5 + 1 Summer Reads to Challenge and Inspire

Lazy mornings, afternoons by the pool, and no agenda. Summer must be here! Of course, we all know this describes maybe 5 days of your summer break with the rest of your time attending trainings, conferences, figuring out what to do with your seemingly permanently-bored children, and a litany of other things that need to get done before the August heat signifies that it’s time to start back up.

The summer is a perfect time to do some professional reading without the harried pace of instructional days, PLC meetings, packing lunches, and coordinating who-picks-up-which-kid-at-what-school. So instead of just grabbing the latest best-selling fantasy, here are five alternatives that will help you reflect and grow in your profession:

1 – It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens bookcover 620x412
Danah boyd has compiled years of research, both qualitative and quantitative, to present to us a picture of youth in the digital age. This is a must-read for educators and parents (really, anyone who interacts with the under-18 crowd in any substantive way) that will challenge your thinking about how best to handle technology in the hands of your kids. Learn more here.

book cover 22 – iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up 
A couple of years ago, a writer for the Huffington Post wrote a piece that she called “iRules” and was a contract to her 13-year old son as he received an iPhone. The piece went viral and now has been expanded into a book. This book advocates that parents are still parents and that adults should be involved in their children’s lives, even technologically. If you’ve ever wondered about the role of parenting in today’s digital age, these first two recommendations should give you plenty to chew on.

3 – Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High book cover 3
While this book was geared for the corporate world, there’s little doubt that the strategies presented can be adapted (or are already a best-fit) for education. If you’ve ever had a frustrating conversation with a student or a contentious debate with a parent, you are probably already adding this to your shopping cart. One piece of advice: don’t read this book on audio. There are a number of very helpful diagrams and charts that are difficult to grasp without seeing them.

bookcover 44 – A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit 
No, this isn’t some kind of Jedi mind trick or new-age philosophy. The idea is simple, straightforward, and research-backed: mindfulness is good for our health AND our productivity. This is an engaging read that directly tackles some of the toughest schools in the country to see if this would have any impact. The results are astounding

5 – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking book cover 5
I can say this book single-handedly changed the way I thought about my students. I realized that, even though I am an introvert myself, the ‘extrovert ideal’ was radically affecting the way I interacted with my class. Be ready to re-think everything you think you know about introversion! To get your brain going, start with her TED talk.

Ok, ok, I’ll include a fiction, but it’s still going to make you think:

The Fault in Our Stars
Yes, it’s being made into a movie coming out next month and yes, it’s technically considered a Young Adult novel. But I chose this book not only because of the excellent dialogue and writing, but because it is a great reminder that things are not always what they seem and we can’t possibly know everything that our students are going through. Relationships are messy, life is hard, and sometimes, age is just a number. Don’t less summer slip by without diving into this one.

Greg Garner

Greg Garner is a Digital Innovation Coach for the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation in Raleigh, NC. While much of his work is focused on leadership and capacity building, Greg cares deeply about kids' education and is relentless in doing everything he can to improve their learning opportunities. He is passionate about pedagogy, innovation, and technology. Connect with him on Twitter: @classroom_tech.

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