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Our favorite books for educators in 2023, the ggsc's education team picks the most thought-provoking, practical, and inspirational education books of the year..
For this year’s collection of our favorite education books, we’ve included a little something for everyone—including kids!—and they all center on one theme: hope. Navigating an antiquated educational system in a world that seems to thrive on stress and turmoil can lead to a feeling of helplessness. But we all know that educators are anything but helpless!
Sometimes, though, we need a little shoring up of our sense of agency, and that’s what these books do. If you feel like your imagination has taken a permanent hiatus—you just can’t bring yourself to think of another creative way to teach long division or save the world—look no further. If your students are having a hard time imagining how they can change the world, presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman has written a book just for them. For students and teachers who don’t need help imagining a cleaner, healthier world, but need a little guidance on how to start tackling climate change, social-emotional learning (SEL) expert Tom Roderick offers some ideas. But, if in all this changing and saving the world, you feel like you and your students need to decompress and remember the joy of learning, we’ve got you covered. And, for school leaders who aspire to create the space for all this beautiful transformation to take place (but, really, on certain days, only want to crawl under your desks), there is a book just for you…finally.
We wish you a peaceful end to 2023—and hope you take time to breathe and imagine new possibilities!
The Polyvagal Path to Joyful Learning: Transforming Classrooms One Nervous System at a Time , by Debra Em Wilson
Why is everyone talking about the vagus nerve these days? This wandering bundle of fibers connects the brain and the body, sending safety-and-danger signals to us throughout the day. Because it plays a starring role in our bodies’ involuntary functions (like our heart rate, breath, and digestion), it’s worthy of our curiosity as educators.
Debra Em Wilson’s book, The Polyvagal Path to Joyful Learning , provides a biological framework for understanding, monitoring, and responding to the diverse array of individual nervous systems in your classroom—including your own. Wilson’s practical anecdotes, metaphors, diagrams, and accessible writing make her guide highly readable and relevant. If you strive to be a trauma-sensitive practitioner, and you believe in the power of relationships in the classroom, this book will reaffirm your vision and sense of agency.
Drawing on Stephen Porges’s groundbreaking polyvagal theory and Deb Dana’s theory-practice translation work for clinicians , Wilson represents the primary autonomic nervous system responses as a three-runged ladder: from the immobilizing dorsal vagal response (associated with helpless and hopeless feelings) to the mobilizing sympathetic state (linked to both fear and aggression) to the optimal sense of safety, calm, and eager engagement we experience at the top of the ladder through the ventral vagal response.
Three insights emerged for me while reading about nervous system function and our capacity for learning. First, polyvagal theory emphasizes co-regulation (regulating emotions with others) before self-regulation (or self-management), one of the core social-emotional learning capacities. Wilson highlights healthy, adaptive ways that we can “borrow and lend” our regulated nervous systems through structured academic play, movement, and stillness, for example.
Second, our capacity for resilience isn’t an all-or-nothing game largely dependent on the number of adverse childhood experiences we’ve had. It’s an open-ended, growth process of “befriending and retuning” the nervous system as we recognize our bodily states and draw on our ventral response resources through calming “safety rest stops” and ongoing repair of day-to-day “misses” or “ruptures” with one another.
Finally, this approach expands the notion of the mind-body connection to a dynamic “mind-body-world” exchange where things like tone of voice, a soft gaze, a friendly gesture, and an open posture can make us feel safer, more joyful, more motivated, and engaged in learning and growing together. —Amy L. Eva
Something, Someday , with words by Amanda Gorman and pictures by Christian Robinson
There is much that is hard in this world. An ever-worsening climate crisis , increased poverty and homelessness, violent wars …all problems that feel too big to fix, especially for young children. This beautifully illustrated picture book by presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman reminds children (and all of us, really) that we do have the ability to make a difference . It offers up hope that when we come together, and build upon small acts of kindness , we can find beauty and create change in the world.
This book touches on themes that Greater Good has focused on this year: having the courage to take action when things feel hard or scary; the experience of awe that comes from collective effervescence (the feeling that arises when we work with others toward a common goal); approaching the world with openness, wonder , and curiosity ; and, lastly, the importance of community, connection, and compassion for those around us. —Mariah Flynn
Teach for Climate Justice: A Vision for Transforming Education , by Tom Roderick
After leading the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility for 36 years with a commitment to furthering research-based programs in SEL, restorative practices, and racial equity, progressive educator and trailblazer Tom Roderick turns his focus to the struggle for climate justice. He argues that the “primary purpose of education at this turning point in history must be to nurture a generation of courageous, intelligent, and wise non-violent fighters for climate justice.”
His vision incorporates the work of outstanding educators who are attuned to their students’ needs and the needs of humanity during this time of environmental crisis, with the wisdom of luminaries such as Martin Luther King Jr., Joanna Macy, Parker J. Palmer, and many others who have led the way toward peace and justice for all.
A central theme of his book is that we must take the cares and concerns of our young people seriously. As climate activist Greta Thunberg has said, her generation is grieving over the threat to their future and is enraged at adults for “standing by while the house burns.” Teach for Climate Justice is a call to action—“an urgent plea for educators everywhere to rise up and demand the time and resources needed to express our caring by addressing our students’ true needs…[and] transform the dominant mind-set that sees our fragile environment as a field for unlimited exploitation into one based on humility and respectful reciprocity.”
What Roderick has learned in his long career advocating for racial equity and social responsibility provides a framework for this transformation. Each chapter describes one of eight dimensions for creating and sustaining environments where students understand the power of civil resistance, the ability to think intelligently about solutions to pressing needs, and the importance of caring for one another along the way. It is both an inspirational manifesto and a clear set of developmentally appropriate teaching strategies, examples of best practices, and links to resources for the classroom and school.
Although concern for the climate crisis may lead to anxiety, fear, and anger, Teach for Climate Justice describes a way forward where love, joy, and hope animate the work and provide inspiration and motivation to manifest a just and sustainable future for all. —Margaret Golden
Learning to Imagine: The Science of Discovering New Possibilities , by Andrew Shtulman
There is a misconception in popular culture that we become less imaginative as we get older, and that our capacity for imagination declines over our lifespan. In Learning to Imagine , cognitive scientist Andrew Shtulman argues the opposite: All that we learn through our lives serves to enhance our capacity to be imaginative. Knowledge actually powers imagination, and, as we live, learn, and reflect, we continue to grow our capacities to imagine throughout our lives.
Shtulman explores how, contrary to popular belief, children are not the most imaginative among us. Through a deep dive of research, the book illustrates how children’s capacities for imagination are actually fostered through education, not in spite of it; in fact, it takes care, learning, and support to nurture children’s imagination.
Replete with research across cognitive development, psychology, and education, the book is an inspiring and empowering nudge to nurture our knowledge banks to open up more possibilities, and affirms the importance of education in all its forms, from traditional pre-K–12 to Montessori, from unschooling to self-directed learning and higher education.
“Let’s stop thinking of imagination as a limited resource, found only in the minds of young children, and start thinking of it as it really is: a nascent capacity shared by all and expandable by all through learning and reflection.” —Lauren Lee
Emotional Intelligence for School Leaders , by Janet Patti and Robin Stern
When I left my position as a burned-out school leader, I embarked on a healing journey, determined to figure out what had happened. So much of what I’ve learned along the way—from my doctoral studies to my work at Greater Good—is encapsulated in Janet Patti and Robin Stern’s Emotional Intelligence for School Leaders . As school leaders, we can have the best of intentions to do right by our students and staff, but navigating the challenges of a flailing educational system and the unmet needs of so many people— without taking any of it personally —requires a skill set not taught in most principal training programs. Patti and Stern have done a great service to the field with this book. Not only do they acknowledge and empathize with the almost impossible job of a school leader (Patti herself tells some harrowing stories from her time as a leader), they also offer solace and hope and actual tools that leaders can start using today. Half the battle, they argue, is convincing policymakers and others that these skills are a vital necessity if schools are to succeed.
“Many believe that the purpose of school is to solely support and develop academic achievement,” they write, “Further, it’s not widely understood that an emotionally intelligent focus in a supportive environment begets high achievement. And the lack of time is always a culprit, especially in view of the ongoing pressure to achieve.” For school leaders who want to improve their emotional intelligence, growing one’s self-awareness is the first step. Patti and Stern urge leaders to do the inner work: School leaders need to develop the “capacity to tune into your feelings, sense inner signals, understand what you are feeling, and recognize how your emotions impact your ability to focus, make decisions, and maintain relationships.” From there, they offer concrete self-management and relationship skills, along with stories from the field and reflection questions for those who aren’t sure where to begin. Overall, this book should be required reading (and using!) for all pre- and in-service school leaders because “the practice of creating joy for yourself and others is uplifting for a school climate and serves as a protective factor for both self and others.” —Vicki Zakrzewski
New Course for Educators
Courage in Education: Facing Challenges with Strength, Determination, and Hope
About the Authors
Amy L. Eva, Ph.D. , is the associate education director at the Greater Good Science Center. As an educational psychologist and teacher educator with over 25 years in classrooms, she currently writes, presents, and leads online courses focused on student and educator well-being, mindfulness, and courage. Her new book, Surviving Teacher Burnout: A Weekly Guide To Build Resilience, Deal with Emotional Exhaustion, and Stay Inspired in the Classroom, features 52 simple, low-lift strategies for enhancing educators’ social and emotional well-being.
Mariah Flynn is the Education Program Coordinator for the Greater Good Science Center.
Margaret Golden, Ed.D. , is the education community manager at the Greater Good Science Center. She is the coauthor of Teach Our Children Well: Essential Strategies for the Urban Classroom and editor of Teaching and Learning from the Inside Out: Revitalizing Ourselves and Our Institutions .
Lauren Lee is the education marketing and partnerships manager at the Greater Good Science Center. Passionate about character education and social-emotional learning, she supports the education team in promoting kinder, happier places to live and learn.
Vicki Zakrzewski, Ph.D. , is the education director of the Greater Good Science Center.
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9 New Books We Recommend This Week
Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times.
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Our recommended books this week run the gamut from a behind-the-scenes look at the classic film “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to a portrait of suburbia in decline to a collection of presidential love letters with the amazing title “Are You Prepared for the Storm of Love Making?” (That question comes from a mash note written by Woodrow Wilson.) In fiction, we recommend debuts from DéLana R.A. Dameron, Alexander Sammartino and Rebecca K Reilly, alongside new novels by Cormac James, Ashley Elston and Kristin Hannah. Happy reading. — Gregory Cowles
COCKTAILS WITH GEORGE AND MARTHA: Movies, Marriage and the Making of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Philip Gefter
Rarely seen diary entries from the screenwriter who adapted Edward Albee’s Broadway hit are a highlight of this unapologetically obsessive behind-the-scenes look at the classic film starring the super-couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
“Showed how the ‘cartoon versions of marriage’ long served up by American popular culture ... always came with a secret side of bitters.”
From Alexandra Jacobs’s review
Bloomsbury | $32
TRONDHEIM Cormac James
James’s new novel is a deep dive into a family navigating a crisis. It follows two mothers waiting in the I.C.U. to see if their son will wake up from a coma, and through that framework, explores their lives, their relationship, their beliefs and much more.
“Hospital time has a particular and peculiar quality, and ‘Trondheim’ is dedicated to capturing the way it unfolds.”
From Katie Kitamura’s review
Bellevue Literary Press | Paperback, $17.99
REDWOOD COURT DéLana R.A. Dameron
This richly textured and deeply moving debut novel begins with an innocuous question: “What am I made of?” From there, a young Black girl in South Carolina begins to grapple with — and attempt to make sense of — a complicated family history and her place in it.
“Dameron is a prizewinning poet and it shows: She does a beautiful job weaving in local vernacular and casting a fresh gaze on an engaging, though flawed, cast of characters.”
From Charmaine Wilkerson’s review
Dial Press | $28
LAST ACTS Alexander Sammartino
In this hilarious debut, a young man moves in with his father after a near-fatal overdose and decides to help save the family business, a Phoenix gun shop facing foreclosure. Their idea is to pledge a cut of every sale to fighting drug addiction, but they soon find themselves mired in controversy.
“Sammartino is extraordinarily good at balancing the farcical nature of contemporary America with the complex humanity of his characters. He’s also a magnificent sentence writer.”
From Dan Chaon’s review
Scribner | $27
DISILLUSIONED: Five Families and the Unraveling of America’s Suburbs Benjamin Herold
Once defined by big homes, great schools and low taxes, the country’s suburbs, Herold shows in this dispiriting but insightful account, were poorly planned and are now saddled with poverty, struggling schools, dilapidated infrastructure and piles of debt.
“An important, cleareyed account of suburban boom and bust, and the challenges facing the country today.”
From Ben Austen’s review
Penguin Press | $32
ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE STORM OF LOVE MAKING? Letters of Love and Lust From the White House Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
This charming collection features presidents from Washington to Obama writing about courtship, marriage, war, diplomacy, love, lust and loss, in winningly besotted tones.
“Answers the question ‘What does a president in love sound like?’ with a refreshing ‘Just as dopey as anybody else.’ ... It is a lovely book, stuffed with romantic details.”
From W.M. Akers’s review
Simon & Schuster | $28.99
GRETA & VALDIN Rebecca K Reilly
Reilly’s generous, tender debut novel follows the exploits of two queer New Zealand 20-something siblings from a hodgepodge, multicultural family as they navigate the chaos of young adulthood, and as they come closer to understanding themselves and their desires.
“If this novel shows us anything, it’s that love — of family, of romantic partners, of community — is most joyful when it’s without limits.”
From Eleanor Dunn’s review
Avid Reader Press | $28
THE WOMEN Kristin Hannah
In her latest historical novel, Hannah shows the Vietnam War through the eyes of a combat nurse. But what the former debutante witnesses and experiences when she comes home from the war is the true gut punch of this timely story.
“The familiar beats snare you from the outset. ... Hannah’s real superpower is her ability to hook you along from catastrophe to catastrophe, sometimes peering between your fingers, because you simply cannot give up on her characters.”
From Beatriz Williams’s review
St. Martin’s | $27
FIRST LIE WINS Ashley Elston
In Elston’s edgy, smart thriller, Evie Porter has just moved in with her boyfriend, a hunky Louisiana businessman. Sadly for him, their relationship is likely to be short-lived, because she’s a criminal and he’s her latest mark.
“Evie makes for a winning, nimble character. Elston raises the stakes with unexpected developments.”
From Sarah Lyall’s thrillers column
Pamela Dorman Books | $28
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Best New Books Coming March 2024 for Kids, Teens, and Teachers
Lots of new picks for National Reading Month.
March is National Reading Month , which makes it the perfect time to check out all the new reads available for the classroom and beyond! Here are the new books for March 2024 that we’re most excited to get our hands on.
New Fiction Picture Books March 2024
March 2024 chapter books/easy readers, new middle grade fiction books march 2024, march 2024 new young adult fiction books, best new graphic novels for all ages in march 2024, march 2024 new nonfiction books for all ages, new books for teachers in march 2024, all that grows by jack wong.
It won’t be long before winter finally gives way to spring, bringing new growth to the world. This new picture book explores the connection between plant growth and human growth as two siblings tend a garden together, learning from each other.
Buy it: All That Grows at Amazon
Everyone Gets a Turn by Marianne Dubuc
Four animal friends find an egg, and since they all want to take care of it, they decide to pool their talents and share in caring for the little bird that soon hatches. It turns out, though, that the little bird has a message of her own to share!
Buy it: Everyone Gets a Turn at Amazon
Miss MacDonald Has a Farm by Kalee Gwarjanski, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic
Women can be farmers too! In this fun twist on the classic song, Miss MacDonald teaches kids how to tend crops, “with a water-water here” and a “weed-weed there.” It’s a clever take on an old favorite, one that helps kids make connections between the food they eat and the people who grow it all.
Buy it: Miss MacDonald Has a Farm at Amazon
Speck: An Itty-Bitty Epic by Margaux Meganck
Dive into a vivid undersea world, and follow the journey of a “speck” that starts in a tide pool. As the speck grows into a barnacle that makes its home on the side of a massive blue whale, it encounters challenges and awe-inspiring sights, both big and small.
Buy it: Speck: An Itty-Bitty Epic at Amazon
Spider in the Well by Jess Hannigan
When a town’s wishing well stops granting wishes, one boy peers inside to find a massive spider that seems to be keeping the coins (and wishes!) for itself. But the spider shares a secret with the boy: People were making selfish wishes. Together, the spider and the boy teach the scheming townsfolk a lesson in a hilarious new tale that will delight kids and adults alike.
Buy it: Spider in the Well at Amazon
Tiny Wonders by Sally Soweol Han
Young April wakes to a sad gray day, when everyone seems too busy to enjoy life. She remembers her grandmother telling her that dandelions always brightened her days. So April sets out to fill her town with dandelions, setting free the “tiny wonders” of seeds that bring sunshine to the whole community.
Buy it: Tiny Wonders at Amazon
Bunny and Clyde by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Scott Nash
Bunny and her chipmunk pal Clyde are tired of being good. They set off on a quest to be bad instead, unrepentantly making messes and plotting mischief. Much to their surprise, some of their pranks turn out to be helpful. They find that being bad is a whole lot more work than they expected!
Buy it: Bunny and Clyde at Amazon
Fox Versus Fox by Corey R. Tabor
The “I Can Read” books are a staple in many early elementary classrooms, and teachers will welcome this new addition to the collection. A red fox is determined to impress his new friend, the white fox, with his amazing skills on skateboards and more. The white fox is impressed, but it turns out he has plenty of skills of his own, and the whole tale escalates into a soaring finish.
Buy it: Fox Versus Fox at Amazon
Henry and the Something New by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song
In the third book about a young neurodivergent boy named Henry, his class prepares to visit the museum for the first time. Henry is both excited and nervous, and at first is too scared to speak up and ask his group to visit the dinosaurs. In the end, though, he finds his voice, and his group learns something new, just like their teacher asked them to do.
Buy it: Henry and the Something New at Amazon
Trim Saves the Day by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Kristy Caldwell
The Trim series follows an adventurous cat aboard a 19th-century sailing ship. In the latest chapter book, Trim wants to find a way to help out, but mostly winds up irritating his fellow shipmates. Finally, though, Trim is able to use his big voice to alert the crew to a catastrophe and save the day.
Buy it: Trim Saves the Day at Amazon
Ferris by Kate DiCamillo
Kate DiCamillo is back with an engaging new heroine, who just happens to have been born beneath the Ferris wheel at the fair. Follow Ferris through one eventful summer when she helps to banish a ghost, reform her mischievous sister, and reconcile her arguing aunt and uncle too.
Buy it: Ferris at Amazon
Kyra, Just for Today by Sara Zarr
Thirteen-year-old Kyra is in 7th grade, and suddenly everything is changing. As she deals with the ordinary challenges of puberty and growing up, she also worries that her mother, who has been in recovery from alcoholism for the past five years, might be falling into old habits. This is a must-read for any tween or teen whose family has been affected by addiction.
Buy it: Kyra, Just for Today at Amazon
The Luminous Life of Lucy Landry by Anna Rose Johnson
Set in Michigan in 1912, this book tells the story of Lucy, a French and Ojibwe girl who’s been adopted by an Ojibwe family after the loss of her parents. Her father died in a shipwreck, leading to Lucy’s fear of water, an inconvenient fact for a girl who must now make her home with lighthouse keepers. Dreamy Lucy has to find a way to make peace with her past, embrace her Ojibwe culture, and draw on her courage to overcome her fears.
Buy it: The Luminous Life of Lucy Landry at Amazon
Olivetti by Allie Millington
In this unique new offering, Olivetti is a typewriter who shares the narration of the story with Ernest, a 7th grader struggling to make sense of his family’s recent tragedy. Olivetti, it turns out, remembers every word ever typed on him. When he’s left in a pawn shop by Ernest’s mother Beatrice, Olivetti decides to break the “typewriterly code” and reach out to Ernest, sharing his typed memories. Together, they find the answers Ernest needs.
Buy it: Olivetti at Amazon
Sona and the Golden Beasts by Rajani LaRocca
In the land of Devia, the ruling Malechs outlawed music years ago to keep the native people from using their magic and communicating with animals. But Sona, a Malech, secretly hears music everywhere. When she sets off on a quest to help her beloved Ayah, she must embrace her powers and the help of friends and beasts she finds along the way. Ultimately, Sona learns to fight for what is right. This rich new world is perfect for fantasy fans.
Buy it: Sona and the Golden Beasts at Amazon
Warrior on the Mound by Sandra W. Headen
At a time when white and Black Little League teams were still segregated in North Carolina, 12-year-old Cato just wants to become a star pitcher, and dreams of meeting his hero, Satchel Paige. But when his Black team is accused of damaging the new (and far superior) field where the white team plays, it throws the whole town into an uproar. This sports-based historical-fiction novel has a deeper message to share about prejudice and tolerance, then and now.
Buy it: Warrior on the Mound at Amazon
Ariel Crashes a Train by Olivia A. Cole
Written in verse, this new YA novel addresses the realities of living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Teenager Ariel is on her own this summer, with her best friend away and sister off at college. She’s disturbed by her own intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, until her sister suggests OCD might be at play. Ariel wants therapy to find out more, but her parents aren’t supportive. Fortunately, a new group of friends helps support her as she learns more about herself and her condition.
Buy it: Ariel Crashes a Train at Amazon
The Hedgewitch of Foxhall by Anna Bright
Travel back to 8th century Wales and join a young “hedgewitch” estranged from her family. She sets out to walk the length of Offa’s Dyke, destroying it to return Wales’ disappearing magic. But two young princes have been challenged to do the same, in a contest to determine who will inherit the throne. The three are thrown together in a quest that includes romance, magic, danger, and a deep dive into Welsh mythology.
Buy it: The Hedgewitch of Foxhall at Amazon
Icarus by K. Ancrum
Seventeen-year-old Icarus is a high school senior by day, art thief by night. Per his father’s strict rules, he has no close friends, though he does have plenty of acquaintances. Then one night he meets an intriguing boy named Helios during a break-in. The two bond over their restricted lives, pursuing a dangerous relationship that both their fathers would end in an instant. Soon, Icarus must make a choice: his father’s world of art thievery and revenge, or a chance at happiness with Helios instead.
Buy it: Icarus at Amazon
The No-Girlfriend Rule by Christen Randall
When your boyfriend tells you that the one rule at his favorite role-playing game group is “no girlfriends allowed,” what’s an RPG lover like Hollis to do? Luckily, she finds a “girl-friendly, LGBTQIA+-friendly campaign” to join instead. With these new players, she explores a whole new world inside the game and out.
Buy it: The No-Girlfriend Rule at Amazon
Song of Freedom, Song of Dreams by Shari Green
As the Berlin Wall prepares to fall in late 1989, pianist Helena is focused more on her music. But as her life (and future career) becomes more constrained by the restrictive German Democratic Republic (GDR) government, Helena realizes she must join those who are speaking up and demanding change. As the GDR disintegrates, Helena’s story (written in verse) unfolds in ways she could never have imagined.
Buy it: Song of Freedom, Song of Dreams at Amazon
Next Stop by Debbie Fong
Middle schooler Pia recently lost her brother in an accident Pia believes is her fault. On a trip to Cesarine Lake with a family friend, she’s determined to visit the wacky attraction that supposedly makes “impossible things happen.” The trip itself helps Pia explore what happened to her brother and build resiliency in the face of tragedy. Will the magic of the lake work for Pia? This book leaves you feeling that anything is possible. (Grades 3-7)
Buy it: Next Stop at Amazon
Poetry Comics by Grant Snider
These illustrated poems on the changing seasons are perfect for classroom use in a poetry unit. The illustrations help bring the descriptive language and lyrical verses to life, making poetry a relatable topic for reluctant readers. (Grades 3-7)
Buy it: Poetry Comics at Amazon
The Circuit Graphic Novel by Francisco Jiménez, illustrated by Celia Jacobs
More than 25 years after the publishing of the original book, this graphic novel adaptation makes the popular memoir more accessible for younger readers. The story of a family of migrant farm works from Mexico will open many kids’ eyes to the challenges of itinerant life, as they read about a boy who just wants an education and somewhere to call home once and for all. (Grades 3-7)
Buy it: The Circuit Graphic Novel at Amazon
Blue Stars Mission One: The Vice Principal Problem by Kekla Magoon and Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Molly Murakami
Cousins Riley Halfmoon (Black and Indigenous) and Maya Dawn (biracial) move to Urbanopolis to live with their activist grandma after growing up in very different environments. When their school vice principal is determined to do away with programs they love in favor of more trailer classrooms for detention, the two must pair up to expose his plan and save what’s important to them both. (Grades 3-7)
Buy it: Blue Stars Mission One: The Vice Principal Problem at Amazon
The Baker and the Bard by Fern Haught
Juniper (the baker) and Hadley (the bard) set out on a journey to harvest the magical glowing mushrooms needed to fill a customer’s request. They discover that something has been creeping out of the forest at night to eat the farmers’ crops, and Hadley (always on the lookout for new stories) drags Juniper off to solve the mystery and rescue their new animal friends. (Grades 7-12)
Buy it: The Baker and the Bard at Amazon
The Gulf by Adam de Souza
High schooler Oli has always dreamed of living at the Evergreen commune on one of British Columbia’s Gulf Islands. She convinces two friends to run away with her, but the journey to the commune is more difficult than they expect. Will the Evergreen actually hold the answers the three are seeking, or will the journey itself prove more important? (Grades 9-12)
Buy it: The Gulf at Amazon
Safe Passage by G. Neri, illustrated by David Brame
Darius, his little sister Cissy, and his best friend Booger dash across South Side Chicago to find a wrecked armored truck rumored to have left cash floating in the streets. Crossing through these rough neighborhoods is dangerous, and when Booger documents their quest on social media, local gangs are suddenly on their tail as they try to find safe passage there and back again. (Grades 9-12)
Buy it: Safe Passage at Amazon
Comet Chaser by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger
Caroline Herschel’s older brother discovered Uranus (with Caroline’s help), but she was also an incredible scientist in her own right. She was the first paid female astronomer, hired by King George III no less. This book chronicles her incredible discoveries throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, bringing this inspiring female scientist to life for young readers. (Grades Pre-K to 3)
Buy it: Comet Chaser at Amazon
Something About the Sky by Rachel Carson, illustrated by Nikki McClure
Rachel Carson is well remembered for sparking the environmental movement. This informative picture book illustrates one of her previously unpublished essays, sharing details about the “ocean of sky” and the clouds that populate it. It’s a quiet, meditative look at the sky above, full of mysteries. (Grades 1-3)
Buy it: Something About the Sky at Amazon
This Book Is Full of Holes by Nora Nickum, illustrated by Robert Meganck
Black holes, ice holes, sinkholes, holes in the body of a guitar … find all of these and more in this clever nonfiction book about various kinds of holes. Full of fun humor and fascinating facts, it’s bound to make you look at holes in a whole new light. (Grades 1-4)
Buy it: This Book Is Full of Holes at Amazon
The Fastest Drummer by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Susanna Chapman
Drums are often one of the earliest instruments kids learn to play, and they’ll be captivated by the story of Viola Smith. As a young female musician in the 1930s, Viola grabbed the world’s attention by being the “fastest girl drummer in the world.” She drew attention to her cause, encouraging bands to hire female drummers during World War II, and continued to create catchy rhythms when she was more than 100 years old! (Grades 2-4)
Buy it: The Fastest Drummer at Amazon
My Antarctica by G. Neri, illustrated by Corban Wilkin
Join the author on a long-awaited journey to Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, where he meets charming penguins, mummified seals, and scientists engaged in groundbreaking work. The author’s photographs, enhanced by drawings and other images, make the frozen continent seem to leap off the page and into readers’ imaginations. (Grades 2-5)
Buy it: My Antarctica at Amazon
The Enigma Girls by Candace Fleming
Bletchley Park (known then as Station X) housed the critical code-cracking work that helped lead the Allies to victory in World War II. Among the brilliant code breakers were hundreds of young women, including the 10 teenagers profiled in this engaging book. Their compelling stories are sure to inspire awe of their courage, knowledge, and skills. (Grades 3-7)
Buy it: The Enigma Girls at Amazon
Exclusion and the Chinese American Story by Sarah-SoonLing Blackburn
The Chinese American story in the United States begins with the first documented arrival in 1834 of an unnamed teenage girl, imported to be displayed “like an animal in a circus.” It continues across the decades, with oppression and prejudice a regular fact of life. Explore the changing social attitudes and laws throughout the years with this thoughtful look at the Chinese American experience that’s ideal for middle grades. (Grades 5-8)
Buy it: Exclusion and the Chinese American Story at Amazon
Spying on Spies by Marissa Moss
Elizebeth Smith Friedman was one of the greatest code breakers of all time. Her important work was so vital to national security that much of it is still classified more than 40 years after her death, but the story of her life is fascinating. From her work intercepting coded messages from mobsters like Al Capone’s gang to breaking Nazi codes during World War II, the entire tale is an incredible look at an amazing woman. (Grades 5-9)
Buy it: Spying on Spies at Amazon
Future Tense by Martha Brockenbrough
Today’s teens will grow up in a world more influenced by artificial intelligence than ever before. That means it’s important for them to understand how AI works, along with its potential advantages and drawbacks. This book is written at a level middle and high schoolers can understand, making it an excellent addition to your nonfiction library shelves. (Grades 7-12)
Buy it: Future Tense at Amazon
An End to Inequality by Jonathan Kozol
Any educator dedicated to bringing more equality and equity to America’s education system will welcome this analysis of race-based challenges in our schools. While segregated schools are no longer legally acceptable, they continue to exist in practice, with a striking disparity in quality between them. Approach this read with an open mind, and you’re likely to find a lot to think about—and act upon.
Buy it: An End to Inequality at Amazon
Cultures of Growth by Mary C. Murphy
Many schools are working to build a “growth mindset” culture, but teachers often wonder if it’s really making a difference. This book, with a forward by growth mindset originator Carol Dweck, looks at the application of this mindset to adults and business teams. Tracking stories at companies like Microsoft and organizations like a New York school system, it explores the incredible changes that are possible when growth mindset is given a chance to work.
Buy it: Cultures of Growth at Amazon
Raising a Socially Successful Child by Dr. Stephen Nowicki
COVID-19 and increased screen time has had a marked effect on many children’s social skills. Dr. Nowicki aims to help reverse those negative effects, as well as prevent them from happening to future generations. Though this book is aimed toward parents, educators will find a lot here that’s useful too, especially in pre-K and elementary school classrooms.
Buy it: Raising a Socially Successful Child at Amazon
What new books coming in March 2024 are you most excited to add to your collection? Come join the conversation in the We Are Teachers HELPLINE group on Facebook to ask for more book recommendations.
Plus, read across america day activities to celebrate literacy ., you might also like.
Is the Milwaukee Public Library Account the Best Thing on Social Media?
Short answer: yes. Continue Reading
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Buncombe County Schools Board bans NYT bestselling book; which one?
ASHEVILLE – A trend sweeping school districts around the United States has found its way to the Buncombe County Board of Education: Book banning.
During its Feb. 8 meeting, the Buncombe County School Board unanimously voted to ban “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins from schools in the district. The 2009 New York Times bestselling novel about five teenagers who fell into prostitution will no longer be available to students at county schools.
The decision was the final piece of a multi-step process that started when a community member and three parents challenged 10 books at Enka High School in October 2023, according to a Jan. 5 memo to Superintendent Rob Jackson. Most of the books are award-winning or bestselling. BCS spokesperson Timothy Reaves told the Citizen Times Feb. 19 that the group recommended Enka High remove the following books:
- "Impulse" by Ellen Hopkins, published 2007;
- "Beloved" by Toni Morrison, published 1987;
- "Burned" by Ellen Hopkins, published 2006;
- "Doing It! Let's Talk About Sex" by Hannah Witton, published 2017;
- "Nineteen Minutes" by Jodi Picoult, published 2007;
- "Perfect" by Ellen Hopkins, published 2011;
- "Sold" by Patricia McCormick, published 2006;
- "Tricks" Ellen Hopkins;
- "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen, published 2006; and
- "Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Gregory McGuire, published 1995.
Enka High’s Media Technology Advisory Committee reviewed the books subject to the complaint, per school policy. Reaves told the Citizen Times that "Doing It! Let's Talk About Sex," "Nineteen Minutes" and "Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" were removed.
The Enka district MTAC team received a request to review four books that remained at Enka High: “Tricks,” “Perfect," “Sold” and “Water for Elephants." This committee moved to remove “Tricks,” pending board review, but chose to keep the remaining three titles.
“The book narrates teenagers’ various experiences with sex and sex trafficking. While the committee appreciates that sex trafficking is a relevant and timely issue, it felt that the book was not well-balanced in its portrayal of the topic,” the memo said about “Tricks.”
“The committee’s opinion is that the book normalizes, if not glorifies, unhealthy sexual behavior among teens. The overall tone of the book was extremely dark and disturbing, without a balanced emotional perspective. The book also includes an excessive amount of explicit content, leading us to question its appropriateness for high school readers, especially without guidance.”
The memo included passages from each of the books. Many of the passages that the Citizen Times reviewed included sexual content. At the end of the section for each respective book, there was a profanity tally. It is unclear what entity marked the passages or created the tally from the memo.
“’Tricks’ is simply filth in poetic form,” Enka High parent Kim Poteat told the school board during public comment. She was one of the four parents to stage the censorship effort. “What we put into our children’s minds matters. I hope and pray you will see our children deserve better materials than ‘Tricks’ in their school libraries.”
While the Board of Education was initially tasked with approving the ban for the Enka District, members of the board motioned so this book removal applies for all Buncombe schools.
School board member Amy Churchill noted her reservations about removing the book from the library.
“It’s a slippery slope to start banning books, especially when its being used for cultural wars and talking points, political moves, and being surfed from the internet what books to be against without reading said books,” she said. “I have a really hard time when we start talking away basically freedoms.
According to Pen America, there were 3,362 instances of book bans in the U.S. during the 2022-2023 school year, a 33% increase from the prior year.
A spokesperson for Asheville City Schools previously told the Citizen Times that the district does not have a banned book list.
More: Child sexual abuse lawsuit: Family sues Buncombe County Board of Education
More: Asheville schools adopts SB 49 policies; Board chair calls law 'misguided and obtuse'
More: Answer Woman: Are there any books banned in Asheville or Buncombe County schools?
Mitchell Black covers Buncombe County and health care for the Citizen Times. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MitchABlack. Please help support local journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.