Top 20 Books for Teachers: Essential Reads for Better Teaching and Schools

Ongoing growth and a commitment to learning are essential qualities in teachers. Remaining open to development and honing one’s practice as an educator is crucial in a world that continues to evolve. Schooling is no longer a matter of preparing students for nine-to-five office or factory work, the role of educators is now one that involves preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist yet, for entrepreneurship, innovation, and solving problems we have never had before. As technology advances, the processes and desired outcomes of teaching and learning naturally change. Teachers who remain committed to their own development will have a deeper understanding of what effective teaching and learning truly is. This list compiles the top 20 recommended books for teachers and those working in education. Each of these books carries something thought-provoking and special within them, that will enable you to reflect on your current practice, evaluate areas of development, and continue to grow as an educator. This book is also useful for parents, homeschooling families, caregivers, and those working in school leadership.

1. Creative Schools by the late Sir Ken Robinson

There is no doubt of Sir Ken Robinson’s powerful influences on educators and schools worldwide, with his 2006 TedTalk Do Schools Kill Creativity? achieving the largest views in TedTalk history. The fact is, Ken had something to say, and we all peeled our ears to listen. Why? Because we all knew that what he was saying was true. In my experience, most in education want nothing more than to be able to effectively help every child grow and achieve their potential, but all teachers know that the system itself often stifles, not only the gifts of the student, but the teacher, too. Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education goes deeper into the thought-provoking topics of Sir Ken’s Tedtalk, exploring the true meaning of education. Robinson sheds light on the profitable standardized exam systems that often strain our educators and negatively impact our learners. He emphasizes the need for a revolution in default teaching practices, leaving the industrial education system behind and focusing on a personalized approach to learning that makes use of ever-advancing technology and the arts. Written with Ken’s natural wit and engaging style, Creative Schools will inspire educators, parents, school administrators, and policy-makers to rethink what true education really means.

2. Engaging Learners by Andy Griffith and Mark Burns

Engaging Learners is a go-to book for new teachers entering the profession and a useful point of reference for seasoned educators. The book offers carefully crafted research-based insight on what effective teaching and learning looks like, with emphasis on student-centered approaches where the teacher becomes less of a focal point in the classroom and more of a facilitator. Griffith and Burns explain, in plain text, what the term “intrinsic motivation” means,  and the importance of gearing learning toward achieving this in the classroom. The practical engagement tools throughout the book can be easily picked up, tried, and tested in any classroom, making this book an incredibly useful resource for teachers with lesson planning time constraints. Griffith and Burns aim to encourage all educators reading this book to not only develop an effective toolkit for teaching but also develop an ongoing self-reflective practice that will enable them to continue to improve their teaching style and purposeful learning experiences within their classrooms.

3. The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, And learn A Culture of Creativity by George Couros

An excellent professional development book for teachers, The Innovator’s Mindset, contains a plethora of practical examples of innovative leadership which can be easily applied to a classroom setting. George Couros encourages any school teacher or administrator to shape students’ natural curiosity by empowering them to continuously question and explore. In a world where we are preparing students for entrepreneurship, leadership, and the unknown, this thought-yielding book allows educators to evaluate the importance of questioning in the classroom and use it as a tool for embedding learning. Couros inspires all who read his book to become innovative thinkers in order for learners to become experts in inquiry, learning, and innovation.

 

4. Essential Questions by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins

A great follow-on book from The Innovator’s Mindset, Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins offer further insight into the importance of questioning in the classroom with Essential Questions. Offering dozens of examples, the authors delve into the world of EQ’s and how to design, initiate, and embed inquiry-based teaching and learning practices in schools. This book is not only a fantastic read for educators but for those in curriculum design, offering helpful insight on what authentic Essential Questions look like and how to create a meaningful and thought-out inquiry-based curriculum.

 

 

5. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown 

This book is just one of many beautiful works deriving from the research of the amazingly influential and intelligent Brene Brown. While not specific to the world of education, Daring Greatly offers thought-provoking and inspiring insight into the world of vulnerability and the importance of “daring greatly” in our lives, careers, and relationships, in order to live wholesome and full lives with impact. This book is a game-changer and will offer teachers much-needed insight on what it means to be vulnerable and how important this act is within the world of education and in building meaningful relationships with colleagues and students. With educators often putting the needs of students and the desires of governing boards and policy-makers first, Brene offers much-needed feedback on the importance of boundary setting and taking care of oneself in order to be able to truly help other people and lean into our true purpose.

 

6. Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

Another essential read for educators by Brene Brown, Dare to Lead delves further into the world of living a courageous and wholesome life by exploring the world of shame and the negative impact it has on vulnerability and courage in relation to leadership. An important book for leaders both within and outside of the classroom, this book offers teachers, parents, and school leaders perspective on how traditional school systems and teaching methods can have a negative impact on student learning. Brene highlights how shame stifles creativity and vulnerability in not just our learners but our educators, too. The legendary expert in the field of shame pulls into question how shame is used as a tool for control but results in negative consequences that impact those on the receiving end. Brene will no doubt inspire professionals, educators, and school administrators to create spaces where vulnerability can flourish and where individual differences and imperfections are valued and cherished.

 

7. How to Talk So Kids Can Learn At Home and In School by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

A sequel to How to Talk So Kids Can Listen, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish offer a much-needed manual for parents and educators that shows how to communicate with children in order for them to be able to learn. This book is an incredible guide for anyone whose life or role involves communicating with children, with useful visual examples of how to communicate effectively with learners and young people. The multi-million dollar best seller is a much-loved guide that offers practical, down-to-earth insight on how to effectively influence learning in our children. The illustrations throughout the book make this an easy text to pick up and review frequently, an excellent resource for those who struggle to find the time to sit and finish an entire book.

 

8. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi 

Expert psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi investigates the “optimal experience” in Flow, revealing what makes an experience genuinely satisfying for the individual. A renowned psychologist, Csikszentmihalyi introduces the concept of “flow” and the capacity to experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and immersive life experiences in this state of being. For educators, the book offers incredible research-based insight into the importance of creating meaningful learning experiences based on intrinsic motivation and providing optimal learning time in tasks for students to be able to enter a state of flow. This groundbreaking classic work demonstrates the way flow can be controlled and ultimately allow us to discover true happiness, unlock our potential, and greatly improve the quality of our lives.

 

9. Teaching Backwards by Andy Griffith and Mark Burns

Authors of Engaging Learning, Andy Griffith and Mark Burns offer further practical insight for educators on the importance of “teaching backwards”. The book offers a reflective and measured approach to teaching and learning. Following the Understanding by Design approach to planning meaningful learning experiences, Griffith and Burns offer educators important insight on delivering content with the end in mind. Teaching Backwards offers essential guidance on how to ensure learning is purposeful and embedded in the form of a hands-on manual for teachers to further develop their attitudes, skills, and habits of excellence both for themselves and for their learners.

 

10. How Children Fail by John Holt

First published in the mid-1960s, How Children Fail influenced an educational reform leading to the world of unschooling. John Holt offers important thoughts on how children investigate the world around them and the perennial problems of classroom learning such as grading, testing, and the problematic role of trust in authority. His understanding of child development, the clarity of his thought, and his deep affection for children have made both How Children Fail and its companion volume, How Children Learn, enduring classics in the realms of child development and learning. The book will encourage parents and educators to take a close look at the challenges and opportunities in the world of teaching young people.

 

11. How Children Learn by John Holt

A companion to his first publication How Children Fail, this book offers further deep, original insight into the nature of early learning. Holt challenges our traditional notion of teaching and learning and offers the knowledge that for small children, “learning is as natural as breathing.” In this delightful yet profound book, Holt looks at how children learn to talk, to read, to count, and to reason, and how we can nurture and encourage these natural abilities in our children without following traditional teaching approaches. How Children Learn will encourage those in education to question what truly influences effective learning and how to make space for this in any learning environment.

 

 

12. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Influenced by decades of psychological research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea when it comes to “success” lying deep within what she calls “the power of mindset”. In this brilliant book, Dweck shows how success in school and every other area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. Dweck explores how those with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment within themselves and others. Now more than ever this book is a must-read for educators, offering an intriguing look at how perspective influences personal success and accomplishment in both teachers and learners alike.

13. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown 

Make It Stick is the ideal read for educators wanting to gain a firm grasp on what makes learning stick. Brown sheds light on the importance of challenge in the classroom and how this leads to improved mastery of skills, knowledge, and understanding. This influential book offers educators profound insight into the process of learning that involves memory, encoding, and consolidating. Brown emphasizes how common ideas of effective study such as highlighting, rereading, cramming, and single-minded repetition, can be counterproductive to the learning process. This book offers useful and practical knowledge on the ways in which educators can help learning stick and become a life-long habit for even the most reluctant learners.

 

14. Total Participation Techniques Making Every Student an Active Learner by Pérsida Himmele and William Himmele

With 51 easy-to-use, classroom-tested alternatives to the “stand and deliver” teaching techniques that cause so many students to tune out or drop out, Total Participation Techniques proves to be a much-needed guide in the hands of our educators. Refined through years of classroom experiences and supported by updated research, Himmele and Himmele deliver a dozen tried and tested techniques to engage K–12 students in active learning. The authors provide detailed descriptions of what Total Participation Techniques (TPTs) are along with step-by-step instructions on applying them in the classroom. The book includes reproducible blackline masters for student response cards as well as posters to use in and around the classroom. Packed with examples from authentic classrooms, Total Participation Techniques is an essential toolkit for teachers who want to present lessons that are relevant, engaging, and cognitively challenging.

15. Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Based on a far-reaching study of thousands of individuals, Finding Flow contends how the average human walks through their lives unaware and out of touch with our emotional selves. The legendary psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi guides the reader in understanding how our inattention influences us to constantly bounce between two extremes of living, with the anxiety and pressures of our work-life and day to day obligations, and living in a constant state of passive boredom. The book offers the key to unlocking this none productive state of being which Mihaly believes is to challenge ourselves with tasks requiring a high degree of skill, commitment, and integrated challenge. This life-altering book will influence educators to transform a routine task or lesson to one of joy and pure engagement, not only making learning stick but a ple

 

16. Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner

Tony Wagner explores what parents, teachers, and employers must do to develop the capacities of young people to become innovators. With examples from the experiences of compelling young innovators like Kirk Phelps, product manager for Apple’s first iPhone, and Jodie Wu, the founder of a company that builds bicycle-powered maize shellers in Tanzania, Wagner reveals how the adults in their lives nurtured their creativity and sparked their imaginations while teaching them to learn from failures and persevere. Wagner highlights the importance of play, passion, and purpose as the forces that drive young innovators to success. Wagner takes readers into the most forward-thinking schools, colleges, and workplaces in the country, where teachers and employers are developing cultures of innovation based on collaboration, interdisciplinary problem-solving, and intrinsic motivation. The result is a timely, provocative, and inspiring manifesto that offers crucial insight into creating the change-makers of tomorrow.

17. Flip Your Classroom: Reaching Every Student in Every Class Every Day by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams

Bergmann and Sams offer crucial observations on the effectiveness of the “flipped classroom.” The book shows educators the incredible impact of flipping learning, where students become leaders of their work and the teacher presents themselves for support as and when it is needed. In a world where answers can be provided to all questions by the world’s biggest search engine, the authors highlight how the teacher is no longer needed in their traditional role of “lecturer” or “content producer”. Bergmann and Sams offer their observations of the learning that takes place in a flipped classroom, demonstrating a deeper understanding of learning material and further inquiry. The authors offer an easy approach to embedding learning that will change the way teachers teach for the better.

 

18. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits is a book with the power to reshape the way you think about progress and success, and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits and influence that transform in others. James Clear draws on the most proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, readers will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic gold medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to master their craft and vault to the top of their field.

 

 

19. Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative by the late Sir. Ken Robinson

Another one of Sir Ken’s gems for educators, Out of Our Minds gives the reader a clear understanding of the importance of creativity and its cultivation, in businesses and schools. Sir Ken again emphasizes the importance of developing cultures in classrooms and businesses where creativity is an integral part of the learning and company processes, where ideas can evolve, develop and thrive to solve important and complex problems. As technological advances continue to unravel, to remain competitive, companies now more than ever need employees with creative ideas and the willingness and bravery to share, develop and apply them. This book will inspire educators to evaluate the use of creativity in their classrooms and motivate them to make further use of it in order to create a more meaningful and productive learning environment.

 

20. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Our final twenty had to be another Brene Brown (we could have added more, but it might have been overkill). This book is a must-read for educators and parents, emphasizing the importance of learning who you are and accepting yourself, imperfections and all, in order to be your best self for others. The book reveals how the strive for perfection is in fact stifling the growth and acceptance of ourselves and others in society. Brene’s research on shame and vulnerability always offers thought-provoking insight into common cultural norms, turning them on their heads and forcing the individual to rethink imperfection and the power of owning who we are. If we accept ourselves and our own imperfections, we accept flaws in others, too.

 

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