May is an important month for teachers. Standardized testing kicks in gear, decisions are being made about next year’s budget, and, of course, Teacher Appreciation Week. After ten years in the classroom, I’ve discovered that the best Teacher Appreciation gifts tend to be free- handwritten notes from students or words of encouragement from veteran teachers.
My gift to you is this roundup of advice from voices in every academic discipline, as well as a heavy sprinkling of books about fictional teachers. There are some classics, some hot new titles, and a few books that might push you out of your comfort zone. Whether you are trying to up your game in a certain subject, study theory about different learning styles, or simply read a story about someone else surviving the classroom for a change, you’ll find something in this list of 100 must-read books for and about teachers.
1. Building Literacy with Love: A Guide for Teachers and Caregivers of Children from Birth Through Age 5 by Betty S. Bardige and Marilyn M. Segal- A primer on early literacy, incorporating ideas from both the whole language and phonetic approaches to reading, with a focus on the most important aspect of all- enjoyment.
2. Interactive Writing by Trisha Callella-Jones and Kimberly Jordano Focuses on the concept of “sharing the pen” with young students to build confidence and engagement.
3. Igniting A Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers by Stephen L. Layne A case for going beyond basic instruction and explicitly teaching why a love of reading can be so beneficial.
4. Reading Picture Books With Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See by Megan Dowd Lambert- Published in association with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, this book guides adults in sharing picture books to make story time an interactive and exciting experience.
5. The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller A sixth-grade teacher shares her strategies for getting students to “become readers” and chose literature for enjoyment.
6. How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell Absolutely chock full of book lists by subject and celebrations of reading to spark interest. My copy is thick with post its.
7. Native Writers: Voices of Power by Kim Sigafus and Lyle Ernst Crucial for teachers trying to represent the full scale of humanity in their classroom libraries, this book profiles ten Native authors.
8. Talking, Drawing, Writing: Lessons for Our Youngest Writers by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe- I was first introduced to this book while teaching kindergarteners in the Writing Workshop model, and the emphasis on explicitly teaching oral storytelling as a precursor to writing strong narratives has stuck with me even as I’ve moved on to teach older students.
9. Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst Scripts, booklists, and actionable plans to help children reach true comprehension of text in an authentic way.
10. 7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It! By Susan Zimmermann and Chryse Hutchins Comprehension strategies for parents and teachers, including booklists for each “key.” Great for people who work with younger readers. I’ve highlighted this book to high heaven.
11. Reading With Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades by Debbie Miller Another comprehension text with full color work samples and classroom anecdotes.
12. Disrupting Thinking: How Why We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst Tackles the ongoing problem of student engagement with text and directs teachers to leave conversations in the hands of students.
13. Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School by Georgia Heard and Naomi Shihab Nye The case for poetry as a gateway to strong writing across all disciplines, with examples and lesson plans that use a workshop model.
14. Number Talks by Sherry Parrish The concept of Number Talks has children mentally solving a problem and then talking through their reasoning in a large group setting. This book lays out the how-tos for this effective practice.
15. Classroom Discussions: Seeing Math Discourse in Action by Nancy Canavan Anderson, Suzanne H. Chapin, and Cathy O’Connor An extension of the Number Talks introduction that includes DVDs with several video clips to help develop the concept.
16. Doing Math in Morning Meeting: 150 Quick Activities That Connect to Your Curriculum by Andy Dousis and Margaret Berry Wilson In an age where teachers are constantly scrambling for time to fit everything in, these activities bring in valuable mathematical practice in seamless, fun ways.
17. Doing Science in Morning Meeting: 150 Quick Activities that Connect to Your Curriculum by Lara Webb and Margaret Wilson Same as above- time saver that enriches.
18. Good Questions for Math Teaching, Grades 5-8: Why Ask Them and What To Ask by Lainie Schuster and Nancy Canavan Anderson Moving beyond the basic “how do you know?” this book includes questions like “Does it make sense to define a day by 24 hours? Would you have picked another number?” and sets up classroom discussions to develop both mathematical and critical thinking skills.
19. Table Talk Math: A Practical Guide for Bringing Math into Everyday Conversations by John Stevens Designed for parents but valuable for teachers, this book encourages conversations that develop number sense and mathematical reasoning in real-world, real-time situations.
20. But Why Does It Work? Mathematical Argument in the Elementary Classroom by Susan Jo Russell, Deborah Schifter, Virginia Bastable, Traci Higgins, Reva Kasman Lessons for teaching mathematical argument and developing a classroom culture that helps students gain confidence in their own mathematical voice.
21. Teaching What Really Happened by James W. Loewen Goes beyond the sanitized and edited version of history often shown in textbooks and calls on teachers to share uncomfortable facts about not only history but the way we choose to remember it.
22. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz America’s origin story from another perspective.
23. American Indians: Stereotypes and Realities by Devon A. Mihesuah Shatters misconceptions about American Indians- teachers should use this text to be sure they’re conveying true and respectful representations.
24. Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson It’s crucial for teachers to end the rosy Columbus story that persists hundreds of years after his murderous truth is widely known.
25. Teaching Science with Trade Books by Christine Anne Royce, Emily Morgan, Karen Ansberry Fifty complete lessons that use high quality, interesting picture books to teach science concepts.
26. Montessori In The Classroom: A Teacher’s Account of How Children Really Learn by Paula Polk Lillard Follows one class over the course of a year, giving day-to-day accounts to reveal what really happens in a Montessori classroom.
27. The Syracuse-Referenced Curriculum Guide for Students with Moderate to Severe Disabilities by Alison Ford “Serving learners from kindergarten through age 21, this field-tested curriculum is a must for professionals and parents devoted to directly preparing a student to function in the world.” -Goodreads
28. Exceptional Students: Preparing Teachers for the 21st Century by Ronald L. Taylor and Stephen B. Richards Written for both general and special education teachers, this book aims to prepare classroom teachers to identify and meet the needs of every student and provide an inclusive environment for everyone.
29. Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development Handbook by Lynne T. Diaz-Rico Support for mainstream classroom teachers in meeting the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse students.
30. The First Six Weeks of School by Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete- This is an essential tome that even seasoned teachers revisit often, including explicit plans for rolling out a foundation of classroom routines that will set a group of students up for success.
31. Who Owns The Learning?:Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age by Alan November A case for using technology to help students direct their own learning.
32. The Cornerstone: Classroom Management That Makes Teaching More Effective, Efficient, and Enjoyable by Angela Powell A general classroom support guide and accompanying website, great for beginning teachers or those needing a boost.
33. Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14 by Chip Wood A classic that clearly lays out developmental milestones in all areas, helping parents and teachers be sure that they are not over or underestimating the children in their lives.
34. Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham Challenges some basic understandings around students’ learning styles and provides lots of knowledge about the brain and the best way to tap into its power.
35. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks– Looking past the framing of education as a gaining of marketable skills, this is an important read about teaching students to “transgress” and rail against injustices that are racial, sexual, and socioeconomic in nature. A book that will benefit anyone in a position to mold young minds. (AOC)
36. Teachers as Cultural Workers by Paulo Freire and Dale April Koike (Translator) Letters to those “who dare to teach,” reminding educators that they key to our success lies in adapting to our students, celebrating what they bring to our classroom, and exposing them to real world connections.
37. Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom by Lisa Delpit Identifying teachers as “cultural transmitters,” this work examines the idea that low performance attributed to children of color is truly the fault of deep cultural misunderstanding. A vital read for any teacher, but especially white educators who work with students of color. (AOC)
38. Educating Activist Allies: Social Justice Pedagogy with Suburban and Urban Elite by Katy Swalwell The importance of an understanding of social (in)justice is critical for our privileged students.
39. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough A look at what really determines a successful school experience, and where teachers should be directing their focused energy.
40. A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne Whether you’re an educator–or a social, health, or legal services professional–this breakthrough book gives you practical, real-world support and guidance to improve your effectiveness in working with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. -Amazon
41. Teaching With Poverty In Mind by Eric Jensen Discusses the effects of poverty on the brain and how rich learning environments, coupled with meaningful relationships, can reverse damage and build resilience.
42. Other People’s Words: The Cycle of Low Literacy by Victoria Purcell-Gates An examination of reasons why different families have different literacy priorities, how these priorities are passed through generations, and how teachers can get rid of their literary elitism and support students and their families.
43. Why Race and Culture Matter in Schools: Closing the Achievement Gap in America’s Classrooms by Tyrone C. Howard “Important reading for anyone who is genuinely committed to promoting educational equity and excellence for all children, this accessible book outlines the changing racial, ethnic, and cultural demographics in U.S. schools and calls for educators to pay serious attention to how race and culture play out in school settings.” -Amazon
44. Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta Hammond Uses neuroscience and non-judgemental language to explain why certain methods won’t help our at risk students, and suggests ways to engage.
45. Variations on a Blue Guitar: The Lincoln Center Institute Lectures on Aesthetic Education by Maxine Greene A case for the importance of the humanities in every person’s education.
46. Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls In Schools by Monique W. Morris “Fifteen-year-old Diamond stopped going to school the day she was expelled for lashing out at peers who constantly harassed and teased her for something everyone on the staff had missed: she was being trafficked for sex. After months on the run, she was arrested and sent to a detention center for violating a court order to attend school.” -Amazon
47. The Language of Learning: Teaching Students Thinking, Listening, and Speaking Skills by Margaret Berry Wilson– This is one of the most impactful educational books I have ever read. It teaches students how to argue. In an age where all facts are carried around in our back pockets, the educational emphasis is shifting, and being able to reason through, question, and defend our thoughts without offense or vitriol is a skill that our students need.
48. Good Thinking: Teaching Argument, Persuasion, and Reasoning by Erik Palmer Lessons for explicitly teaching the critical skill of arguing with evidence and reasoning, angled toward older students.
49. The Way They Learn: How to Discover and Teach To Your Child’s Strengths by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias Information about different learning styles and ways to apply that information when teaching young people.
50. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck An explanation and celebration of the growth mindset- the idea that all of us have the capability to improve.
51. Growth Mindset Coach: A Teacher’s Month-to-Month Handbook for Empowering Students to Achieve by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley Practical and actionable, this handbook helps teachers lead their classes following a empowering growth mindset model.
52. Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by JoAnn Deak Ph. D. and Sarah Ackerley A picture book that explains growth mindset to elementary students.
53. Teach Like A Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Creativity, and Transform Your Life As An Educator by Dave Burgess Encourages passion and excitement about the craft of teaching, and includes hooks and brainstorming questions to get you started.
54. See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers by Roxanna Elden Tips, checklists, anecdotes and encouragement.
55. I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything For Our Kids by Kyle Schwartz One teacher asked her students to finish the sentence, and the resulting book guides teachers in building a classroom community based on trust and understanding.
56. My Teacher is a Monster! by Peter Brown A paper-airplane enthusiast of a student heads to the one place he can get some peace from his shouting teacher and is horrified to find out teachers spend Saturdays at the park, too.
57. Miss Nelson is Missing by James Marshall A classic about a rowdy class who push their sweet teacher too far and wind up with the worst substitute ever.
58. Substitute Creature Chris Gall A sweet story about a misunderstood substitute teacher.
59. Because I Had a Teacher by Kobi Yamada and Natalie Russell
This heartwarming book is a thank you gift for great teachers everywhere. Perfect for National Teacher Day, Teacher Appreciation Week, the end of the school year, or just because.” -Amazon
60. Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco A classic story about a little girl who struggles with dyslexia and her amazing teacher.
61. Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland A cool teacher with a magical storybook that only she can control!
62. Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! by Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelutsky, and Lane Smith Diffendoofer School is full of interesting students and excellent teachers. When a standardized test threatens to dampen their love of learning, the entire school learns to trust their brains and rely on what they already know.
63. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes Lilly LOVES her teacher- until he takes away her favorite (and distracting) purple plastic purse. How will their student-teacher relationship survive the angry letter she leaves for Mr. Slinger?
64. Freedom School, Yes! By Amy Littlesugar and Floyd Cooper A brave girl deals with hateful backlash when her mother offers to take in a young white teacher who has come to teach in the community.
65. Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beatty and David Roberts Iggy loves to build, but his second grade teacher has a personal vendetta against all forms of architecture, until Iggy’s skills save the day.
66. Don’t Say Ain’t by Irene Smalls This story follows a young girl named Dana who struggles to balance her home language and school language when she attends a white school. Set in 1957, the message is still relevant today.
67. My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville A classic about a young girl who catches her substitute teacher peeling off his face.
68. Jamaica and the Substitute Teacher by Juanita Hall and Anne Sibley O’Brien A story about a substitute teacher who quickly wins her students’ hearts.
69. Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery Reading about Anne’s ups and downs in her first year of teaching has always been comforting to me after a long day in the classroom.
70. Matilda by Roald Dahl Miss. Honey is the teacher all of us wish we could be.
71. Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kauffman A high school epistolary novel about an idealistic teacher clashing with bureaucratic administration.
72. Gabi, A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero Ms. Abernard and her amazing zine project are only one terrific part of this masterpiece.
73. My Great Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston and Susan Condie Lamb Arizona dreams of seeing the world, but ends up teaching for years in a one-room schoolhouse, achieving her goals through the lives of the students she inspires.
74. Lailah’s Lunchbox by Reem Faruqi and Lea Lyon A story about a young girl fasting during Ramadan and her relationship with her teacher and the school librarian as she shares her culture with her class.
75. My Teacher’s Secret Life by Stephen Krensky A sweet book about the age old question: what do teachers do when they’re not at school?
76. A Letter to my Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson This darling book written in the form of a thank you note from a student to a teacher celebrates the difference a good teacher can make.
77. My Teacher by James Ransome A lovely look at an urban classroom run by a teacher who was a student there herself.
78. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea A rookie teacher and seven kids entering fifth grade make a big impression on each other.
79. The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen Year Old Boy With Autism by Naoki Higashida, translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell A memoir by a non-verbal teenage boy, eloquently explaining how he relates to the world. .
80. Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire by Rafe Esquith This teaching memoir has gotten a lot of attention. There is some heavy criticism of a condescending tone and unrealistic circumstances (being at school from 6:30 to well past dinner, going into deep credit card debt to fund field trips), but I’ve heard many teachers say they can look around the Esquith’s ego and find inspiration in the way he brings high interest experiences into the classroom.
81. I Am A Pencil: A Teacher, His Kids, and Their World of Stories by Sam Swope A professional children’s author spends three years with a third grade class, teaching them to write poems and stories.
82. Ms. Moffett’s First Year: Becoming A Teacher in America by Abby Goodnough Expanded from a series of articles in the New York Times, this book follows a career-changer through her first year in a first grade classroom.
83. Why Do Only White People Get Abducted By Aliens?: Teaching Lessons from the Bronx by Ilana Garon Not a “hero teacher” memoir.
84. Bridge to Brilliance: How One Principal in a Tough Community is Inspiring the World by Nadia Lopez The story of the principal who rocketed to fame after her student named her as the person who most inspired him on the website Humans of New York.
85. The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons From America From a Small School in Harlem by Deborah Meier A look at radical school reform in an inner city setting.
86. See You When We Get There: Teaching for Change in Urban Schools by Gregory Michie This book follows five young teachers of color as they share classroom experiences and anecdotes with analysis provided.
87. Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity by Beverly Daniel Tatum “Here, Tatum asserts that we do not know how to talk about our racial differences. Using real-life examples and research, she presents evidence that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about facilitating communication across racial and ethnic divides.” -Goodreads
88. The Skin We Speak by Lisa Delpit A look into different variations of the English language, emphasizing the importance of developing language by first respecting students’ existing speech patterns. (AOC)
89. Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academic by Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. Gonzalez & Angela P. Harris “Through personal narratives and qualitative empirical studies, more than 40 authors expose the daunting challenges faced by academic women of color as they navigate the often hostile terrain of higher education, including hiring, promotion, tenure, and relations with students, colleagues, and administrators.” -Goodreads
90. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown While not specifically for teachers, this powerful book will help teachers drop their armor and connect in their classrooms.
91. Unshakeable: 20 Ways To Enjoy Teaching Everyday…No Matter What by Angela Watson 20 actionable tips to help teachers thrive at work without making any life-altering changes.
92. The Happy Teacher Habits: 11 Habits of the Happiest, Most Effective Teachers on Earth by Michael Linsin Equally valuable for new teachers or veterans trying to avoid burnout, this book draws information from all over the professional world to help teachers implement healthy habits in their work lives.
93. Lift Off: From the Classroom to the Stars by Donovan Livingston This is a transcription of the Harvard Graduate School of Education convocation speech that went viral in 2015, called inspiring and powerful by the likes of Justin Timberlake and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
94. Start Where You Are, But Don’t Stay There: Understanding Diversity, Opportunity Gaps, and Teaching in Today’s Classrooms by H. Richard Milner IV A look at the mindsets and best practices of teachers who are able to acknowledge and plan for cultural differences in their classrooms.
95. Teacher Life: A Snarky Chalkboard Coloring Book by Papeterie Bleu The adult coloring book craze extends to exhausted, sarcastic teachers.
96. Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get on the Mat, Love Your Body by Jessamyn Stanley Teachers of every shape and size need some serious relaxation, and Every Body Yoga is a great starting point.
97. A Moment for Teachers: Self-Care for Busy Teachers by Alice Langholt Each page is one exercise that can take place in 30 seconds, relieving tension and bringing peace.
98. The Inspired Teacher: Zen Advice for the Happy Teacher by Donna Quesada A teacher memoir about fighting burnout with an emphasis on Eastern teaching.
99. Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom by Patricia A. Jennings A guide for helping teachers monitor and adjust the emotional reactivity of their classroom.
100. Teach, Breathe, Learn: Mindfulness in and out of the Classroom by Meena Srinivasan This three-part work explores mindfulness in the lives of adults,bringing mindfulness into professional lives, and explicitly teaching these skills to students.