Three Education Books I Regularly Recommend to Families

Parents are looking for professional learning and support, too.

A parent recently called me, not sure what to do about the upcoming school year. They are considering a virtual school, or even homeschooling. None of our students are vaccinated (I work in an elementary school). With the contagiousness of this new variant, even masks being required is not helping all families feel safe.

This parent wanted to know what a typical day in their child’s grade level would look like. I shared the importance of a morning meeting, of giving kids choice in some of their learning, of the power of shared reading and shared writing, and of reducing any inauthentic activities such as worksheets and flashcards.

“This is great. Do you have any book suggestions related to what you have shared?”

Families look to us for guidance. We are not just teaching kids. I recommended the first two books below to this parent. I am adding a third, equally indispensible.

Yardsticks: Child and Adolescent Development Ages 4-14 by Chip Wood

The descriptions of the developmental stages of kids at every age level is uncanny. Reading what is expected of the students you support is a reminder that “this is normal, not personal”. It is also a terrific resource for families. Most parents were never “trained” in how to raise children.

For example, the following information was helpful to me as both of my kids transitioned into adolescence.

“This is a year when students become much more devoted to their classmates and peer groups. With their growing interest in peers, elevens do well with collaborative work. They’re likely, though, to challenge, debate, and argue with each other as they practice the art of social negotiation, which will help them form strong affiliations and friendships as teenagers and young adults” (pg. 123).

Of course, these are generalizations and may not be applicable to all kids. However, the descriptions of what to expect plus the ideas for how to approach each age level are invaluable.

The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

This was one of my go-to resources when teaching 5th and 6th graders. As a busy educator, I did not have time to read all of the excellent literature out there. Trelease provides a long list of books teachers and parents can rely on as excellent read alouds. The first half of the book includes persuasive chapters on the importance of reading aloud to kids at any age.

It is now in its eighth edition. The original author, Jim Trelease, has handed off the updating duties to Cyndi Giorgis. Doctors hand this book out to new parents. Teachers and leaders might do the same at open house nights and conferences, along with some of the book titles recommended in the resource.

Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning by Peter Johnston

I remember Richard Allington referring to this book at at literacy conference as “maybe the best book on teaching you will find”. Donalyn Miller calls it a “game changer”. At less than 100 pages yet full of wisdom, it is one of the most accessible and practical resources for supporting positive learning environments.

Language - what we say, how we say it - is the focus of Choice Words. Johnston organizes the book into six areas based on research of the most effective teachers. Specific stems and approaches are suggested for teachers and parents to try. While it is about language, what it really helps us as adults do is to better listen to our kids so they become more confident and self-directed. Consider using Choice Words for a family book club, or just to have on hand when a parent is looking for support.

What book not listed here do you regular recommend to families?

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