Summer reading 2020: eight book recommendations for teachers

What a year it has been! With protests first and then the coronavirus, it has been a challenging academic year in Hong Kong (as it has been everywhere). In fact, I’ve been out of school this year almost as much as I’ve been in it! It goes without saying that I’m looking forward to the summer break, and to kicking back with great books, stress-free!

As is tradition on this blog, I have compiled eight book recommendations to inspire your summer reading. The first five are ones that I have read and the final three are on my summer list because they have been recommended by others. If these don’t take your fancy, check out my lists from previous years here. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these.

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My five recommendations:

Innovate inside the Box: Empowering Learners Through UDL and the Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and Katie Novak, 2019

George’s first book, The Innovator’s Mindset, is one of my favourite education books and I continue to refer to it regularly. Similarly, his blog provides constant inspiration. I was so excited to hear about this new book, this time co-authored with Katie Novak. The book acknowledges that schools and teachers often feel restricted as they try to innovate. With references to the Universal Design for Learning framework (UDL), the book helps teachers to “Innovate inside the Box”.

“The title of this book, Innovate Inside the Box, recognizes that those constraints exist no matter your role in education. But the system, with its rules and limitations, is never a reason not to innovate.”

George Couros and Katie Novak


Maker-Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their Worlds by Edward P. Clapp, Jessica Ross, Jennifer O. Ryan and Shari Tishman, 2016

I recently took part in Harvard’s Thinking and Learning in Maker-Centered Classroom course (read more about that here). This was the accompanying text. It’s well worth a read whether you’re part of the course or not. Despite having multiple copies in our school library, I felt the need to buy my own because I know that I will keep referring to it, especially for the design routines. This book will empower you as a maker and, in turn, your students.

“Agency can be understood as a disposition – seeing oneself as an agent of change within the designed environs of one’s world.”

Edward P. Clapp, Jessica Ross, Jennifer O. Ryan and Shari Tishman


The Interactive Class: Using Technology to Make Learning More Relevant and Engaging in the Elementary Classroom by Joe Merrill and Kristin Merrill, 2020

I can’t imagine a more timely book release! The Interactive Class is a treasure trove of exciting teaching and learning ideas using technology and it came out just in time for the school closures. As the name suggests, its intention is to make classrooms more interactive and the book explores that in depth. Nevertheless, the explanations of different apps and websites are extremely useful right now! Helpfully, the explanations are accompanied by suggestions and examples of classroom application.

“One thing is certain: educators cannot continue teaching in the same structured classrooms, with the same outdated materials, and in the same standardized ways.”

Joe Merrill and Kristin Merrill


Fight the Fear: How to beat your negative mindset and win in life by Mandie Holgate, 2016

I have just finished reading this book recently and, as the title suggests, it shifted my mindset. Mandie explains how fear can present itself in different ways and how it stops people from reaching their potential. Each chapter follows the FEAR structure: exploring the Fear, Actions that you can take, Examples and the Results. The book addresses common fears such as public speaking, saying no to things and going for what you really want in life.

“It is truly scary how fear can sneak into your mentality and erode your success.”

Mandie Holgate


Empower Our Girls: Opening the Door for Girls to Achieve More by Lynmara Colón and Adam Welcome, 2019

We enjoyed this book as part of our staff book club recently (read more about that here). It’s a very easy read with short chapters and simple takeaways, but it will push your thinking and prompt you to make small steps to promote gender equality. Lynmara and Adam point to simple truths about why girls might feel that their opportunities are limited. Schools, as well as individual teachers, can make small changes to address this.

“The point is, there are no limits to what girls can accomplish, and it’s our job to make sure they know that.”

Lynmara Colón and Adam Welcome


My summer reading list 2020:

Design Thinking in the Classroom: Easy-to-Use Teaching Tools to Foster Creativity, Encourage Innovation and Unleash Potential in Every Student by David Lee, 2018

I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with David at multiple events this year and listen to him speak. He is extremely passionate about design thinking and the benefits that it offers to students’ learning and creativity. I started reading his book on a plane a few months ago but it was late and I can never stay awake on flights! Since then, life has just got in the way! It’s at the top of my summer list!


Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink, 2011

In different books that I have read and in various online courses, this is a book that just keeps coming up! It has been mentioned and quoted so many times that I wanted to read it for myself. It’s about the secret to high performance and what really motivates us as humans. I’m going to take the summer opportunity to see what all the fuss is about!


Spark Change: Making Your Mark in a Digital World by Olivia Van Ledtje and Cynthia Merrill, 2019

The topic of this book, as you probably know, is right up my alley! I am passionate about inspiring young digital leaders to use technology for good. A shining example of this is Olivia Van Ledtje, guided and supported by her mum and co-author Cynthia Merrill. I look forward to getting my copy signed when I present with Olivia at 21CLHK in September!


I hope that these eight recommendations are useful. What other books do you recommend for teachers? Travel is probably not on the cards this summer, so I’m more than happy to add more to my reading list! Leave your recommendations in the comments below. Happy reading!

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