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10 Must-Reads for ELL Educators

Check out our newest list of reading recommendations for 2024 here.

Throughout 2018, we’ve been collecting book recommendations from educators across the country on our podcast, Highest Aspirations. Covering a range of topics including sheltered instruction, family engagement, and inspiring memoirs from students, the books below are valuable additions to the library of any ELL educator looking to better serve the students in their classrooms.

Here are the 10 book recommendations from Highest Aspirations guests:


The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in America by Helen Thorpe
From Episode 17
The Newcomers follows the lives of twenty-two teenagers from around the world over the course of one school year as they land at South High School in Denver, Colorado, in a beginner-level English Language Acquisition class. Together, their class represents a microcosm of the global refugee crisis as a whole, shedding light on the challenges and triumphs experienced by countless students in classrooms today.

Boosting Achievement.jpgBoosting Achievement: Reaching Students with Interrupted or Minimal Education by Carol Salva and Anna Matis
From Episode 6
This book is a wonderful guide to help educators and school districts navigate the challenges and learning opportunities unique to SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Education) and is a must-have resource for educators working with this growing demographic.


beyond_the_bake_sale.jpgBeyond The Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships by Anne T. Henderson, Karen L. Mapp, Vivian R. Johnson, Don Davies
From Episode 4
Beyond the Bake Sale is a staple resource for educators looking for effective family engagement strategies. The authors walk the reader through how to form essential partnerships and how to make them work while providing checklists, resources, and first-hand tips from principals and teachers.


the fara away brothers full.jpgThe Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life by Lauren Markham
From Episode 5
The Far Away Brothers tells the story of two identical twin brothers who escape violence in El Salvador to start a new life in California. It tells a poignant story of survival, immigration, and persistence, reflecting the experience of many of the students with whom we work.


high impact instruction.jpgHigh-Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching by Jim Knight
From Episode 16
For those looking to improve their own teaching practice, or help others be the best they can be, Jim Knight offers three small changes in planning, instruction, and community-building that can make a big difference in student learning.


making thinking visible.jpgMaking Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison
From Episode 9
Based on research from Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, Visible Thinking is a set of practices and routines that help students across all grade levels and content areas, enabling educators to increase engagement and independence in their classrooms.


homes a refugee story.jpgHomes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung
From Episodes 21 & 22
Written by ESL teacher Winnie Yeung, Homes tells the true story of Abu Bakr Al Rabbeah’s journey from Syria to Canada at the age of 15 after the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. What began as a conversation about hopes and dreams for the future became this inspirational book.



SIOP.jpgMaking Content Comprehensible for English Language Learners: The SIOP Model by Jana Echevarria, MaryEllen Vogt, and Deborah J. Short
From Episode 8
This practical guide to understanding and applying the SIOP method to improve educational outcomes for ELLs is widely accepted as one of the premiere resources available for educators. It provides real-life reaching scenarios and countless strategies to enhance content instruction.


braving the wilderness.jpgBraving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Out by Brené Brown
From Episode 19
Social Scientist Brené Brown redefines the idea of belonging in a time of increased polarization with a blend of research, storytelling, and honesty. Relating to the theme to education, her work encourages readers to understand themselves intimately so that they can work more impactfully with others.



academic-conversations.jpgAcademic Conversations by Jeff Zwiers and Marie Crawford
From Episode 11
Zwiers provides clear ways to support students in developing authentic, meaningful classroom conversation skills. His work has impacted thousands of classrooms across the country in providing equitable access to grade-level content for all learners.



Do you have a book recommendation to add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!