Great books for teachers (and parents who want to understand teachers)

~posted by Ruth

Teachers love to share their teaching lives with each other.  We talk about what we’re learning from kids, what we’re struggling with, how we set up our classrooms, and what it means to be passionate about reading and writing.  There are tons of books written by teachers that show the rich life of the classroom from the inside out, opening up the seams of how and what goes into a creative learning community.  The books on this list are some of the best I can recommend that read like a compelling novel or memoir.  And they are all “parent-tested”; moms and dads we know have enjoyed the insights, stories of children, and educational practices that are in their pages.  We think they make great summer reading as parents and teachers look forward to approaching September and a return to school.

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Pre-school and Early Elementary

A Child’s Work:  The Importance of Fantasy Play by Vivian Gussin Paley

Vivian Gussin Paley’s latest book is a stunner.  Readers of this blog know we are committed to the power of play and story; if you share our passion, this is the book for you.  Paley shares stories from around the world that illustrate children’s stunning and original language in their fantasy play, narration, and role-playing.  The book examines how this natural mode of learning allows children to construct meaning in their worlds, meaning that carries through into their adult lives.  We find this a compelling and inspiring read for teachers and parents alike.

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Black Ants and Buddhists:  Thinking Critically and Teaching Differently in the Primary Gradesby Mary Cowhey

Mary Cowhey welcomes readers into her first and second-grade classroom, where children learn by being immersed in a caring community that extends beyond the walls of the classroom.  They become readers and writers by writing from their own lives–and learning about others.  Her students learn to make connections between their lives, the books they read, the community leaders they meet, and the larger world.  Mary writes with humor and passion, generously sharing classroom stories and curriculum ideas for working in a diverse community and learning along with kids.  This is one of those cross-over books:  appreciated by teachers (and even used in many teacher education classes) and also loved by parents who see what is possible in today’s classrooms.

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Tweens and Teens

The Book Whisperer:  Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child  by Donalyn Miller

From the first pages, Donalyn had me hooked–as a teacher and as a parent.  She passionately believes in the power of reading and creates a literate atmosphere in her 6th-grade classroom that encourages children to become lifelong readers.  How does she do it?  She creates a readers workshop where the whole classroom–including Donalyn–have time to read, choose the books they read, and talk books and reading.  No moronic worksheets or comprehension questions here, but genuine talk about books, reading, writing, and authors.  The kids read an average of 40 books a year–and even score well on those pesky standardized tests.  Trust me–you’ll eat it up!

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Zigzag A Life of Reading and Writing, Teaching and Learning by Tom Romano

“I am not a natural-born teacher. I am not a writer of ease and facility. I’ve done a lot of zigzagging to get where I am. . . .I have to rethink, replan, revise. Adjusting my balance and positioning is ongoing.”
Tom Romano writes in an informal and engaging voice, sharing his journey–a zigzag path of life from his earliest memories in Malvern, Ohio to his present world of teaching teachers at Miami University.  He has worked in classrooms from elementary through high school–and now, of course at the college level, and is always learning with and from his students.  Zigzag opens a window into the development of a writer, a teacher, a reader, a learner.   Readers I know have been re-energized by the stories and wisdom in this book.
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