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Summer Reading List for Parents, 2013

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It's that time of year when students receive their summer reading lists. Do you have yours?

At K-12 Parents and the Public, we think summer is a great time for parents to learn about education. So we asked leaders of several organizations that work with parents for their recommendations on recent books focused on parenting, education and the future of schools.

Two books, Schools That Learn (Updated and Revised) A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education, and How Children Succeed, were mentioned twice. Below, you will see the full list of recommendations offered by our panel, and their rationale for their picks.

Kevin Walker, president and national director of Project Appleseed , which promotes parental involvement in the nation's schools:

Schools That Learn (Updated and Revised) A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education

"The work of Peter Senge and his co-authors gives parents the view of public schools from 40,000 feet. It explains so much of what parents need to know about educating children effectively, and will turn an uninformed parent into an informed advocate."

The Smart Mama's Guide to After-School Activities:
Getting Your Money's Worth from Sports, Lessons, Camp and More

"Rosalyn Hoffman offers a great approach to a key part of every child's day. Parents need to know that it's okay to have bored kids and that it doesn't cost big money to engage them. Fun activities and practical ideas can be found in each chapter. This book can help with ideas on child engagement during the long summer break, too."

The Autistic Brain

"Temple Grandin gives parents insights into the gifts and challenges she has faced with autism. Parents need to let go of the guilt that has been associated with autism and this work helps that process. She is breaking boundaries and sharing her vast knowledge to help us understand."

Anne Foster, executive director, Parents for Public Schools, a national organization whose goal is to strengthen public schools by engaging, educating, and mobilizing parents:

Schools That Learn (Updated and Revised) A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education

"Peter Senge and his co-authors offer practical tips and best practices to parents on how to work with educators to strengthen and rebuild schools, with particular emphasis on those schools that are most challenged."

Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America's Schools

"David L. Kirp offers evidence that urban school districts can succeed, and it challenges some of the conventional wisdom of our day. He explains what it really takes to have successful schools."

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

"Paul Tough goes beyond academics and intelligence as measures of success and argues that other qualities associated with character are the essential ones. Parents will find sound advice not only for educating their children but for raising them into successful and responsible adults."

Community Educators: A Resource for Educating and Developing Our Youth

"Patricia Moore Harbour illuminates the gap between professional educators and the rest of the community, while arguing that education should be a community enterprise. The book gives tips on how that can happen and how citizens can once again be connected to the education of their students."

Jonah Edelman, CEO, Stand for Children, which works to improve education and provides parent engagement training:

The Smartest Kids in the World, and How They Got That Way

"This book by Amanda Ripley is a must read for anyone who wants to know why other countries significantly outperform the United States educationally, despite investing fewer resources, and how, together, we can improve public education in our country. The book is engaging, thoughtful, and accessible, and I highly recommend it. (It will be available for purchase in August.)"

Parent Roadmaps

"Prepare for the changes coming to many schools in the fall under the new Common Core Standards by reading these Parent Roadmaps from the Council of the Great City Schools. Each roadmap gives a short, readable overview of what your child will be learning in his or her grade next year and how you can support his or her learning at home. They are available in Spanish and in English."

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

"Wes Moore makes it clear that your zip code does not have to determine your outcome. The kids that succeed in life have positive role models, parents that read with them, and teachers and counselors who ask how they're doing."

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

"Paul Tough explains that teaching our children hard knowledge is actually less important than helping them develop qualities like persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence. This book helps us understand the need to foster a "whatever it takes" attitude in children about their own success."

Julie Woestehoff, co-founder, Parents Across America, an organization that connects parents and activists to improve the nation's public schools:

The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

"This book by Diane Ravitch is a must-read by America's foremost writer on education policy. Ravitch is a historian who served as George Bush's deputy education secretary but has since become the most prominent critic of
the corporate reform movement."


Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education

"This collection of essays from Mara Sapon-Shevin and Nancy Schniedewind includes powerful stories of resistance to the billionaire-funded push to destroy public education through privatization: charter school expansion, school closures, teaching to the test, etc. Read how grassroots people and organizations are fighting back and winning the school reform war." (Note: Woestehoff offers the disclaimer that she authored one of the chapters.)

Left Behind in the Race to the Top: Realities of School Reform

"In this book edited by Julie Gorlewski and Brad Porfilio, contributors consider how standardized curriculum and assessment, coupled with philanthropic and corporate pressure, have influenced the experiences of students, parents, and teachers." (Note: The book includes a chapter by Parents Across America president Dora Taylor called "High Stakes Testing: A Parent's Perspective.")

If you're looking for even more reading material, last year's reading list is available here.

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