Top 15 Teacher Professional Development Books

As recommended by our readers!

I recently asked my Wife Teacher Mommy team and on Instagram, Facebook and my Wife Teacher Mommies Unite Facebook Group, which teacher professional development books they recommend. They came up with some AMAZING books! So I have compiled the list here, and on an Amazon shopping list for you! 

I love the diversity of the books that were suggested. They cover everything from pedagogy to grading to learning to better address the needs of students. I haven’t read a lot of these books yet (though my reading list has definitely grown!) so the descriptions are from the Amazon listings.

If you want to grab any of these books, I’ve made an Amazon shopping list for you here.

teacher reading stack of teacher professional development books

1. Know Better, Do Better Teaching the Foundations So Every Child Can Read by David Liben & Meredith Liben

It’s our goal that every child in every elementary school in America can read fluently by the end of second grade. This book explains how to make that happen – for all children in all classrooms.

Meredith and David Liben have spent decades transforming education, working as teachers, researchers, leaders, and founders of an alternative public elementary school in Harlem–the Family Academy. The Libens have been on the front lines of the reading wars since 1994, when the Family Academy’s first cohort of students failed the NYC end of year reading exam and they were confronted with the question: How can a school with plenty of resources, dedication to outstanding instruction, and support for social and emotional learning fail so spectacularly at teaching children how to read?

The answers are collected here in Know Better, Do Better: Teaching the Foundations So Every Child Can Read. The Libens have poured through the research, pedagogical movements, and deeply entrenched classroom myths to find the literacy practices and instructional materials that actually improve student learning outcomes. Through their work, the Family Academy reading scores rose to the highest of any non-gifted school in Harlem. The best of intentions aren’t enough to make children literate; educators have to know better so they can do better.

This book is written for anyone concerned about the poor reading results of America’s students, from teachers looking for real strategies to use in their classrooms to parents trying to be better advocates for their children.

2. Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy by Dr Gholdy Muhammad

In Cultivating Genius, Dr. Gholdy E. Muhammad presents a four-layered equity framework—one that is grounded in history and restores excellence in literacy education. This framework, which she names, Historically Responsive Literacy, was derived from the study of literacy development within 19th-century Black literacy societies. The framework is essential and universal for all students, especially youth of color, who traditionally have been marginalized in learning standards, school policies, and classroom practices. The equity framework will help educators teach and lead toward the following learning goals or pursuits: 

  • Identity Development—Helping youth to make sense of themselves and others
  • Skill Development— Developing proficiencies across the academic disciplines
  • Intellectual Development—Gaining knowledge and becoming smarter
  • Criticality—Learning and developing the ability to read texts (including print and social contexts) to understand power, equity, and anti-oppression

 When these four learning pursuits are taught together—through the Historically Responsive Literacy Framework, all students receive profound opportunities for personal, intellectual, and academic success. Muhammad provides probing, self-reflective questions for teachers, leaders, and teacher educators as well as sample culturally and historically responsive sample plans and text sets across grades and content areas. In this book, Muhammad presents practical approaches to cultivate the genius in students and within teachers.

3. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child 1st Edition by Donalyn Miller 

Donalyn Miller says she has yet to meet a child she couldn’t turn into a reader. No matter how far behind Miller’s students might be when they reach her 6th grade classroom, they end up reading an average of 40 to 50 books a year. Miller’s unconventional approach dispenses with drills and worksheets that make reading a chore. Instead, she helps students navigate the world of literature and gives them time to read books they pick out themselves. Her love of books and teaching is both infectious and inspiring. The book includes a dynamite list of recommended “kid lit” that helps parents and teachers find the books that students really like to read.

4. The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers Illustrated Edition by Jennifer Serravallo

With hit books that support strategic reading through conferring, small groups, and assessment, Jen Serravallo gets emails almost daily asking, “Isn’t there a book of the strategies themselves?” Now there is.

“Strategies make the often invisible work of reading actionable and visible,” Jen writes. In The Reading Strategies Book, she collects 300 strategies to share with readers in support of thirteen goals-everything from fluency to literary analysis. Each strategy is cross-linked to skills, genres, and Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to give you just-right teaching, just in time. With Jen’s help you’ll:

  • develop goals for every reader
  • give students step-by-step strategies for skilled reading
  • guide readers with prompts aligned to the strategies
  • adjust instruction to meet individual needs with Jen’s Teaching Tips
  • craft demonstrations and explanations with her Lesson Language
  • learn more with Hat Tips to the work of influential teacher-authors.

Whether you use readers workshop, Daily 5/CAFE, guided reading, balanced reading, a core reading program, whole-class novels, or any other approach, The Reading Strategies Book will complement and extend your teaching. Rely on it to plan and implement goal-directed, differentiated instruction for individuals, small groups, and whole classes.

“We offer strategies to readers to put the work in doable terms for those who are still practicing,” writes Jen Serravallo. “The goal is not that they can do the steps of the strategy but that they become more comfortable and competent with a new skill.” With The Reading Strategies Book, you’ll have ways to help your readers make progress every day.

5. Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14 by Chip Wood

Written with warmth and humor, Yardsticks offers clear descriptions of children’s development. This comprehensive, user-friendly reference helps teachers and administrators use knowledge of child development to shape classrooms and schools where all children can succeed.

For each age, this book includes:

  • Narrative description of developmental traits
  • Charts summarizing physical, social, language, and cognitive growth patterns
  • Suggestions for curricular areas: reading, writing, mathematics, and thematic units
  • Favorite books for different ages.

What’s new in the third edition:

  • A new, brief overview of issues in the development of bilingualism and biliteracy among Latino/Hispanic children
  • A new appendix on the “birthday cluster exercise” for applying the information in the book to working with a whole class of students
  • An updated list of recommended children’s books
  • An updated list of recommended resources for teachers and parents.

6. Go See the Principal: True Tales from the School Trenches by Gerry Brooks 

From an elementary school principal and popular YouTube personality, inspiration and humor for educators to tackle the challenges they face day-in and day-out

Gerry Brooks is an elementary school principal turned YouTube celebrity who entertains K-12 teachers, administrators, and parents across the country. He tells jokes with the kind of mocking humor that gets a laugh, yet can be safely shared in school. After all, even great schools have bad days — when lesson plans fall through, disgruntled parents complain, kids throw temper tantrums because they have to use the same spoon for their applesauce and mashed potatoes, and of course, dealing with…The Horror! The Horror!…dreaded assessments. Ranging from practical topics like social media use in the class­room and parent-teacher conferences to more lighthearted sections such as “Pickup and Dropoff: An Exercise in Humanity” and “School Supplies: Yes, We Really Need All That Stuff,” Go See the Principal offers comic relief, inspiration, and advice to those who need it the most.

7. Do You Know Enough About Me To Teach Me?: A Student’s Perspective By Stephen G. Peters 

Rarely do we go to the source for the answers. Mr. Peters believes that a lot of the answers in education can be found from the source: the students. This one-of-a-kind book is a compilation of 100 student interviews completed by Mr. Peters.

8. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum

The classic, bestselling book on the psychology of racism — now fully revised and updated

Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides. These topics have only become more urgent as the national conversation about race is increasingly acrimonious. This fully revised edition is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the dynamics of race in America.

9. For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education (Race, Education and Democracy) by Chris Emdin,

A New York Times Best Seller

Merging real stories with theory, research, and practice, a prominent scholar offers a new approach to teaching and learning for every stakeholder in urban education.

Drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America, award-winning educator Christopher Emdin offers a new lens on an approach to teaching and learning in urban schools. For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too is the much-needed antidote to traditional top-down pedagogy and promises to radically reframe the landscape of urban education for the better.

He begins by taking to task the perception of urban youth of color as unteachable, and he challenges educators to embrace and respect each student’s culture and to reimagine the classroom as a site where roles are reversed and students become the experts in their own learning.

Putting forth his theory of Reality Pedagogy, Emdin provides practical tools to unleash the brilliance and eagerness of youth and educators alike—both of whom have been typecast and stymied by outdated modes of thinking about urban education. With this fresh and engaging new pedagogical vision, Emdin demonstrates the importance of creating a family structure and building communities within the classroom, using culturally relevant strategies like hip-hop music and call-and-response, and connecting the experiences of urban youth to indigenous populations globally. Merging real stories with theory, research, and practice, Emdin demonstrates how by implementing the “Seven C’s” of reality pedagogy in their own classrooms, urban youth of color benefit from truly transformative education.

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too has been featured in MotherJones.com, Education Week, Weekend All Things Considered with Michel Martin, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, PBS NewsHour.com, Slate, The Washington Post, Scholastic Administrator Magazine, Essence Magazine, Salon, ColorLines, Ebony.com, Huffington Post Education

10. We Want To Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina Love 

Winner of the 2020 Society of Professors of Education Outstanding Book Award

Drawing on personal stories, research, and historical events, an esteemed educator offers a vision of educational justice inspired by the rebellious spirit and methods of abolitionists.

Drawing on her life’s work of teaching and researching in urban schools, Bettina Love persuasively argues that educators must teach students about racial violence, oppression, and how to make sustainable change in their communities through radical civic initiatives and movements. She argues that the US educational system is maintained by and profits from the suffering of children of color. Instead of trying to repair a flawed system, educational reformers offer survival tactics in the forms of test-taking skills, acronyms, grit labs, and character education, which Love calls the educational survival complex.

To dismantle the educational survival complex and to achieve educational freedom—not merely reform—teachers, parents, and community leaders must approach education with the imagination, determination, boldness, and urgency of an abolitionist. Following in the tradition of activists like Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, and Fannie Lou Hamer, We Want to Do More Than Survive introduces an alternative to traditional modes of educational reform and expands our ideas of civic engagement and intersectional justice.

11. “Just Give Him the Whale!”: 20 Ways to Use Fascinations, Areas of Expertise, and Strengths to Support Students with Autism by Patrick Schwarz and Paula Kluth

When learners with autism have deep, consuming fascinations—trains, triangles, basketballs, whales—teachers often wonder what to do. This concise, highly practical guidebook gives educators across grade levels a powerful new way to think about students’ “obsessions”: as positive teaching tools that calm, motivate, and improve learning.

Written by top autism experts and nationally renowned speakers Paula Kluth and Patrick Schwarz, this guide is brimming with easy tips and strategies for folding students’ special interests, strengths, and areas of expertise into classroom lessons and routines. Teachers will discover how making the most of fascinations can help their students

  • learn standards-based academic content
  • boost literacy learning and mathematics skills
  • develop social connections
  • expand communication skills
  • minimize anxiety
  • and much more

Just Give Him the Whale! is packed from start to finish with unforgettable stories based on the authors’ experience, firsthand perspectives from people with autism themselves, research-based recommendations that are easy to use right away, and sample forms teachers can adapt for use in their own classrooms. An enjoyable read with an eye-opening message, this short book will have a long-lasting impact on teachers’ understanding of autism—and on their students’ social and academic success.

12. Seven Myths about Education by Daisy Christodoulou, forward by ED Hirsch

In this controversial new book, Daisy Christodoulou offers a thought-provoking critique of educational orthodoxy. Drawing on her recent experience of teaching in challenging schools, she shows through a wide range of examples and case studies just how much classroom practice contradicts basic scientific principles. She examines seven widely-held beliefs which are holding back pupils and teachers:

  • Facts prevent understanding 
  • Teacher-led instruction is passive  
  • The 21st century fundamentally changes everything  
  • You can always just look it up  
  • We should teach transferable skills  
  • Projects and activities are the best way to learn  
  • Teaching knowledge is indoctrination. 

In each accessible and engaging chapter, Christodoulou sets out the theory of each myth, considers its practical implications and shows the worrying prevalence of such practice. Then, she explains exactly why it is a myth, with reference to the principles of modern cognitive science.  She builds a powerful case explaining how governments and educational organisations around the world have let down teachers and pupils by promoting and even mandating evidence-less theory and bad practice.

This blisteringly incisive and urgent text is essential reading for all teachers, teacher training students, policy makers, head teachers, researchers and academics around the world.

13. Teach Like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess

Based on Dave Burgess’s popular “Teach Like a PIRATE” seminars, this book offers inspiration, practical techniques, and innovative ideas that will help you to increase student engagement, boost your creativity, and transform your life as an educator. You’ll learn how to: • Tap into and dramatically increase your passion as a teacher • Develop outrageously engaging lessons that draw students in like a magnet • Establish rapport and a sense of camaraderie in your classroom • Transform your class into a life-changing experience for your students This groundbreaking inspirational manifesto contains over 30 hooks specially designed to captivate your class and 170 brainstorming questions that will skyrocket your creativity. Once you learn the Teach Like a PIRATE system, you’ll never look at your role as an educator the same again.

14. Play Like a PIRATE: Engage Students with Toys, Games, and Comics by Quinn Rollins

Serious learning can be seriously FUN! For some, school feels like a chore: boring, monotonous, necessary. But what if school were fun – for you and your students? What would life be like if you felt excited about your lessons? Better yet, what if your students actually looked forward to your class every day? Yes! School can be simultaneously fun and educational. In fact, as Quinn Rollins explains in Play Like a PIRATE, when your class is engaging and entertaining, students are more likely to remember what they’ve learned.Invite kids to use their imaginations and help them create meaningful connections with your content by making play part of the learning experience. Play Like a Pirate shows you how! You’ll learn: Why bringing passion to the classroom works – even if it isn’t related to your subject. Why action figures, Hot Wheels, LEGO, and other toys belong in your classroom. Why comic books and graphic novels aren’t “just for fun” How to use or create games that make content memorable all year long. In addition to insights that will help you remember why you became an educator in the first place, Play Like a Pirate includes practical strategies and QR code links to resources and templates that make it easy to integrate fun into your curriculum. Regardless of the grade level you teach, you’ll find inspiration and ideas that will help you engage your students in unforgettable ways.

15. The First School Days: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry Wong

A guide for teachers at any level shares ideas on classroom management and designing lessons for academic success.

*BONUS* Kelsey’s Top Recommendation: Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brene Brown

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Brené Brown has taught us what it means to dare greatly, rise strong, and brave the wilderness. Now, based on new research conducted with leaders, change makers, and culture shifters, she’s showing us how to put those ideas into practice so we can step up and lead.

Leadership is not about titles, status, and wielding power. A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.

When we dare to lead, we don’t pretend to have the right answers; we stay curious and ask the right questions. We don’t see power as finite and hoard it; we know that power becomes infinite when we share it with others. We don’t avoid difficult conversations and situations; we lean into vulnerability when it’s necessary to do good work.

But daring leadership in a culture defined by scarcity, fear, and uncertainty requires skill-building around traits that are deeply and uniquely human. The irony is that we’re choosing not to invest in developing the hearts and minds of leaders at the exact same time as we’re scrambling to figure out what we have to offer that machines and AI can’t do better and faster. What can we do better? Empathy, connection, and courage, to start.

Four-time #1 New York Times bestselling author Brené Brown has spent the past two decades studying the emotions and experiences that give meaning to our lives, and the past seven years working with transformative leaders and teams spanning the globe. She found that leaders in organizations ranging from small entrepreneurial startups and family-owned businesses to nonprofits, civic organizations, and Fortune 50 companies all ask the same question: 

How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture? 

In this new book, Brown uses research, stories, and examples to answer these questions in the no-BSstyle that millions of readers have come to expect and love.

Brown writes, “One of the most important findings of my career is that daring leadership is a collection of four skill sets that are 100 percent teachable, observable, and measurable. It’s learning and unlearning that requires brave work, tough conversations, and showing up with your whole heart. Easy? No. Because choosing courage over comfort is not always our default. Worth it? Always. We want to be brave with our lives and our work. It’s why we’re here.”

Whether you’ve read Daring Greatly and Rising Strong or you’re new to Brené Brown’s work, this book is for anyone who wants to step up and into brave leadership.

My reading list has definitely grown!  Thanks to everyone who gave recommendations for teacher professional development books! Did we miss any? Tell me in the comments.

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