The Brighter Side of Education

Help for Middle and High School Readers with Adolescent-literacy Expert Matt Bardin

May 18, 2023 Dr. Lisa R. Hassler Season 1 Episode 16
The Brighter Side of Education
Help for Middle and High School Readers with Adolescent-literacy Expert Matt Bardin
The Brighter Side of Education +
Become a supporter of the show!
Starting at $3/month
Show Notes Chapter Markers

In this episode, I focus on struggling readers in middle and high school. 

Failing student reading scores have been splashed across the news and made into major academic debates, especially since the pandemic. The low reading levels of our students are frightening. It appears that adolescent student reading proficiency is spiraling down and out of control, but the reality is that it’s been consistently low since NCES started tracking the national reading levels with the NAEP Reading assessment back in 1992. That’s 30 years of low. 

In 2022, only thirty-one percent of eighth-grade students performed proficiently on the reading assessment, which was 3 percentage points lower compared to 2019, yet the exact same as in 1992. The most recent NAEP data for twelfth graders was from 2019. Data showed a 3% drop in proficiently from 1992 to 2019; 37% of 12th graders in 2019 read proficiently compared to 40% in 1992.  Ineffective reading skills are leaving our children with little hope for a successful socioeconomic future with few well-paying jobs that don’t require advanced literacy. So how can we help them?

Adolescent-literacy expert, Matt Bardin is with us today to discuss how to increase the reading levels of middle and high-school struggling students. He is an educator with 25 years of experience and founder of Zinc Learning Labs. He has written on adolescent literacy for the Hechinger Report and The 74. He also authored the book, Zen and the Art of the SAT, as well as hosted the REAL Learning show on Sirius XM.

Matt's  motto is “Advancing Literacy to End Information Inequality," with the  mission to deliver reading growth to middle and high school students using love-based learning and conscious reading, referred to as the ZINC approach. He states that zinc is known as “the hidden element.” Most people don’t realize its importance for health, but without it, we can’t survive. Reading is often similarly undervalued. It’s the hidden element in school and career success. Zinc stands for: Get in the ZONE, IGNITE Reading Success, NURTURE Skills and Love, and CONTINUE to Grow.
So here is the call to action: Get involved with tween and teen literacy. Advocate for reading in

Support the show

Please subscribe and share this podcast with a friend to spread the good!
If you find value to this podcast, consider becoming a supporter with a $3 subscription. Click on the link to join:

To help this podcast reach others, rate and review on Apple Podcasts! Go to Library, choose The Brighter Side of Education, and scroll down to Reviews. It's just that easy. Thank you!

Want to share a story? Email me at
Visit my website for resources:
Join our podcast community on Facebook at The Brighter Side of Education Podcast Community

The music in this podcast was written and performed by Brandon Picciolini of the Lonesome Family Band. Visit and follow him on Instagram.

Books I've Authored:
America's Embarrassing Reading Crisis: What we learned from COVID, A guide to help educational leaders, teachers, and parents change the game, is available on Amazon, Kindle, and Audible, and iTunes.
My Weekly Writing Journal: 15 Week...

Adolescent Reading Data
Matt Bardin
Advancing Literacy to End Information Inequality
Will Phonics Fill the Hole and Make Kids Good Readers?
Growing Kids Vocabularies
ZINC Results
Articles Over Books
Call to Action