Best Books for New Teachers (Part II)

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In our last ProfilesBest Books for New Teachers (Part I), we discussed the need for time-pressed teachers to know what books are worth reading. We gave suggestions focusing on instructional strategies and classroom management. 

This second part of our book recommendations focuses on books that help teachers learn about how to teach students to read and books on the big picture--international comparisons and efforts to improve education generally.

As the holiday season approaches, remember that books make great gifts for the current or aspiring teacher in your life!

Literacy Books:

Most of later education rests on the ability of students to read and write. Literacy is a skill that can be nurtured and developed through specialized teaching. Too many teachers assume their students will pick up reading naturally or that they can teach reading because they know how to read. But there is more to teaching reading than just reading to children. These books can help teachers work with struggling readers.

  • ABC Foundations for Young Children by Marilyn Adams - This research-based curriculum supplement includes 56 activity lessons that help pre-K and kindergarten teachers incorporate phonics into their teaching.
  • Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley - This book describes the results of a comparison of preschool children. Its most stunning finding is how by their 4th birthday, children in families on welfare had encountered 30 million fewer words in the home than had children in upper socioeconomic status homes. The children who heard more words in the home entered school better prepared (larger vocabularies, better reading ability, etc.), and that gap continued to widen throughout the school years. The study illustrated the importance of experiences before school and the need for smart, effective, early interventions with young, struggling readers.
  • Steps to Success: Crossing the Bridge Between Literacy Research and Practice by Kristen A. Munger - Unfortunately, our research has found that many textbooks used in reading courses in teacher prep do not adequately address the science of reading instruction. Fortunately, Dr. Munger at SUNY - Oneonta has provided an elegant solution: an open source textbook presenting research-proven practices that can guide students to literacy. It is freely available here.
  • Creating Literacy Instruction for All Students by Thomas Gunning - Not every textbook is inadequate. Gunning's text, which comprehensively addresses the science of early reading instruction, is the most popular good textbook we've identified in our work. The book has a special emphasis on helping struggling readers and English language learners.
  • Next STEPS in Literacy Instruction: Connecting Assessments to Effective Interventions by Susan Smartt and Deborah Glaser - This book helps teachers respond to the results of popular reading assessments with interventions targeted to student needs. The book includes activities that follow the ideas of the National Reading Panel based on scientific research--phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
  • The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades by Judith C. Hochman and Natalie Wexler - Based on research on best practices, this book shows how to teach writing, especially expository writing, at all grade levels through strategies and activities aimed at meeting specific student needs. The book's evidence-based instruction guides teachers on how to integrate writing into their existing curriculum by working on manageable chunks, starting with sentences and then moving onto more complex grammar as needed through deliberate practice.

General Education Books

Some useful books examine the big picture, discussing how to help students generally or how to reform the education system. Here are a few books we recommend:

  • Helping Children Succeed by Paul Tough - This volume asserts that the types of character vital to success cannot be taught through traditional instruction but only by creating environments that nurture these qualities and offset the disadvantages from poverty and adversity. This book is a practical handbook with suggestions for what adults can do to help these children.
  • How Children Succeed by Paul Tough - Tough claims that children's character--grit, self-control, and willingness to work hard--is more important to their future success than their raw intelligence. The book includes stories from research and contrasts the lives of rich and poor children.
  • The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner - Wagner lists seven essential survival skills American students need for their future in a globalized world and describes how to reinvent America's schools and the education profession to cultivate these skills and motivate students to close this gap.

Of course, these are just a few of the many excellent books on education that would be of interest to new teachers. What books have you found especially effective at supplementing the curriculum, deepening new teachers' understanding of students, and showing ways to incorporate research-proven practices into their classroom instruction? Please let us know what books you like and why by emailing