Clarry and the Little White Cloud

By Fay Tran


Clarry enjoyed his year at pre-school.  He loved listening to stories and looking at books. He couldn’t wait to start primary school so that he could learn to read.

But learning to read proved very difficult for Clarry, even though he practised his Golden Words list and his take-home books every night.  Clarry became very unhappy at school and decided that he was too stupid to learn to read.

This children's picture book tells the story of a little boy very unhappy because he was struggling to learn to read at school. He is comforted by his little dog and an imaginary cloud.  When a new principal changes the way reading is taught at school, Clarry does learn to read and is overcome with joy. 

Order from the author by email.

The price is $15 including postage. Bank details for payment will be provided on request.

Also available from Amazon and the iTunes store as an iBook. 

Comments and reviews.

 Well, I have just read through your book, Fay, ‘Clarry and the Little White Cloud’ and by the end I had goosebumps from top to bottom.

This is a book that every student-teacher, teacher-trainer and teacher should be given to read. Plus, all the politicians and detractors from phonics. Plus, all the Reading Recovery personnel and teachers who persist with multi-cueing guessing strategies.

As I read it, the faces of children I have known, children just like Clarry, real children, flashed through my mind. So many of them. So much unnecessary misery and loss of self-esteem and loss of life-chances. I inherited such children in various schools in various contexts.

I don’t get why others don’t get this scenario and why they persist with reading strategies that set children off on an entirely wrong trajectory for their reading profile.

Fay – this is a wonderful little book with a very, very clear, fundamentally important message. It would be a wonderful book for children, but actually, the book is very much an adult book, for adults, for all of us, to know it just as it is in millions of schools to this day.

Well said and well done.

I love the clear illustrations – they speak volumes from the child’s perspective.

This book should be on the reading lists of all teacher-training establishments.

 Debbie Hepplewhite MBE FRSA, former teacher, special needs teacher and head teacher, with expertise in the development of phonics programs and the teaching of phonics.

As a representative of the UK Reading Reform Foundation, in 2005 Debbie advised the British government for the parliamentary inquiry, ‘Teaching Children to Read”. She was awarded the MBE for services to education in 2012.


 Fay Tran has devised a unique way of highlighting how often our methods of teaching can cause the learning difficulties that some young students encounter. The book is unique because it is presented in a format that suggests a child’s simple reading book; and it is also unique because it describes vividly exactly what failure does to a child’s confidence and motivation.

Clarry, in the story, fails to learn to read simply because no one is teaching him how to tackle words by using knowledge of letter-to-sound correspondences. Instead he is encouraged to guess words, for example by using the pictures in his books.

Clarry and the little white cloud is a valuable addition to the resources that support direct and explicit teaching of phonic skills to all beginners.


 Peter Westwood is a retired academic who taught at the University of South Australia, Flinders University, and University of Hong Kong. He has awards for excellence in teaching from Flinders and Hong Kong. He is author of 15 books on education and over 150 journal articles. He is currently an education consultant, freelance education writer, and editor.


 There are few things more saddening for a parent than watching a child’s self-esteem evaporate in the face of failure to learn something that other children seem to pick up with apparent ease. And for the child, the misery of believing that they are too dumb to learn becomes a burden that transmutes into a range of survival strategies, ranging from a denial that reading is of any use anyway to disruptive and attention-seeking, class-clown behaviour. As a secondary teacher, observing the consequences when those beliefs and strategies have become part of the child’s persona, I know the difficulty of changing that crippling self-perception and giving the child the skills that they now firmly believe they can never attain. Successful early reading instruction is a potent determinant of most children’s future learning success, and by secondary school the pattern of failure and self-castigation is often almost impossible to change.

 Fay Tran’s Clarrie and the Little White Cloud describes through primary school student Clarrie’s eyes his descent into despair and self-blame as he struggles, and fails, to make progress past a certain point with whole-word reading instruction. We then celebrate his salvation through a phonics-based teaching method that recognizes the need that most children have for direct teaching of the skills of phonic decoding of the printed word. Some fortunate children, it is true, do learn to read though sets of sight-words, applying their own analysis to work out generalizable patterns, and with minimal formal phonics instruction. But too many students do not have that ability and are failed by a doctrinaire approach that insists that they do, and that they will be bored and turned off reading if one attempts to teach them through a phonics-based approach.

 Clarrie will be a useful aid for discouraged learners and parents, and for teachers setting out to change the course of instruction, as they seek reassurance that all is not lost, that there is hope. It recognizes how depressing the experience of reading failure can be and provides a metaphor for discussing the feelings. The child-like illustrations and language make the story accessible to very young learners.

I recommend this story as an aid in the process of turning around the sense of despair, whether overtly articulated or not, that may accompany unsuccessful attempts to learn to read. The sensitivity, warmth and obvious concern for the learners with which Fay Tran approaches the task, make it a very useful addition to the armoury of the reading teacher.

 Christopher Simpson

Former remedial and adaptive teacher in South Australian secondary schools. 


 Having had a wonderful life richly enhanced by reading, I have always been passionately interested in literacy. My two older children learnt to read fluently in Prep, with a phonics-based system, which used a different colour for each distinct English sound.  My youngest child, from being delighted with books and ideas from an early age, struggled with the whole word system, and being disconsolate, took much longer to learn to read.

Fay Tran, with her long involvement with children with reading difficulties, has written an important little book, an easy-to-read, moving story. There should be at least one copy in every primary school to help staff and students understand the traumas (feelings etc??) of children with reading difficulties.

Nan Bodsworth, children’s author and illustrator.


 This little book tells the story of Clarry, who was so looking forward to learning to read when he started school.  But sadly, this didn’t happen for Clarry.  Following Clarry’s experiences as he struggled to learn how to read provides insights into why and how things go wrong for some children, how it affects them, and how the problem can be solved with the right kind of instruction.  While this is a book for children it also has a message for parents and teachers, and hopefully will lead to a better understanding of why some children experience difficulty in learning to read and how they can be helped.

Molly de Lemos, AM, researcher, psychologist and grandmother, who has followed the reading progress of five grandchildren exposed to different methods of teaching reading .


 I have had the pleasure of watching the creation of this delightful and poignant storybook as it formed from an idea in Fay’s mind. I love the fact that she developed it with her grandchildren, and that they were able to understand her thoughts about children and the way many of them struggle to learn to read.

Parents sharing this story with their children will have a wonderful opportunity to talk with them about feelings of failure and worry about learning, and children will readily identify with the endearing character of Clarry, his dog, family and school. The imagery of the cloud will draw children along as they explore each page.

This story comes from Fay’s many years of experience and deep commitment to authentic teaching and learning. Her continuing work with students who fail to learn has caused her to question the way we teach reading in schools, and to realize that children and parents need a voice in the process.

I congratulate her on her vision and determination to create this positive and optimistic story, whilst questioning the current practices in the teaching of reading in the majority of schools, which cause so much distress to so many children and their families.

Meredith Davies, LDA consultant and teacher


Congratulations to Fay Tran on her book – “Clarry and the Little White Cloud”- for the courage to confront the failures in our education system and for the skills, patience and empathy shown to our children with literacy problems – the victims of our current system.

I was a successful student but naïve mother. I had no understanding of the complexity of teaching children to read – let alone the inadequacy of our education system; especially for children with Specific Learning Difficulties.  As parents we were doing all the things we thought were correct to progress our children- reading stories to them, talking to them, music groups and play groups.  We sent them to preschool and then eagerly off to school.  We were reassured by the school and teachers that they knew what they were doing and what was best for our children’s learning. 

 As Clarry did, we too went through Reading Recovery, Golden Words, guessing words, looking at pictures and more guessing- with failure to progress in all areas.  As parents we were concerned – we knew our child and knew that this wasn’t right.  Many meetings just resulted in more reassurance and more encouragement to guess and look at pictures.  We were advised to draw in sand, in foam, to make puppets – the list was endless.  And still our son could not read – not even simple words like ‘of’.

 With failure to progress through our formal education system we took it upon ourselves to find help for our son.  With great fortune we made contact with Fay Tran and we haven’t looked back.  Fay, like Mrs Quin in the book, worked on teaching phonics and other reading skills.  She kindly and patiently demanded accuracy and with time progress was made. 

 The gift of literacy is beyond words of thanks or physical gifts.  It is one of the most precious opportunities we can give our children.  Fay Tran is responsible for teaching our son to read and I will be forever grateful for her gift to our son.  There are only white clouds in our sky!

 Dr Emily Shaw, parent 



 This attractive little book with its charming illustrations tells the hopeful story of a child with difficulty in learning to read.

Clarry shows parents that even with his Mum’s offer of help, he is quickly becoming a poor student with low self-esteem. When the “sound the word” approach is tried, Clarry at last finds success. It changes his whole attitude to himself and his ability to learn.

Fay Tran writes from a dedicated life time of experience teaching poor students to read.

“Clarry and the Little White Cloud” is a delightful book for parents and children alike. It enables them to grasp the simple tool of the phonetic approach to reading. Parents will be able to intervene and experience success in the very early stages of their child’s difficulties in learning to read.

Children will enjoy the pictures, benefit from parents’ involvement and achieve success in learning to read.

 Sr Catherine Seward, former teacher, Adelaide


 I have just read ‘Clarry and the Little White Cloud’ and I love it.  It is a sensitive, beautifully worded tale which held my attention as well as any thriller. I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen at the end and it kept me dangling. My heart went out to Clarry. I thought that success might come in the guise of phonics but it took so long to happen and I was getting sadder and sadder and so concerned for this young boy.

I would like to recommend it as a story that can bring hope to parents and to children for whom guessing and looking at the pictures does not bring forth reading.

 Angela Weeks, Lecturer, SPELD SA


 To young children this story will strike a chord: the optimism that accompanies them as they begin their school days and the devastation felt when they fail to master an important skill – in this case reading.   There is a happy ending thanks to Mrs Quin whose thorough re-teaching of reading saves the day.

 Dick Weigall, OAM, teacher, life member of LDA, former editor of educational journals.


 This book is an absolute delight and should be compulsory reading for every teacher. Reading Recovery teachers should be required to read it twice!

Yvonne Meyer, parent


 Your beautiful Clarrie book arrived today. Thank you. Delightfully told. Your love for those trying so hard and having difficulties shines through. Clarrie had the cloud and Clicka the dog as companions. And there is a way forward. Why has stupidity reigned for so long? 

 Sandra Reynolds, teacher and author


I have just finished reading this (Clarry and the Little White Cloud) to my reception class. The children related to a lot of the story and have decided that you must be spying on us! They are writing to you… I think it was the story line as these guys have just started school. We have been doing families etc. and now they want a Grandparents’ Day. Thanks for helping us with our learning.

 Catherine Lawrie-Read, teacher, Kingston Community School, SA