Temperatures are soaring and final exams are winding down. In other words, summer is here — and so is summer reading.
This year, as the pandemic’s repercussions (namely, two years of disrupted learning and untold hours in front of screens) linger, summer reading is especially important. For students, a summer of active reading may be key to combatting COVID slide. For all groups — students, parents, and educators alike — summer reading offers a way to unplug from tech, but not from learning.
To kick start your summer reading, we’ve asked Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty for their summer reading recommendations, and we’ve tailored the list to meet the needs of all parties (educators, parents, and students). So go ahead: close your computer, settle in the grass, and relax. With these titles in tow, you’ll be ready for the summer.
To introduce early readers to social justice themes, Lecturer Gretchen Brion-Meisels recommends All Around Us by Xelena Gonzalez, a “beautiful story” that “invites us to think about space and time as circles and cycles that connect us to the earth.” She also suggests The Wedding Portrait by Innosanto Nagara, “a series of powerful stories about activists and community members who have intentionally chosen to break the rules in order to stand up for justice and collective wellbeing.”
To kickstart conversations around identity with young readers, Senior Lecturer Pamela Mason recommends Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You, Sonja Cherry-Paul’s adaption of Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi’s New York Times bestseller. The book “provides a readable explanation of how systemic racism functions in American society for middle grade readers,” writes Mason. “Because it covers so much, it is a springboard for intergenerational conversations and more in-depth readings on specific events, people, and places.” In a similar vein, Brion-Meisels recommends It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity, which “provides an expansive, accessible, and beautifully illustrated guide to gender identity” for the youngest readers and their families.
For upper-elementary and middle school readers who like mysteries, Professor Catherine Snow passes along two recommendations from the young people in her life. The first is The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, the story of a middle schooler-turned-researcher who devotes herself to investigating her friend’s tragic death. The other is Louis Sachar’s Holes, an oldie-but-a-goodie about a group of troubled teenaged boys and the mysterious holes they are forced to dig in the desert.
For middle-grade readers who like stories about magic, Mason recommends Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston. “This science fiction book weaves together themes of Black girl magic, of stereotyping, and of emerging self-confidence,” Mason writes.
For parents who want to learn how to better support their teenagers, Professor Nancy Hill offers two recommendations. First is The End of Adolescence: The Lost Art of Delaying Adulthood, a book she co-wrote with Lecturer Alexis Redding. “This newly released book guides parents in understanding what youth need as they transition from adolescence into adulthood,” says Hill. “Based on a lost archive of interviews with students from the 1970s, this book challenges the myth that youth today are slow to grow up and explains why youth need more time and what they should do with that time. It reminds us that growing up has always been full of uncertainty and opportunity. But, today we have the opportunity to understand and support youth in ways they have always needed.”
Hill’s second recommendation is The Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence by Laurence Steinberg, a new release that “breaks down adolescents’ brain development in understandable terms and what this means for how we should support adolescents.”
For educators who want to develop their commitments to anti-racist teaching this summer, Assistant Professor Jarvis Givens recommends his own book, Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching. “This book traces the history of African American teachers' political and intellectual traditions, and it offers critical context for what many refer to as anti-racist teaching today,” says Givens. Givens also recommends The Yellow House by Sarah Broom, a “wonderful” book that tells of the lives, losses, and loves of a Black family from New Orleans.
For educators grappling with equity dilemmas this summer, Senior Lecturer Katherine Merseth recommends Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools by Amanda Lewis and former HGSE professor John Diamond. “This book explores why, when all the circumstances seem right, with a well-funded school and well-trained teachers, Black and Latinx students continue to lag behind their peers,” says Merseth.
And finally, for educators looking to revolutionize their classrooms in the fall, Professor Jal Mehta recommends Think Like Socrates: Using Question to Invite Wonder and Empathy in the Classroom by HGSE graduate Shanna Peeples. “In this wonderful, moving, and practical book, National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples shows the way in which the deceptively simple act of asking students their questions can revolutionize what happens in the classroom. She then draws on the work of a range of her Teacher of the Year colleagues to show specifically what asking questions can look like in different grades and different subject areas,” writes Mehta. “A must read for teachers!”