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Summer 2024 must reads for EL educators

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Educators, thank you for your efforts throughout this school year - we appreciate all that you do, and wish you a restful and safe summer to recharge and celebrate your work. At Ellevation, we have been lucky to speak with a lineup of fantastic thought leaders in the EL education field on our Highest Aspirations podcast this past season. Not only did they share their personal stories and the work they are doing to further progress in the field, but left us with a recommendation of a recent read that they found impactful. 

We would never dream of assigning educators homework over the summer; but if you find yourself with some spare time and are looking for a book or two to dig into, peruse our expertly-curated list below.

2024 Summer reading recommendations:

Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English Now renowned linguist John R. Rickford and journalist Russell J. Rickford provides the definitive guide to African American vernacular English—from its origins and features to its powerful fascination for society at large.

Recommended by Dr. Sharroky Hollie, Season 12 Episode 2: “He has a great book called Spoken Soul that really just talks about the importance of acknowledging all communities and the language that they bring regardless of what that language is.”

Race, Empire, and English Language Teaching This timely and critical look at the teaching of English shows how language is used to create hierarchies of cultural privilege in public schools across the United States. Drawing on the work of four ESL teachers who pursued anti-racist pedagogical practices during their first year of teaching, author Suhanthie Motha provides a compelling account of how new teachers might gain agency for culturally responsive teaching in spite of school cultures that often discourage such approaches.

Recommended by Anna Ciriani-Dean, Season 12 Episode 6:  “It just really talks about the link between English language teaching and a colonial past and present. It follows the narrative of a few novice teachers who are grappling with questions about this, and providing both that empirical research, and they're qualitative research as well as some historical background and frameworks to help readers understand the full context of what we're working with as English language teachers.”

The 5 Dimensions of Engaged Teaching Engaged teaching recognizes that educators need to offer more than lesson plans and assessments for students to thrive in the 21st century. Equip your students to be resilient individuals, able to communicate effectively and work with diverse people. Laura Weaver and Mark Wilding contend that students must develop their emotional and social skills as thoroughly as their academic skills, and that teachers must cultivate this growth.

Recommended by Shélynn Riel, Season 12 Episode 6: “This is a book that really asks teachers to consider that they're educating a human and not just teaching a language or teaching a subject area. And I think that it led the charge in thinking about 21st century skills and really cultivating empathy within the classroom, asking students to engage with each other and consider the entire individual in front of them rather than just being transactional in their interactions.”

 Journey to the Future: A Roadmap for Success for Youth This is the book I wish someone had handed me when I was 16 so I could have gotten a head start on my success in life. It describes the core values that we must have to live a happy, healthy, and successful life. It explains how our life is built around choices we make and how those choices determine our success or failure in life. This book encourages you to sift through all the messages you get about being a boy or girl, and becoming a man or woman, to throw out what you believe is not you, find the real you, and-most importantly-be happy with who you are.

Recommended by the author Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, Season 12 Episode 5: “I wrote the book as a primer so that the teachers, when they go back, they can help them look deeper at some of the questions that I posed. So Journey to the Future, we have it in English and Spanish, and we hope that the children continue to read it and learn from it. But really it's them that challenged me to do that.”

Biliteracy from the Start: Literacy Squared in Action This book shows bilingual education teachers, administrators, and leadership teams how to plan, implement, monitor, and strengthen biliteracy instruction that builds on students’ linguistic resources in two languages, beginning in kindergarten. Escamilla and her team present a holistic biliteracy framework that is at the heart of their action-oriented Literacy Squared school-based project.

Recommended by Dr. Sandra Mercuri, Season 12 Episode 1: “They have this book on bi-literacy writing that is extremely valuable for teachers, and it's a subject that teachers struggle to really teach writing and even more so how to teach writing to bilingual and multilingual students. So a lot of those resources have influenced my work tremendously.”

Powerful Partnerships Teachers and administrators will learn how to create the respectful, trusting relationships with families necessary to build the educational partnerships that best support children’s learning. Authors Karen Mapp, Ilene Carver, and Jessica Lander will cover the mindset and core beliefs required to bond with families, and will provide guidance on how to plan engagement opportunities and events throughout the school year that undergird effective partnerships between families and schools.

Recommended by Sophia Núñez, Season 12 Episode 8: “This book really helped me understand my why, helped me understand I'm not going to give up on diverse families. I'm not going to give up on the families that it's la abuelita, the grandma or the aunt or the families that are a brother or a sister. I'm not going to give up on the hopes and dreams that we have for our children. I want our children to succeed. There's space for everybody. There's opportunities for everybody. So we cannot be gatekeepers. If we want a better world, we must make sure that our kids live their passions. And so as adults, we have to just provide them all the supports and the families are essential in providing those supports.

Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of Being “Latino” In Our Migrant Souls, the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Héctor Tobar delivers a definitive and personal exploration of what it means to be Latino in the United States right now. Taking on the impacts of colonialism, public policy, immigration, media, and pop culture, Our Migrant Souls decodes the meaning of “Latino” as a racial and ethnic identity in the modern United States, and gives voice to the anger and the hopes of young Latino people who have seen Latinidad transformed into hateful tropes and who have faced insult and division—a story as old as this country itself.

Recommended by Sandra Medrano-Arroyo, our new host of Highest Aspirations: “This is a book that is very personal for me. I’ve always made it a priority to focus on the history of the countries where my family descend, but I never gave our history here as Hispanics too much thought. I was caught in the here and now, always advocating for our multilingual learners and their families. Latinos are one of the most rapidly growing groups in the country, but what is our history here in the United States? This book takes us on a journey through historical events that help define being Latino as a racial and ethnic identity, and I’ve learned so much about the meaning of ‘Latinidad’.”

Lastly - if you’re looking for an alternative to reading, watch the documentary Precious Knowledge Precious Knowledge interweaves the stories of students in the Mexican American Studies Program at Tucson High School. While 48 percent of Mexican American students currently drop out of high school, Tucson High’s Mexican American Studies Program has become a national model of educational success, with 100 percent of enrolled students graduating from high school and 85 percent going on to attend college.  The filmmakers spent an entire year in the classroom filming this innovative social-justice curriculum, documenting the transformative impact on students who become engaged, informed, and active in their communities.

Recommended by David Nungaray, Season 12 Episode 7: “This film has transformed me. I was a teacher, dual language teacher, and then became an instructional coach. And that movie in particular really gave me a great sense of what was possible, but also what's at stake and what might even be at risk if we don't really work to unpin some toxic mindsets and beliefs about our kids and our communities.

If you want to share your own book recommendation, or hear from and connect with educators across the country, join our EL Educator Facebook Community group today. Have a wonderful summer break!