Book Recommendations for Teachers

Teachers, these books should be at the top of your

New Year’s reading list!

Our New Year’s resolution includes keeping up with our professional reading.  Teachers, if that’s one of your goals, we have some amazing, must-read book recommendations for you!  Read on to discover book recommendations that address the art, the science, and the practical application of reading instruction.

The Art

Demoralized: Why Teachers Leave the Profession They Love and How They Can Stay
by Doris A. Santoro

Yes, teaching is an art form.  It’s also a science.  It’s also a moral calling for most people in this profession.  All the teachers we know entered this profession to make a difference in children’s lives.

If a teacher begins to feel ‘beaten down’ (you may know the feeling), he or she may have been labeled with the term ‘ burnt out’.  The teacher may have even used the term herself.  The call for resilience or grit in response to this feeling may feel like a double-whammy because it implies both a personal failure and a moral failure.  If only the teacher had (exercised more, gotten more sleep, been more open to change, not aged), she wouldn’t be burnt out.

The author, Doris A. Santoro, provides case studies and an in-depth look at teacher dissatisfaction that creates within the reader a paradigm shift.  To describe the sense of dissatisfaction Santoro uses the term demoralized.  The difference between teacher burnout and teacher demoralization is startling.  Within this book Santoro explains situations in which a teacher may feel demoralized.  It’s likely that the reader will identify with one or more of these scenarios.  But it’s not all doom and gloom.  Santoro provides the reader with strategies for re-moralization.  Among these are: student-centered action, teacher leadership, activism, and voice.  Central to all of these strategies is finding or creating a professional community.

That’s what we are trying to do here, with this blog and through twitter; build a professional community where we can hone the craft of teaching.  Give yourself a New Year’s gift and read this life-changing book!

The Science

Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It
by Mark Seidenberg

“Teaching reading IS rocket science.”  Thousands of studies of reading and the brain have been completed and the verdict is in: there is a right way and a wrong way to teach reading.  Mark Seidenberg synthesizes the research into an informative text that all reading teachers should read and reread.

This is a dense text.  We suggest you read it in small, digestible portions over a period of time.  We also recommend reading this text as part of a professional book club.  The discussions will help readers analyze and process the information (and there’s a LOT of information) for maximum positive impact on classroom instruction.

Here is one of our favorite quotes:

“For reading scientists the evidence that the phonological pathway is used in reading and {is} especially important in beginning reading is about as close to conclusive as research on complex human behavior can get.  The opposing view, that using phonology is an inefficient strategy used by poor readers, is deeply embedded in educational theory and practice.” p. 124

If you are of the mindset that using phonology is an inefficient strategy used by poor readers we urge you to read this book with an open mind.  If you are of the mindset that developing the phonological pathway is critical for beginning readers we urge you to read this book.  No matter which side of the argument you are on, this book is packed with valuable information that will improve your knowledge base and your teaching.  As lifelong learners teachers must reflect on their practice and be open to newer and better ways of teaching.

The Practical Application

A Fresh Look at Phonics: Common Causes of FAILURE and 7 Ingredients for SUCCESS 
by Wiley Blevins

At our school, we are using this book to help guide our discussion of early reading skills.  We see in this book an effort to put an end to ‘The Reading Wars’.  Wiley helps teachers find common ground between the use of authentic text, patterned text, and decodable text.  He acknowledges that there is a purpose and a need for each of them.  It doesn’t have to be one or the other.  Wiley is also a proponent of scientifically-based phonics instruction (i.e. systematic and explicit teaching).  He offers ways to provide this instruction while differentiating for EL students, advanced students, and students needing more practice.

Wiley’s organized the book into two sections.  The first section delineates seven ingredients for success.  Each of these chapters includes background and key characteristics, best practices and look-fors for success, common instructional pitfalls, an opportunity to examine your own practices, and next steps.  The second section is devoted to ten common causes of phonics instruction failure.  Each chapter examines a particular problem and offers suggestions for fixing the problem.

We found this book to be extremely helpful in terms of practical classroom application.  For those new to explicit phonics instruction, skeptical of explicit phonics instruction, or looking for ways to enhance phonics instruction, this book is a wonderful stepping off point.

Be sure to check out our other book recommendations!  Summer is right around the corner (or not).  Here are some suggestions for summer reading.

We’d love to hear from you if you’ve read any of these books or if you have additional suggestions for professional reading.  Let’s build a professional community!

Here’s to a Happy, Healthy New Year!


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