An Interview with Dr. Shawn Anthony Robinson
Doctor Dyslexic Dude!
Q: Who do you hope will be the Doctor Dyslexic Dude reader, and what impact do you hope the book will have?
A: Anybody that has struggled with reading, any parent with kids that is encouraging them to read, and is reading to their kids.
My purpose was to help kids with reading. And for them to keep their hope. You just got to believe and keep moving forward like the little red train that could, you know, “Choo-Choo!”
The impact for me is not about the book sale it’s about which parent is going to pick it up and read it to their kid, or have their kid read to them. To help them with their vocabulary with
their fluency their comprehension – that’s the impact I’m looking for. As long as one kid reads it and it changes their life, I’ve done my job. I’ve never really thought about it. I just
thought about giving people hope that’s pretty much about it.
And, as I said, that students always believe in themselves and keep moving. Don’t tell yourself that you can’t; tell yourself that you can. Because at the end of the day, people are
always going to tell you what you can’t do, or tell you what they don’t want you to do. You’ve just got to follow your heart and do what you want to do. Particularly kids in Special
Education. Kids who have been beat down. Ones from urban and rural communities who don’t have access or financial means to get a good tutor or [have access to] centers for kids
or good schools.
You know besides sales. Of course, I would like to have good sales. Who wouldn’t?!
Q: When you think about a future, what other ideas do you have in the making?
A: I’ve written a second book already so I’m waiting for my wife to give it a critique and edits and I’m going to send it to the illustrator again. And were going to just keep the ball
rolling. This is also coming out of my dissertation.
Q: So making this storyline a serial? A series?
A: Yes that’s what we talked about. Making this into a series.
Q: Is there something I haven’t asked that you think is important?
A: Encouraging kids. Having them understand that they can be successful and not be scared to take on new challenges. Because if you like to read, then pick up a book, and it can
change your whole life.
We know that students, particularly those with dyslexia, 1 in 5 struggles with the sound structure of English. These students are going to not have that motivation or desire to read.
The research shows that if you should give students books that they enjoy and motivates them, a book at their level, they then can start building up to more difficult genres. We hope
that Doctor Dyslexic Dude can be one of those things that kick starts the kid’s academic year.
Q: So the book becomes a spark for that?
A: Yes. A springboard because you know kids are out of school for like three months: June, July, August. You can miss a lot of knowledge academically if you don’t keep the ball
rolling, unless you’re in summer school. So were hoping that school districts will adopt and purchase the book and use it for ways to get the students engaged right when the school
year starts. So that there is no room for any error or failure. This would let them feel good about themselves at the beginning of the school year.
Going back to the purpose of the book is to let the kids know that there’s always a way out of their situation if they just work hard. And that there are people that care for them and
people who don’t care for them. That’s just the reality of the life that we live.
I just tell young kids that you just got to buckle down and take advantages of the resources that are given to you. And if they’re not given to you, then you’ve got to make your own.
Particularly in Wisconsin. Every year we keep talking about the same thing, The Achievement Gap and how hard Wisconsin is for African-Americans. When are people going to stop
talking about it and just do something?
By writing this book, I am hoping that it will be a kickstart for getting kids, Black, White, Special Ed., whoever to see themselves as a superhero. And, you know, 20 years from now
maybe they’ll be writing a book, or a movie, that may impact the next generation.
About Dr. Shawn Anthony Robinson:
Dr. Robinson brings a wealth of academic experience, training and knowledge about the psychological development of dyslexia. Dr. Robinson has written peer-review articles and book
chapters that discuss African American males with dyslexia, which is an understudied area of scholarship in various outlets (Reading & Writing Quarterly; Journal of African American
Males in Education; Advanced Development – a Journal on Adult Giftedness; Journal for the Education of the Gifted; Disability & Society; Journal of Education and Development in the
Caribbean). He has also written an edited book Untold Narratives African Americans Who Received Special Education Services and Succeeded Beyond Expectations. His writings have
been highlighted in NBC News in an editorial piece titled “This Man is Searching For a Link Between Illiteracy and Racial Bias,” as well as in INSIDE HIGHER ED.
Robinson graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (UWO) with a Bachelor’s of Science, a Master’s in Education from DePaul University, and a PhD in Language and
Literacy from Cardinal Stritch University. Robinson has received several distinguished honors throughout his early career such as: a recipient of the 2017 Alumni Achievement
Award/New Trier High School Alumni Hall of Honor, a recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Young Alumni Award from UWO, served as a fellow for the 2015 8th Annual Asa G. Hilliard III
and Barbara A. Sizemore Research Institute on African Americans and Education - American Educational Research Association - and the 2013 Achievement Gap Institute - Vanderbilt
University Peabody College of Education & Human Development, and was also a recipient of All-State Insurance’s 2005 Educator of the Year for the City of Chicago. He is a Life Member
of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
|Above: Dr, Shawn Robinson and his family
Below: The cover of Doctor Dyslexic Dude
By Will Clifton
Shawn Anthony Robinson Ph.D. is no stranger to adversity as he received special education services for his entire Pk-12
journey as well as during his post-secondary studies. He attended an alternative program for two years during high
school and graduated reading at an elementary school level. Now, Dr. Robinson serves on the National Board of Directors
of the International Dyslexia Association, is the director of Pure and Complete Phonics LLC, and is an independent
scholar. He is a national and International expert whose research focuses on the intersection of race, giftedness and
Robinson wrote Doctor Dyslexic Dude! based on his dissertation.
Q: What would you like potential readers to know about the book, the authors, and the illustrator?
A: I think it really got started when I went to this conference in Atlanta. Cornell West was the guest speaker. He said the
people that you need to reach the most are not the audience reading peer-reviewed journals. To paraphrase, his
comments touch me about not getting bamboozled or drink the Kool-Aid that the institutions give you about having to only
write in top-tier journals. Most people will probably never read your work. Therefore, you have to be creative in reaching
the audience that needs it the most. That’s kind of been in the back of my head all these years since I heard Cornell West
Now I can appreciate the scholarship and the writing in the research, but at the end of the day it’s not going to reach the people that
I really am hoping to reach and teach. There’s no better way than writing a children’s book and providing access to it. You know,
the parents and the kids who really need this are not picking up the journals, so I figured this would have a larger impact.
I have noticed that there was a lack of conversation about books for kids of Color. I also noticed there was a lack of characters
about kids with disabilities. So that’s been a big push of mine and, one morning I woke up, and said to my wife, “Hey. let’s write a
Doctor Dyslexic Dude is based off my dissertation. I wrote an autoethnography of my life navigating the educational system through
three lenses: the cultural lens, the dyslexia lens, and the gifted lens. I then put it all together. So, I took a piece of something for my
dissertation and kind of played around with it for a little bit. I then gave it to my wife and she looked at it and said, “No kid is going
to read this this. It’s just too scholarly.” And she changed it to make it a little more kid friendly – so the kids could actually see
themselves in the book.
I also sent a draft of it to one of my business mentors. And he said that he could feel the emotion, the pain, and the success in it.
And he said he saw the potential in it. I also have a fraternity brother, Brandon Hadnot who went to UW-Whitewater who is an
illustrator. I contacted him and I said, “Hey I have this idea and we’d like you to illustrate it and we’ll pay you.” With some
illustrators the authors are really picky, but I just gave him free reign. I just sent it to him and he just did what he was going to do.
Every time he sent us something my wife is like, “Wow!” And I was like, “Yeah.” And so that’s really how it got started. I still have
research projects that I am doing to inform policy and classroom instruction for this population.
[The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) has announced the book coming out in August, 2018] Now kids, White, Black, Asian,
Hispanic, are contacting me from all over the world. Someone even asked me if there was going to be animation connected to this!