The Chalk Blog

Teachers and Books - Read ‘Em and Reap!

Children reading books at park against trees and meadow in the park-1

Great "curl-up-next-to-the-fireplace" book ideas

Hey, topnotch teachers! Whatcha reading on the sidelines these days? Reading for pleasure in my free time? What’s free time anyway? Is there such a thing -  and if so, why don’t I have some?  

Research tells us we must offer students choice for independent reading and teach them self-selection skills so they’re able to find and finish books they love and learn from. But, that’s a whole other course 5040: Increasing Comprehension with Close Reading in Your Classroom - or two 5009: Reading Instruction for the Head and Heart.

This blog post is really for you, teachers. Educators trying to practice what they preach will read books for both pleasure and learning. So, what are you reading right now?  Besides the read aloud or novel you are teaching or re-teaching, what are you reading for your own enjoyment or benefit? 

It’s no secret that the Learners Edge Curriculum and Instruction team is full of avid readers of both fiction and nonfiction. We read for work all day long, but we also read by choice on our own time. I was thinking maybe you could use a little autumn inspiration for your own reading choices these days - in between planning lessons and grading papers - an “escape” from reality, right? So, here’s a quick snapshot of some books we’re reading, along with the links and a few reasons why.

Pretty young woman looking for a book in a bookstore


  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (Dawn: After re-reading The Handmaid's Tale by the same author, I watched the Canadian mini-series of Alias Grace, and was spellbound - needing to read the book. I'm hoping to go back to one of my favorites from Atwood after this: The Robber Bride.)
  • Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley (Molly: Not wanting to give anything away, all they would say about it is the 'experience is in the reading'. I couldn't agree more.)
  • Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug. (Molly: I heard a review of this new graphic novel on NPR and it pulled me in. I plan to share it with my teenaged daughter, since we both love graphic novels and stories connected to history.)
  • Warlight by Michael Ondaatje. (Barb: I saw this book on President Obama’s summer book recommendations list and ordered it right away. Historical fiction is my cup of tea - 1945 London after the war - this plot and these characters are living up to the hype.)


Teenager sitting on pile of books and reading

  • How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. (Dawn: Pollan's In Defense of Food helped me to revamp my way of looking at the food I eat and share with my family. This book is totally different, in that it examines the use of LSD (and other hallucinogenic substances) to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. I know my perception will shift once again!)
  • Fear by Bob Woodward (Susie: I’m interested in this look inside the current administration by one of the two journalists made famous by uncovering Watergate while working at the Washington Post.)
  • The Nordic Theory of Everything, In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen. (Susie: having just returned from Scandinavia, I was curious to learn why the lives of those we met in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark were more balanced and stress-free than ours in the United States. This book focuses on 4 key relationships: parents and children, men and women, employees and employers, and government and citizens by comparing the differences between those who live in the Nordic region and those in the U.S. Fascinating.)
  • Talking from 9-5: Women and Men at Work by Dr. Deborah Tannen. (Susie: I just cracked open this book about the communication styles between genders. It explains the difference between men's and women's "conversational rituals." A must-read for all in the workplace.)
  • Into Nature: A Creative Field Guide and Journal: Unplug and Reconnect with What Matters by The Mindfulness Project. (Barb: After devouring Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness this summer and recognizing how much I crave Vitamin N, I found this book-gem filled with action steps to help me and the people I love.)

o-BOOKS-KIDS-facebookYA novel or children’s book: 

  • Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary (Dawn: This is one I read when I was MUCH younger, but I'm hoping to expose my kiddos to Beverly Cleary, and that they will love her writing as much as I did!)
  • A Wrinkle in Time  by Madeleine L'Engle. (Dawn: I'm reading this for the umpteenth time, now with my 8-year-old son, who has also seen the movie. Hoping he will read the rest of the series!)
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. (Marcee: I had to see what everyone was talking about! It's a heavy story, but one that needs to be told.)
  • Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo (Susie: I want to read this one, because I heard Kate interviewed on MPR, and she explained how this book explores children's emotions, which are always real, honest, and refreshing.) (Barb: I shared this with Susie because I read this book right away. This story whispers to all of us about relationships and how we discover our own truths with the help of friends and family. I highly recommend this as a read-aloud at home or in the classroom.)

Finally, as a bonus gift to you for reading - my latest favorite Kate DiCamillo quote is shared in this Reading Group Choices newsletter  featuring Louisiana’s Way Home

Dear Readers,
When we read together - when a grandfather reads to a granddaughter, when a teacher reads to a classroom, when a parent reads to a child, when a sister reads to a brother, when everyone in a town reads the same book silently, together - we are taken out of our aloneness. Together, we see the world. Together, we see one another. We connect. And when we connect, we are changed.
-Kate DiCamillo

Since we’re on the topic of reading (choice books and self-selection) I have to add a pitch for our popular PCE course options:

With either of these, it’s a chance to pick your own reading adventure on a topic that resonates for your current role in education. You can choose to read something on your own or gather a group of colleagues to read and study a book together.

If we could, we’d start our own book club for Learners Edge teachers. But we know you’re busy with a million things to do and never enough minutes in the day. For now (and forever), we’ll keep cheering you on from the sidelines and thank you for your service to students and families.  Read on, teachers!

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