Dr. Johnson’s research explores executive functioning development and cognitive advantages for children with English language variation such as dialect use.

3. Community Partnerships at The Village
Listen to 33:37 – 39:44 to learn more.

The Village at Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) leads community engagement and outreach through three C’s: connection, champion, collaborate. Learn more about The Village here.

The Village is simply a response to, we can't have all this knowledge at the university level that impacts what people are doing across the country related to how kids learn to read, but not make more of an impact locally.”

4. Maya’s Book Nook
Listen to 40:11 – 47:17 to learn more.

Dr. Johnson started Maya’s Book Nook (named after her daughter, Maya), to promote strong language and literacy skills through diverse children’s books. Maya’s Book Nook started in 2018 after Dr. Johnson started sharing books by Black authors during Black History Month.

"I always talk about ensuring the materials we use reflect the students that are in front of us. So [it’s important] that students not only see themselves, but they see themselves in ways that are valuable."

The site is now a space for families and educators to find books that celebrate diverse children’s literature while providing hands-on guides and resources to build early language and literacy skills. 

“We want to meet children where they are, and find stories that are representative of their culture and values. Once you do that part, let’s expand it even more and introduce other cultures, groups, and other ways of doing life because it expands their horizons to other communities that they may never access.”

Learn more from Dr. Lakeisha Johnson’ work at:

Florida Center for Reading Research     The Village     Maya’s Book Nook

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READ Podcast is produced by The Windward School and The Windward Institute. READ is hosted by Danielle Scorrano.

About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.

Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests and does not constitute an endorsement by The Windward Institute or The Windward School.