30 Books Every Teacher Should Read, Part 2

Part 2 of our 30 Books list, click here for Part 1.

As we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Free Spirit Publishing, we asked our authors to name the books that they felt all teachers—be they student teachers or experienced supervisors—should read. Their suggestions are drawn from literature to classroom management texts, and cover nearly all aspects of teaching. We are certain that this list of 30 books every teacher should read will inspire your teaching next year, and entertain you as well.

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Note: Authors and books are listed in no particular order.

Mariam MacGregor, author of Building Everyday Leadership in All Kids

Lord of the Flies

I recommend Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Yes, that book. The one nearly everyone reads in high school. This book presents teachers with a clear view into the social politics of boys, whether 1950 or 2013. Imagine the fictional interactions of these characters in one’s classroom, and a teacher gains a greater understanding of how boys learn, how power and influence affect their interactions, and the unspoken emotional chaos that occurs between and among them. In the world of girls, there are queen bees and wannabes, where emotions and manipulation are used as currency. But this book reminds us that the world of boys is no different, and attempts to alter the pecking order (on the playground, the sports field, in the classroom, online, in public or private) can go from innocent to high stakes in a matter of minutes.

Emotional Intensity

Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings by Christine Fonseca will change a teacher’s outlook about every child who enters his or her classroom. Emotional intensity is a trait of giftedness that no amount of standardized or topical testing can measure. Emotionally intense kids are affected by a teacher’s voice, attitude, choice of words, and style of communicating as well as the interactions with and treatment of their peers. Emotional intensity can be wrongly interpreted as a kid being off-task when in fact these kids (and adults!) are busy reading the vibe of the classroom or managing their high level of empathy when they perceive mistreatment or injustice around them. After reading this book, teachers who “get it” will realize that the tone and culture of their classroom and teaching style can make or break the learning environment for emotionally intense kids.

Not Much Just Chillin'

Judy Molland, author of Get Out!

If you’ve ever wondered what’s really going on with middleschoolers, Not Much Just Chillin’ by Linda Perlstein is the perfect book for you. Perlstein spent a year immersed in the lives of a group of Maryland eighth graders, and she shares with us all the innuendoes of their preteen lives, from arguing and flirting, to studying and texting “NMJC.” A brilliant read!

A Hope in the Unseen

A Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind tells the inspirational story of Cedric Jennings through his last years in high school and first years in college. With the odds distinctly not in his favor, this young man, a student at Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., manages to complete an amazing journey: from the inner city to the ivy league. Suskind tells Jennings’ story with compassion and intelligence.

Phil Schlemmer, coauthor of Teaching Beyond the Test and Teaching Kids to Be Confident, Effective Communicators

Here are three books that I think will help teachers see the “big picture” of their profession. They are all very readable books and great summer reads as teachers recharge and start thinking about next year and the impact they hope to have on their students.

Essential Questions

Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins. Effective education is all about questions—student engagement, depth of knowledge, inquiry, ownership of learning, memorability, understanding. All of my work has been based on helping students become confident, self-directed, lifelong learners, which is dependent on them pursuing answers to intriguing, challenging, personally meaningful questions. This book is extremely helpful in making that happen.

12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles

12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles in Action: The Fieldbook for Making Connections, Teaching, and the Human Brain by Renate Nummela Caine, Geoffery Caine, Carol Lynn McClintic, and Karl J. Klimek. Teachers should understand what’s going on between their students’ ears (or behind their eyes). This book focuses on brain research and translates it into useful information for teachers. Every chapter includes a section titled “Taking It Into the Classroom.” I have found the book useful in helping me think through ways of engaging students and helping them become thinkers as opposed to knowers.

TIME 100 Ideas

TIME 100 Ideas that Changed the World: History’s Greatest Breakthroughs, Inventions, and Theories. If teachers want to emphasize innovation, creativity, inquiry, or the magnificence of the human mind, this book is a must. It highlights the greatest thinking in history. Information from this book can be woven into all kinds of instructional and learning situations to help students understand that all we are came from the minds of fellow humans. Bringing ideas from this book into the classroom is great for getting students excited about thinking.

Jim Delisle, coauthor of Building Strong Writers in Middle School and The Gifted Teen Survival Guide

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I’ll recommend two books, one professional and the other . . . a life changer! The life changer is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Ostensibly, it’s about a father and son crossing the country together, ending their travels in Montana. On a deeper level, it’s a book about the search for true quality in life—quality in people, ideas, humor, and so much more. I read this book every five years or so, just as a reminder of what life is and can become.

24. How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci

The professional book is How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, by Michael J. Gelb. It’s partly a biography and partly a set of instructions on how to use the skills that DaVinci used in his life—curiosity, acceptance of ambiguity as a part of learning, the interdependence of everything, etc.—to enhance both your learning and your daily interactions with others. I find it very helpful to use with teenagers as they begin to explore their emerging selves.

Elizabeth Whitten, author of RTI Success

The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong. There are strategies in this book that even the most experienced teacher will find beneficial to meet students’ needs. It is a keeper!

Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching (What Works for Special-Needs Learners) by Anita L. Archer and Charles A. Hughes. This book can either improve your teaching if you are a seasoned teacher or provide a novice teacher with skills needed to be an effective teacher.

First Days of School Explicit Instruction Teach Like a Champion Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire

Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College by Doug Lemov. This is full of good examples of effective teaching and how to make it work in your classroom. A DVD is included that provides snippets of how to utilize the strategies addressed.

Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Rafe Esquith. This is a great book about how to deal with behavior and motivate a diverse classroom.

Cheri Meiners, author of the Learning to Get Along® series

The Optimistic Child

While writing an upcoming children’s book on resilience, I reread The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., who is a founder of the Positive Psychology movement. A few years ago I shared the concepts from the book with my own children. Seligman focuses on teaching optimism to children to help them learn to avoid depression and learned helplessness, with examples from school districts who have used it. I found useful information on changing automatic pessimism and boosting problem solving and social skills through learned optimism. The book is directed primarily toward school-age children, but includes a chapter for babies and toddlers.

Marjorie Lisovskis, coauthor of How to Take the Grrrr Out of Anger and the Happy Healthy Baby® series and Editorial Director of Free Spirit Publishing

Deluxe Transitive Vampire

Kids are writing and speaking all the time these days, making it wise for teachers to brush up on their own self-expression skills. A perfect book for this is The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed by Karen Elizabeth Gordon. This is a classic underground writer’s reference (along with Gordon’s equally popular book on punctuation, called The New Well-Tempered Sentence).

New Well-Tempered Sentence

Yes, the book is an excellent reference guide; it is also so clever and devilishly humorous that it makes for great beach reading or read-aloud happy hours with friends. The blurb from William Safire says it all: “A book to sink your fangs into.”

Oh—looking at Gordon’s books online, I found one I haven’t yet read: The Disheveled Dictionary: A Curious Caper Through Our Sumptuous Lexicon. Better add that to my summer reading list!

What books do you think every teacher should read this summer?

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