Top Ten Books (Not about Teaching) to Renew You This Summer (According to One Book Lover, Anyway)

I am always amazed when I hear about teachers who belong to book clubs during the school year. My amazing wife, who teaches middle school math and Bible at Calvin Christian in South Holland, Illinois, regularly gets together with friends from two other Christian schools, and they read fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature on a variety of subjects and meet every other month or so and discuss what they read.

I know other teachers, though, also excellent in the classroom, who get so buried in lesson plans, grading, extra responsibilities in and out of school, and the stuff of life that they cannot even think of reading until summer comes. If they sit on the couch and, even for a moment, crack open a book, they feel so guilty about all the grading and housework that they are not doing that they put down the book and dive back into their busy lives. When I speak at in-services at schools, I am always aware of this, and though there are many wonderful books about teaching, to ask a teacher to read one before an in-service day is both unreasonable and guilt-inducing.

But when the summer stretches before us, this wonderful time of renewal offers teachers one of the best fringe benefits of teaching—the chance to read, not only without guilt, but with a sense of virtue. And, in fact, since teachers really need to know as much as they can about everything, when we read anything at all, we can feel a sense of virtue.

The books that follow are fun. They have themes and content and you may well learn something about a wide variety of topics when you read them, but the bottom line is that these books will remind you of the most important reason that we try to get kids to love to read—because reading, and the learning that goes with it, is just plain fun. So, with that, here are some books you should read this summer:

  1. Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse (Scholastic, 1997), fiction. Billie Jo is a girl growing up in a tarpaper shack with her father and mother, and soon, a baby sibling. Though they are poor and have few prospects, they seem happy. Then comes the drought, a terrible accident, despair, and, ultimately, an uplifting and redemptive ending. Each chapter is told as a poem, but don’t let that scare you away; it is very readable. When I read this book, I was surprised to find how deeply I cared for Billie Jo. There is grace in this book. After a year of teaching, you may need a little grace.
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