being a teacher, being me, books

The Professional Books that Changed Me as a Teacher

When I first started teaching, I devoured parts of books like a starved teacher.  And by parts of books, I mean parts of books.  I would start to read, grab some ideas and then get too busy to read on.  After a few years, I stopped.  Not that I did not need to keep growing, I just had changed my focus to reading blogs instead of books.

Lately, though, I have been turning back to books.  For finding the time to read an entire piece of work as I try to grow and become better.  I have highlighted the things that make me think, discussed ideas with others (Voxer is great for a small book discussion) and reflected until my brain hurt.

And I am changed.  I have these ideas that seem to want to burst out of me, that I cannot wait for students to digest along with me, so that we can become better together.  So what have made a difference to me?

Alfie Kohn’s The Homework Myth

A quote:

“But as I mastered the material, homework ceased to be necessary. A no homework policy is a challenge to me,” he adds. “I am forced to create lessons that are so good no further drilling is required when the lessons are completed.”

Why it matters:

The research and the reasons compiled in here made me quit homeowrk.  I would say that that has been one of the biggest and best decisions I have ever made as a teacher.

Unshakeable by Angela Watson

A quote:

“All the planning and scheduling is meant to control the other demands on your time—email, grading, paperwork, etc.—so that you are better able to focus on your students in class.”
Why it matters:

Angela Watson never ceases to amaze with her ideas for how to make our teaching lives better.  This book has the best of her wisdom on how we can fall even more in love with teaching.

Awakened also by Angela Watson

A quote:

“Being awakened is the initial realization of truth, the moment when the light illuminates a situation and you can see it clearly for the first time. Growth begins there, but a true awakening is a process. It’s a daily decision to choose thoughts that lead to the right attitude. It’s an ongoing choice to act in ways that align with wisdom and not with one’s current perception or mood.”

Why it matters:

Several years ago, when I was at my lowest point as a teacher, this book arrived and changed my thinking.  I still use the principles that Angela discussed in the book of replacing your negative thinking.

Donalyn Miller Reading in the Wild

A quote:

“If we really want our students to become wild readers, independent of our support and oversight, sometimes the best thing we can do is get out of the way.”

Why it matters:

This book taught me that creating students who can read outside of our classrooms is a vital task for teachers.  It has propelled me to change the reading instruction I do and also led to many deep conversations about reading identity.

Donalyn Miller The Book Whisperer

A quote:

“I am a reader, a flashlight-under-the-covers, carries-a-book-everywhere-I-go​, don’t-look-at-my-Amazon-bill. I choose purses based on whether I can cram a paperback into them, and my books are the first items I pack into a suitcase. I am the person who family and friends call when they need a book recommendation or cannot remember who wrote Heidi. My identity as a person is so entwined with my love of reading and books that I cannot separate the two.”

Why it matters:

This book made me trust myself as a teacher of reading.  It gave me permission to fight back, to protect the love of reading, and to do something about those who did not love reading.  This should be required reading for all teachers, whether you teach reading or not.

Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts Falling In Love With Close Reading

A quote:

“We see the ritual of close reading not just as a method of doing the academic work of looking closely at text-evidence, word choice, and structure, but as an opportunity to bring those practices together to empower our students to see the subtle messages in texts and in their lives.”

Why it matters:

This book stopped my fear of repetition and digging deeper into text.  Enough said.

Penny Kittle Book Love

A quote:

“I believe each of my students must craft an individual reading life of challenge, whim, curiosity, and hunger, and I’ve discovered that it is not too late in high school  to lead a non-reader to reading.  It’s never too late.”

Why it matters:

What the Book Whisperer did for me while teaching 4th grade, Book Love is doing for me while I teach 7th.  Penny Kittle’s wisdom, research, as well as practical ideas is making this book my most recommended book of 2016 so far.

Kelly Gallagher Readicide

A quote:

“…Shouldn’t schools be the place where students interact with interesting books? Shouldn’t the faculty have an ongoing laser-like commitment to put good books in our students’ hands? Shouldn’t this be a front-burner issue at all times?”

Why it matters:

If you are looking for urgency in your teaching, this is the book that will bring it to you.  Readicide was one of the first books that made me want to do something now to change the way we teach reading.


Kylene Beers and Bob Probst Notice and Note

A quote:

“The most rigorous reading is to find what those words on that page mean in our own lives.”

Why it matters:

This book transformed (and transform) how I approach reading instruction with my students, giving them a key to unlock the secrets of the text.  This is one of the biggest gifts I can give them as they read more complex materials.

Then there are the books that I have in my to read pile

Meeno Rami Thrive

A quote:

“To be fully engaged in our work, we need to bring our authentic voice.”

Why it matters:

I have read parts of this book before, however, I need to sit down and read it all in order.  Meeno is an incredibly smart woman and so I know that her thoughts will make me a better teacher.


Kylene Beers and Bob Probst Reading Nonfiction – Notice and Note

A quote:

“When students recognize that nonfiction ought to challenge us, ought to slow us down and make us think, then they’re more likely to become close readers.”

Why it matters:

The reading of nonfiction is something I have struggled with and this books provides me with the starting points for deeper conversations.

Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke Amplify

A Quote:

“Using technology doesn’t mean that we throw out those strategies that we’ve found to be successful with students.  It’s not the tools—it’s what we do with them that counts.”

Why it matters:

I have integrated technology for the past 6 years in our classroom, and yet I know that these ladies have some incredible ideas that I have not thought of.  Although it is targeted to K-6 I know there are ideas for 7th in there as well.

Teri S. Lesene’s Reading Ladders

A Quote:

Many of us are searching continually for that just-right book for each and every one of our students. It is my hope to help you find those books. More importantly, I hope to help you guide students to the next great book and the one after that. That is the purpose of Reading Ladders. Because it is not sufficient to find just one book for each reader.

Why it matters:

Teri Lesene is not only a fierce protector of the love of reading but brliiant, intimidatingly so.  This book is a must for anyone trying to develop reading identities in their classrooms.

I know I am forgetting some but wanted to share in case anyone was looking for a great new read to change their teaching.  Which books have you read that have transformed you?  Which books did I miss?

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.


4 thoughts on “The Professional Books that Changed Me as a Teacher”

  1. I love this post! I was actually just feeling the need to write a similar one. My list has many of these same books…while many of yours are still waiting on my TBR pile!

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