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Books for Children

For young children, especially, it seems there's no shortage of books about school ... perhaps because learning is a universal childhood experiences. From the hundreds of books on the market, I've limited recommendations here to those I've personally used in the classroom with great success.

P.K. Hallinan's My First Day of School is a must read for the first day of school. Natasha Wing's The Night Before Kindergarten and The Night Before First Grade (Reading Railroad Books) are good books for parents to read at home with children who might be a little nervous about heading off to school -- or to a new class -- for the first time. I Spy School Days is a great resource for using with English Language Learners, and a fun book for any child or group of students. Laura Numeroff's If You Take a Mouse to School makes a great springboard for encouraging children to do their own creative writing. One of my third-grade ELL classes wrote and illustrated their own If You Take a Gorilla to School fantasy after reading this book, then read their book to a younger class. All of Jonathan London's Froggy books have proven universal favorites, from preschool up through the mid-elementary grades, with Froggy Goes to School being no exception. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse entertains, while at the same time teaching important lessons about apologizing, resolving conflict, and restoring relationships. Lastly, I Knew You Could! is a great little motivator for students of ALL ages, from preschool through all the way through college. (I've actually given copies of this book to a couple of first year teachers in an effort to encourage them.)

Books for Teachers

Of the books listed here, Gilbert Highet's The Art of Teaching is the one that inspired me to become teacher. I was a bored middle schooler the day I found a dusty mass market paperback version on my father's bookshelf ... probably a vestige of his own years as an education major. I still remember thumbing idly through it and deciding it looked more interesting than the Andersonville, yet another Agatha Christie or Iam Fleming book, or the various other novels (mostly war stories) sitting there.

Though it's unlikely Highet's envisioned audience included bored eighth graders, that little book captivated me from the first chapter. And by the time I reached the final page, I was dreaming of the day when I'd one day have students of my own to inspire.

The other books listed here are more practical in nature -- the sort that helped me become the teacher Highet's book inspired me to be and a few that address the practicalities of beginning a new school year. Of these, The First Days Of School: How To Be An Effective Teacher and Teaching With Love and Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom top the must-read list.

Books for Homeschoolers

For most of my adult life, the words "back to school" have conjured up images of school buses and classrooms full of little faces. But such wasn't always the case. Throughout much of my own childhood, going "back to school" meant digging into boxes of new books that arrived toward the end of every summer, then sitting down with Mom to make plans for the months ahead.

Today, a quick Amazon.com search on the term "homeschooling" brings back more than 2,000 books. Two decades ago, there were only a handful of books on the subject, and Amazon.com didn't even exist.  Those on our shelves included three now-out-of-print titles by homeschool veterans Raymond and the Dorothy Moore and For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer McCauley. Honey for a Child's Heart, though not written specifically for homeschoolers, stood with them. From toddlerhood on, I'd loved books, and although my mother had never been a particularly enthusiastic reader herself, she was determined to place in my young hands the very best books she could find.

Most of the remaining titles listed here were not published until well after I'd left home, but they're a combination of titles that I've added to my personal library as well as recommendations from home-schooling friends.  

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