What are some books that all Christian educators should read?

January 20, 2010

Al Boerema asks the question: What are some books that all Christian educators should read?

January 30, 2010

Christian Altena begins the discussion:

Hello all,

I must admit that I don’t find myself reading very much outside my subject area, especially during the school year. So to start, a Christian teacher should be well read within their discipline. As a history teacher, I believe I owe it to my students to be a digger and a researcher. I want to provide them the rich background of stories and opinions that their textbooks are so bad at consistently providing. The teaching of history can be especially lively because of the subject’s constant dance with perspective, opinion, and revision. As a result, a Christian history teacher’s reading should include a multitude of perspectives.

Here’s a partial list of history books that are well thumbed:

  • The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln, by Sean Wilentz
  • American Colonies: The Settling of North America, by Alan Taylor
  • A History of the American People, by Paul Johnson
  • A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
  • Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, by Carl Sandburg

Another book I keep returning to is Creation Regained, by Al Wolters. I have found this book to be invaluable in helping me communicate to my students just what it is that a Reformed and Christian education is all about. Ideas like the four worldview questions (Who are we? Where are we? What’s the problem? What’s the solution?), the concepts of “structure/direction,” and the “sacred/secular” dichotomy frequently find expression in my classroom.


February 15, 2010

New panel member Rebecca De Smith joins the discussion:

I agree with Christian that it is hard for teachers to find time to read outside of their discipline, especially during the school year. But the flexibility of summer offers teachers an opportunity to refocus and refresh themselves as they look ahead to the challenges of a new school year. Here are some books that have helped to shape many teachers and classrooms:

  • A Vision With a Task, by Gloria Stronks and Doug Blomberg—A wonderful book to remind teachers of what’s really important in their classrooms and schools.
  • Teaching as Storytelling, by Kieran Egan—A short book that challenges teachers to incorporate meaning into their teaching and engage students through using effective storytelling.
  • How to Be an Effective Teacher: The First Days of School, by Harry and Rosemary Wong—This book is filled with practical ideas on classroom management for any education student or teacher.
  • Strategies That Work, by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis—I had to add this book to the list since reading and comprehension are skills that affect every other subject area.
  • Educational Leadership—Okay, I know this isn’t a book, but every time I read an issue, I feel like I’ve been to a mini-conference. Perhaps all the articles aren’t pertinent to my discipline, but I always feel like I’ve gained a new perspective on an issue or trend in education. It keeps me thinking about the educational world beyond my classroom.

Happy reading!


February 15, 2010

Bruce Wergeland offers another perspective:


I have been wrestling with this question for some time, and I have decided that I cannot answer it. Let me explain.

First, the question implies that all Christian educators read purposefully: to imagine reality from a different perspective or so that they can assess their own perceptions, biases, or priorities. They don’t. Unfortunately, for some, teaching becomes simply a job and reading is only for leisure, not for learning. However, most Christian educators are lifelong students, and consequently, there are no excuses, no best books, and limited time to read a book twice. Books are purchased, cherished, and reviewed when new thoughts call for the wisdom of a second opinion. The quotes and chapters of books become constant companions that continually challenge educators to perceive the world with a greater sense of empathy.

Second, I do not believe there can be an exclusive reading list for any Christian educator because books represent the ideas and narratives of individuals, and all readers select, critique, and consume books that appeal to their own understanding of humanity. When I recommend a book to colleagues, my hope is that they will engage the discourse or narrative, and then allow their interpretation of the language to lead them to new places, ideas, and questions in their own lives. I do not expect “my book” to have the same profound impact on them as it did on me. Reading is an act of authority because we allow the meaning of language to enter our mind on our own terms.

As an educator, I am reading a diverse selection of genres, topics, and authors that inspire me to consider deeply a story of brokenness, to engage a description of creation, or to accept a challenge to be faithful. It is not just the topic or the book title that draws me, but the notion that someone has taken time to relate their story or discoveries within an academic discipline or literary genre. After all, language must be constructed within the context of a human experience, and no book can offer anything more than a personal perspective or interpretation. From St. Augustine to stories of Communist China to Muslim novels, I am reading for understanding rather than knowledge.

I do not know if I can ever provide anyone with “my reading list,” but I do know that reading new books is helping me to listen (more), before I speak.


February 16, 2010

Tony Kamphuis jumps in with more titles:

Interesting comments, Bruce.

Here are some books I love and that (almost) all Christian teachers would benefit from reading:

  • Creation Regained, by Al Wolters—An oldie, but a goldie.
  • Educating for Shalom: Essays on Christian Higher Education, by Nick Wolterstorff (ed. by Clarence Joldersma, former editor of this column, and Gloria Stronks)
  • Reformational Theology: A New Paradigm for Doing Dogmatics, by Gord Spykman—It doesn’t sound like a beach read, but it was good, the title notwithstanding.
  • The Relation of the Bible to Learning, by H. Evan Runner
  • Intelligence Reframed, by Howard Gardner
  • The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, by Lesslie Newbigin—I should return that one to its owner …
  • Why People Believe Weird Things, by Michael Shermer—It’s good to know what others are thinking and how they influence our culture!

One thing I think is of great benefit is to read a solid magazine like The Atlantic or The Economist that pulls your brain into any one of a number of different directions. Christianity Today keeps you up to speed on developments within the evangelical and broader Christian world, and I really enjoy Books and Culture—an excellent way of staying on top of thoughtful Christian inquiry into your area of teaching. This makes me realize I haven’t gotten a copy for a while … my subscription must have ended, and so should this breviary of books. Speaking of a breviary: Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, by Cornelius Plantinga—what a great book!

Tony K.

Feb 17, 2010

New panel member Mary Ashun contributes more titles:

It was good to read some of the titles previously suggested and know that at one point in time, I had the time to read them! Time is a crucial factor for classroom teachers. As some have mentioned, I have also found that sometimes encouragement is needed in the form of books that are not necessarily trying to make you intellectual and sophisticated. Instead, they pique your interest in things around you and cause you to ask even bigger questions than the ones you’ve previously asked. As such, my “recommended” list (in no particular order) will not really be highbrow most of the time, but contain books that in the past have caused me to ask what my role is: as a teacher, as a mother, as a Christian, as a friend, as a global citizen.

  • Mentoring for Mission: Nurturing New Faculty at Church-Related Colleges, edited by Caroline Simon—Although this is meant for college faculty, it has also thrown some light on how we can mentor at the primary and secondary levels.
  • Perspectives on Learning, by D. C. Phillips and Jonas F. Soltis
  • Kids are Worth It, by Barbara Coloroso—Always an easy read and a favorite at PD sessions.
  • Pens of Many Colours: A Canadian Reader, edited by Eva Karpinski—A good read for those looking for the many cultural perspectives represented in Canada.
  • Teach with Your Strengths, by Rosanne Liesveld, Jo Ann Miller, and Jennifer Robison—Very practical and purchase comes with a code that allows the buyer to go online and take a Strengths Test. I loved it!
  • The Educated Mind, by Kieran Egan—Not for the faint of heart.
  • Managing Diverse Classrooms by Carrie Rothstein-Fisch and Elise Trumbull
  • The Fate of Africa, by Martin Meredith—I find that this has been extremely helpful in Christian schools where much of the focus of missions, is in Africa.
  • Creation Regained, by Al Wolters—Because Al is great!

And now I must stop because I feel like reading …


The panel consists of:

  • Al Boerema, who teaches in the Education Department at Calvin College
  • Rebecca De Smith who is the Discovery Room Coordinator and the Curriculum Coordinator at  Sioux Center Christian School, in Sioux Center, Iowa
  • Mary Ashun, who teaches in the Education Department at Redeemer University College
  • Tony Kamphuis, Executive Director of The Niagara Association for Christian Education, in Smithville, Ontario
  • Christian Altena, who teaches history  at Chicago Christian High School in Palos Heights, Illinois
  • Bruce Wergeland, who teaches Grade 8 at Langley Christian Middle School in Langley, British Columbia