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Joan’s Reading Invention: A Passion for Helping Challenged Readers

Joan’s Reading Invention: A Passion for Helping Challenged Readers

3 minutes

Do you have a child who struggles to read? Does your son often have difficulty focusing on lines of text, looking instead at only the pictures on a page? Perhaps you’ve noticed that your daughter is challenged with tracking or word-attack activities?

A few years ago, one Catholic educator, wife, and mother of four sons noticed these difficulties in more than a few of her students, even with some of the eighth graders she taught.

Without a resource teacher or special needs educator on her school’s faculty at the time, this teacher knew that it was up to her to make a difference, to be the one to help these readers in her classroom. With that in mind as her motivation, this educator created the Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759), customizable tools to help improve focus, tracking, comprehension, and retention.

A Real Reading Victory

Mrs. Joan Brennan, an experienced educator in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the founder of Brennan Innovators, LLC, created these tools because of the need she witnessed in her own classroom. Now, she and her company provide these unique and easy-to-use solutions for all ages of challenged readers. At this writing, the Reading Focus Cards have helped thousands of children and adults to focus and read better, especially those with symptoms of dyslexia, ADHD, autism (diagnosed or suspected), and other challenges that can impact reading success.

Several years ago, Mrs. Brennan created the first prototype of the Reading Focus Card for a student who repeatedly struggled to stay focused when faced with a page of words and text lines to read. That first prototype was an immediate success for her student, who was able to stay focused and successfully read two pages in a literature book. The real victory became evident when this student demonstrated that she actually understood and remembered what she had read on the two pages.

Mrs. Brennan’s desire and motivation to help this challenged student eventually developed into much more than she could ever have imagined. That following summer, two different sizes of her Reading Focus Card prototype were designed to help with reading both short and long text lines.

These two sizes helped to focus a reader’s eyes on 1 or 2 lines of text AND block out more surrounding text than any other reading tool of its kind. She then added optional reading filters in three different colors (recommended by developmental optometrists) to help alleviate visual stress sometimes caused by white page backgrounds. Finally, sensory-appealing materials were located for manufacturing these unique Reading Focus Cards.

Joans' Reading Invention

A New Challenge

With legal assistance from an experienced patent attorney, Mrs. Brennan then applied for a U.S. patent in 2006, which was later issued in 2009. In 2007 and 2011, two independent focus studies of the tools were successfully conducted in a St. Louis Catholic elementary school and in a Central Missouri high school, respectively. For more information on this research, please visit www.focusandread.com.

Mrs. Brennan says that she never set out to found a company or become a business woman. However, in order to actually make the Reading Focus Cards available to parents, teachers, schools and others who serve struggling readers, she found it necessary to do just that—create a company. As a result, Brennan Innovators, LLC, a St. Louis start-up company with one employee, was born in 2007. With assistance from several business mentors in St. Louis, important information about establishing and building a business was provided to help make success possible for Brennan Innovators, LLC.

Order these Reading Focus Cards from SEM

When the company started to grow significantly in 2011, it became necessary for Mrs. Brennan to make a very difficult decision—to remain in the classroom or to devote the needed time to the business of helping even more readers who struggle. Now, instead of teaching an average classroom of 25 students, she reaches nearly 4,000 challenged readers each year with her research-based reading aids. Today, the Reading Focus Cards are manufactured in St. Louis but used by children, teens, and adults throughout the U.S., Canada, and in other countries around the world.

In her professional consultations and at homeschool conferences, Mrs. Brennan often mentions to parents and teachers that though the Reading Focus Cards were designed for use with paperbacks and hardcover books, they also work well with tech devices like e-readers and tablets. It is recommended, however, that a protective film be placed on the device screens when using these applications.

Going Digital

In 2013, a second patent was issued for a digital version of the Reading Focus Card (Patent 8,360,779). Mrs. Brennan and her company are currently in the final stages of developing this application to help even more challenged readers. Plans are in place for the digital Reading Focus Card to be made available sometime in 2015.

Brennan Innovators’ mission remains the same as when it was founded in 2007—to assist parents, educators, and others to effectively help children and adults of all ages read with more success. Mrs. Brennan says that she and her company truly enjoy making a difference in the lives of many with the Reading Focus Cards! If your child is a challenged reader, you may be interested in the company’s FREE list of tips and strategies to help. To access this list, please visit Learning Strategies.

To read some of the testimonials from parents, teachers, and others who have used the Reading Focus Cards, please visit Testimonials.

If you’ve considered starting a home business while you homeschool, here are some tips that may be helpful:

Tips for Starting a Home-Based Business

  1. Reflect & pray about Starting a home business
  2. Create & maintain a workable schedule
  3. Set boundaries for your parent & business roles
  4. Make the best of naptimes
  5. Provide children with meaningful activities
  6. Expect & plan for interruptions
  7. Remember: it’s all right to ask for extra help
  8. Evaluate your priorities on a regular basis & keep them in mind

Order these Reading Focus Cards from Seton Educational Media! »

About Joan Brennan

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Joan M. Brennan, is a parent of four sons. She is a middle school educator with more than 15 years’ experience teaching students of different ability levels within the same classroom. Besides being an experienced educator, Mrs. Brennan is also an inventor who designs reading and learning tools for persons of different ability levels, particularly in the areas of ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, some autism-spectrum disorders, and other conditions where focus is an issue. Her website is www.brennaninnovators.com

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  • Joan Brennan

    Dear Seton Magazine,

    I would like to thank you again for publishing this story behind the Reading Focus Cards. Here at Brennan Innovators, we have appreciated the many phone calls and wonderful messages received regarding this good article.

    your readers may want to know that in late 2014, our company did publish the Reading Focus Cards desktop app for Macs and Windows PCs. With its capability to “float on top” and “stay on top” of nearly any underlying program or application (online or offline), this new digital Reading Focus Cards application is helping even more challenged readers everywhere to better focus, track, comprehend and retain what they read—at any age level.

    For more information about this infinitely-customizable desktop application, including direct links to the Mac and PC versions of the app, please visit the following link to an article from Teachers with Apps: http://www.teacherswithapps.com/research-based-literacy-tool-evolves-helpful-app-struggling-readers/.

    Happy reading—everyone!

    Joan M. Brennan
    Brennan Innovators, LLC

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