10 Books Every Pre-Service English Teacher Needs to Read


1. Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere by Will Richardson. This Kindle Single explores what’s wrong with the way schools currently work and argues that we have to change. Richardson’s message is ultimately a hopeful one–and he provides practical guidelines that every teacher can follow for transforming his or her classroom. One of the most thought-provoking and important things I’ve ever read about education, plus you can read it in well under an hour! You can read my initial thoughts about Why School? here.

teaching outside the box

2. Teaching Outside the Box by Louann Johnson. The only book about classroom management and getting through to people that you will ever need. I memorized this book in my first year teaching.

in the middle

3. In the Middle by Nancie Atwell. Study after study confirms the power and efficacy of reading and writing workshop. Why are English Language Arts classes organized in any other way? Atwell’s book provides everything a new teacher needs to get started with reading & writing workshop (especially if you pair it with Lessons That Change Writers.)

book love

4. Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina and Passion in Adolescent Readers by Penny Kittle. Kittle shows how–and why–to use reading workshop with high school seniors. If you’re having trouble imagining how you can accomplish your curricular goals using workshop at the high school level, this is the book for you.

write beside them

5. Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle. Hands down, my favorite book on teaching writing. I reread it every year and just keep learning from Kittle.


6. Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher. Gallagher tackles the literacy crisis, blasts bone-headed policies, and provides plenty of solutions.

i read it but i dont get it

7. I Read It But I Don’t Get It: Comprehension Strategies for Adolescent Readers by Cris Tovani. If you work with struggling readers (and most of us will), this book will help you understand their struggles, develop reading comprehension mini-lessons, and use think-aloud strategies to model effective reading.

teaching for joy and justice

8. Teaching for Joy and Justice:Re-imagining the Language Arts Classroom by Linda Christensen. This book presents a cogent argument for social justice education along with dozens of lessons that you can use in your own classroom. I love the blend of practical strategies and philosophical foundation.

room 109

9. Room 109: The Promise of a Portfolio Classroom by Richard Kent. Kent provides guidance for using portfiolios to organize high school English courses. After I read this and saw how much his students accomplished, I raised the bar in my own classroom–with good results.

holding onto good ideas in a time of bad ones

10. Holding Onto Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones by Tom Newkirk. With warmth, humor, and common sense, Newkirk encourages classroom teachers to reject policies and programs that get in the way of learning in favor of what we knows works.

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