Summer Reading for APs

Topics: Assistant Principals

Educators are well-versed in staging literacy-building activities for students over the summer, encouraging kids to read X number of books and report on them once school is back in session. But summer is also an excellent time for APs to grow their own practice with some informal PD during the all-too-brief respite from wall-to-wall workweeks.

“It provides a moment to pause and reflect while opening our minds to fresh ideas,” says Kristal Pollard, assistant principal at Mannsdale Elementary School in Madison, Mississippi, and a 2021 NAESP Outstanding Assistant Principal. “A renewed commitment and fresh approach to decision-making are at the heart of why summer reading is critical for leaders who want to lead boldly, transform systems and routines, and inspire success in students, staff members, and the community.”

Here are eight AP-approved reads to keep you engaged and informed this summer:

PRINCIPALed: Navigating the Leadership Learning Curve

By Kate Barker, Kourtney Ferrua, and Rachel George (Dave Burgess Consulting, 2020)
PRINCIPALed draws upon personal experiences to reveal strategies, approaches, and practices that led to success in schools. Authored by three veteran principals, the book is a survival guide that offers honest advice on finding balance as a school leader by taking time to reflect and learn, seeking out mentors, crafting simple and clear goals, and engaging in self-care.

The School I Deserve: Six Refugees and Their Fight for Equality in America

By Jo Napolitano (Beacon Press, 2021)
Napolitano follows a group of student émigrés who fought for the right to attend school in Pennsylvania. Their case went before a conservative Republican judge in federal court in 2016 just weeks before the presidential election, putting education on trial and forcing districts around the country to reconsider their admissions policies and practices surrounding ESL students.

The Aspiring Principal 50: Critical Questions for New and Future School Leaders

By Baruti K. Kafele (ASCD, 2019)
A perfect read for up-and-coming administrators authored by a four-time principal, this guide offers advice on everything from focusing on student achievement to budgeting to casting your school in the best light. One chapter is dedicated solely to preparing for a school administrator job interview.

The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System—and How to Fix It

By Natalie Wexler (Avery, 2019)
This book focuses on the failure of many elementary schools—particularly those in low-income areas—to systematically build knowledge of the world. Through stories of educators, students, and parents, Wexler examines what elementary literacy instruction looks like today, how it evolved to this point, and ways to give all students a meaningful education.

Go See the Principal: True Tales From the School Trenches

By Gerry Brooks (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2019)
Gerry Brooks is a former elementary school principal and YouTube celeb who uses school-appropriate humor to address realities to which every educator can relate, from social media use in the classroom to parent-teacher conferences. Lighthearted essays such as “Pickup and Dropoff: An Exercise in Humanity” and “School Supplies: Yes, We Really Need All That Stuff” will appeal to teachers and administrators alike.

Positive Mindset Habits for Teachers: 10 Steps to Reduce Stress, Increase Student Engagement, and Reignite Your Passion for Teaching

By Grace Stevens (Red Lotus Books, 2018)
Authored by a corporate VP-turned-public school teacher, Positive Mindset Habits takes a conversational tone to focus on bringing laughter back into the classroom using a practical roadmap that can reduce stress, improve student behavior, and elevate one’s mood.

Teaching When the World Is on Fire: Authentic Classroom Advice, From Climate Justice to Black Lives Matter

Edited by Lisa Delpit (The New Press, 2019)
Compiling writings that only became more prescient during a year of pandemic and protest, this book presents advice for educators on engaging students surrounding today’s toughest issues, such as social justice, immigration, sexual assault, climate change, and hate speech.

Educated: A Memoir

By Tara Westover (Random House, 2018)
Named one of the 10 best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review, this bestselling memoir tells the story of a young girl who was raised in Idaho by survivalists and didn’t set foot in a classroom until age 17. When one of her brothers manages to get into college, Westover reinvents her life, going on to earn a Ph.D. from Cambridge University.

Some of these titles may be close at hand already at one of your district’s libraries. “School librarians are the go-to literacy experts for their entire learning community, and students, faculty, and staff are all encouraged to read throughout the summer months,” says Kathy Carroll, president of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). “Whether educators are reading for professional development, curriculum design, or personal enjoyment, school librarians support their efforts.”