5 Books for Educational Leaders’ Reading List

A leadership mindset isn’t something that you switch on or off according to the calendar. Most educators maintain a robust summer schedule, but still manage to find a bit of extra time to catch up on reading—both for pleasure and for professional development.

Libraries abound with summer reading programs designed to support literacy for students, and for good reason. Youth who continue to read throughout the year avoid the “summer slide” of learning loss.

Adults too need to keep reading to stay on top of new information, to revisit history that can inform the present and future, and to explore topics more deeply than is possible during the regular school year. Leaders who read widely have access to a rich set of perspectives, and set a model of literacy both for their students and fellow educators.

Why educational leaders should read during time off

Reading about educational leadership during the summer presents a unique opportunity. Away from the normal schedule, there’s time both to consider and savor ideas in a more relaxed manner.

Books don’t have to explicitly look at leadership topics to help you take a fresh look at how well things are being managed at school. For example, reading literary fiction has been proven to boost empathy and to facilitate an understanding of the nature of human relationships—essential tools for any educational leader.

With this in mind, here are some of our favorites to enjoy this summer.

Move Your Bus: An Extraordinary New Approach to Accelerating Success in Work and Life

"Move Your Bus: An Extraordinary New Approach to Accelerating Success in Work and Life" by Ron Clark

Published by Simon & Schuster

By Ron Clark
Few American teachers have been in the public eye as Clark has. Both Disney and Oprah have anointed him, and his New York Times bestseller, “The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child,” sold more than a million copies.

His new, slim tome is a leadership parable about a bus propelled by human power that will get you asking questions about your own role at school.

  • When you’re at the wheel, how do you accelerate?
  • Do you spend time with the runners?
  • Do you stay in your lane?
  • Do you enjoy the ride?


"In Defense of a Liberal Education" by Fareed Zakaria

Published by W.W. Norton & Company Inc.

In Defense of a Liberal Education

By Fareed Zakaria
Student debt in America has infamously passed the trillion-dollar mark. Skills-based majors like business and health are the most popular. Only a third of university students major in the liberal arts.

With tuition prices soaring, it sounds terribly practical to invest four years in a computer science or business degree, rather than studying philosophy or history.

But the CNN host, who grew up in India during a similar pro-vocational era, argues that studying the humanities prepares students with more flexible skills that will serve themselves and society better in the long haul.


Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools

"Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools" by Tom Little and Katherine Ellison

Published by W.W. Norton & Company

By Tom Little and Katherine Ellison
“As Americans become ever more disconnected from their own extended families, religious institutions, and clubs, our schools have been left to serve as the centers of society. It’s here, unlike anywhere else, after all, where families are legally bound, at least for a few years, to show up on a regular basis,” wrote Tom Little, former teacher and, since 1986, head of the Park School in Oakland, California. “Over the years, I’ve grown comfortable with the notion of a school as a secular ministry—and with my role as its virtual village pastor.”

Diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2013, Little spent his last months working on this book with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ellison. The book looks both at the Park School—a small, private institution located on four acres in an urban area—as well as more than 40 others across the country, in the context of America’s tradition of progressive education. Historically, this included a vision of addressing children’s emotional and intellectual needs in communities that explicitly nurture a sense of social justice.


"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio

Published by Random House Inc.

By R.J. Palacio
Depending on the age of your students, they’ve likely all read this en masse—or will in the near future. This best-selling YA novel tells the story of 10-year-old August’s first year of school. In many ways, August is like any other child, but his integration after homeschooling is complicated by extreme facial deformities.

Alternately told from the points of view of August, his family, classmates, and educators, it’s a fresh look at how character and leadership are developed in children and adults alike.

Three additional chapters from other characters, bundled as “Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories,” will be released in August.

The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher

"The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher" by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong

Published by Harry K. Wong Publications Inc.

By Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong
These days, a book recommendation often begins with, “I listened to a good book…” The Wongs’ hefty but practical text is now available on audio—perfect for early morning walks or long road trips.

“What you do on the first days of school will determine your success or failure for the rest of the year,” write the Wongs. Pre-service training and teaching philosophy may fall by the wayside when it comes to the diverse challenges that a first-year teacher faces in September. This classic guides new teachers to establish organizational structures that serve themselves and their students over the course of the year.


What are you reading?

If your bedside table is already piled high with suggested books, these titles will hold up all year long. Or you may prefer to start a book club with a few interested colleagues once school begins — bonding over books is a unique way to develop new relationships.

What books do you recommend to your colleagues? Let us know by contacting us at editorial[at]online.stu.edu.

Rebecca L. Weber is a journalist who covers education, the arts, the environment, and more for the New York Times, CNN, USA Today, and other publications. Visit her online at www.rebeccalweber.com or on Twitter @rebeccalweber.

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