Holiday Reading List

Looking for impactful holiday reading, or for gift ideas for your favorite educator?  We asked our faculty for titles that they would recommend to aspiring and/or practicing educators in our programs. Here's what they came up with.

Kristen Downey, our Associate Director for Teacher Education, recommends:

Embedded Formative Assessment, by Dylan Wiliam
“I have an intellectual crush on Dylan Wiliam, and after you read this book, I know you will, too. Formative assessment is a cornerstone of high-level teacher practice. If you need more strategies and information about how to have a ‘finger on the pulse’ of a lesson, Wiliam is your guy.”

Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents, by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare
“Why isn’t Betty Lou writing down her homework?!” “Why won’t Johnny bring a pen to class?!” “Why won’t my students think ahead?!” These questions (lamentations) are familiar refrains for teachers and parents. The skills humans need to plan, organize ourselves, manage our time, remember things, and think about our own thinking are high-level cognitive functions called executive skills—and they’re not natural. The authors of Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents argue for the importance of students understanding these skills, having opportunities to practice these skills, and getting feedback on these skills (like other academic outcomes).

Nan Parsons, Associate Director for School Leadership, recommends:

Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality, by Jeannie Oakes
“A classic book on tracking in public high schools. And its contribution to educational inequality. Ms. Oakes demonstrates that tracking allows us to place blame on families, communities, cultures, and even the children themselves rather than looking closely at the systems in place in schools. She makes the connection between poverty, race, and ethnicity and the over-representation of these students in tracks identifying as low ability. She concludes that tracking serves to widen student differences and challenges rather than reduce those differences and challenges.”

A More Beautiful Question, by Warren Berger
Children are curious beings, and as we grow, this curiosity is often no longer a central feature of our personalities. In schools that focus on learning through inquiry, students continue to demonstrate a curious mindset providing deeper levels of learning. This mindset then transfers to the workplace in the areas of change, innovation, and problem-solving. Berger contends that questions must now be more qualitative (what if we...?) rather than quantitative (How quickly can we...?)

Adjunct Faculty Coach, Greg Renner recommends:

A Framework for Understanding Poverty, by Ruby K. Payne, PhD
“Many of our students are growing up in generational poverty. This book will help you understand the unique social and behavioral norms that shape their attitude towards education, and will provide insight into how we might address their needs.”

Science Matters, by Robert M. Hazen and James Trefil
“A wonderful book, written for the general public, that provides the important science content that all citizens should know in order to better understand our natural world. The author stresses that basic scientific literacy is necessary for both personal and societal decision making in an ever more complex world community.”

Our Executive Director, Page Tompkins, recommends:

Finnish Lessons, by Pasi Sahlberg
“Finland’s approach to education stands in stark contrast to many of the policy choices we’ve made in the United States. I find this book by turns inspiring (because it reminds me what is possible) and depressing (because as a system we are a long way from creating this type of policy architecture). I take heart from Sahlberg’s argument that this revered education system is also still a work in progress (they need to improve their induction approach, for example). Mostly, though, it is a reminder to me that capacity building is the key to the education system we want.”

Learning to Improve, Anthony Bryk, Louis Gomez, Alicia Grunow, & Paul LeMahieu
“The field of education is afflicted with the ‘magic wand’ idea of improvement. Time and time again we fall prey to the idea that the next great innovation will revolutionize and resolve everything. This book pushes our thinking away from that notion, reminding us that improvement is a function of ongoing, systematic, iterative improvements that come from collective continuous learning and adaptation. If we want our current set of innovations (personalized learning, standards based assessment, project based learning, etc.) to have a lasting impact, we would do well to read this book carefully.”

Graduate Studies Coordinator, Chris Ward, recommends:

Children’s Mathematics, by Carpenter, Fennema, Franke, Levi, & Empson
“This book is based on the premise that all mathematics instruction should be grounded in a keen understanding of children’s mathematical thinking and problem solving. Cognitively Guided Instruction illuminates readers to how children naturally think about numbers and computation, and provides guidance for teachers to develop children’s sophisticated understandings of mathematical concepts and problems. I have come back to this book year after year to guide my work with elementary teachers!”

Designing Groupwork, by Elizabeth G. Cohen
“With collaboration and communication being crucial 21st century skills, this book, which focuses on understanding how productive groups work together and how to design effective group work, is timely, even though it was written more than 30 years ago! What I appreciate about Cohen’s approach is her attention to both the academic and social aspects of cooperation and her engagement with the dilemmas of group work.”

Becky Wipfler, Elementary Education Coordinator, recommends:

Overcoming Dyslexia, by Sally Shaywitz M.D.
“Dyslexia affects 1 in 5 students and is often a "hidden" disability. This book outlines research and strategies to build understanding of dyslexia.”

Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency, by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell
“This is a comprehensive literacy resource for beginning (and experienced!) teachers. A good place to start with Fountas and Pinnell texts.”

This list was compiled by Marie McCormick, UVEI’s Program Associate and Librarian

Marie’s other blog posts can be found at: