Summer reading 2021: eight book recommendations for teachers

Where has this year gone? Somehow, the summer break is upon us once again. For many teachers, this stress-free time of year is a chance to soak up professional development opportunities and get inspired for the year ahead. My favourite way to do that is to kick back with great books, ideally next to a swimming pool.

Below is my 2021 list of eight book recommendations. Like every year, five of them are books that I have read recently and personally recommend, and the other three are on my summer list, recommended strongly by fellow teachers.

If these eight suggestions don’t tickle your fancy, click here to browse my recommendations from previous years.

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My five recommendations:

Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom (Second Edition) by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, 2019

In the last few months, I’ve actually enjoyed this book twice. I loved it so much the first time that my school invested in multiple copies for our school library and I invited my colleagues to join me in a book study (I’ll write about this in detail later). Invent to Learn outlines the educational experience that I want for my students. It is, indeed, the “bible of the classroom maker movement” and I urge all teachers to read it.

“Making, tinkering, and engineering are ways of knowing that should be visible in every classroom, regardless of the subject or age of the students.”

Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager

Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play by Mitchel Resnick, 2017

As kindergartens are typically becoming more academic and increasingly like upper grades and schools, Resnick argues for the opposite – that all schools need to be more like kindergartens. Through the Four P’s of Creative Learning (Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play), we can equip students with the skills and attributes required for their uncertain futures. This book complements Invent To Learn nicely and I recommend both.

“I’m convinced that kindergarten-style learning is exactly what’s needed to help people of all ages to develop the creative capacities needed to thrive in today’s rapidly changing society.”

Mitchel Resnick

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica, 2009

Last summer, we lost a hero in education with the sad news that Sir Ken Robinson had passed. But his important messages live on, and we need to pay attention more than ever. The Element challenges everything we think we know about intelligence, creativity and education. Robinson’s famous TED Talks are a great place to start, but I strongly recommend this book as a way of diving deeper into those ideas.

“Education is the system that’s supposed to develop our natural abilities and enable us to make our way in the world. Instead, it is stifling the individual talents and abilities of too many students and killing their motivation to learn.”

Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

When Kids Lead: An Adult’s Guide to Inspiring, Empowering, and Growing Young Leaders by Todd Nesloney and Adam Dovico

When Kids Lead outlines the importance of student leadership and agency. Nesloney and Dovico provide practical suggestions on how teachers can model and promote leadership traits, and develop them in students. In particular, I appreciate their SPECIAL model and the chapter about social media interns.

“The impressionable youth in our classrooms today are more determined than ever to make the world a better place, and their flowing ideas are vast and sincere.”

Todd Nesloney and Adam Dovico

The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups (Third Edition) by Robert J. Garmston and Bruce N. Wellman, 2016

To be honest, this one isn’t an easy read. It’s certainly the most academic book on this list, which isn’t ideal for lazy summer reading. But it’s still in my top five recommendations from this year because of the ideas that will transform your school’s teams, leadership and culture. Our school’s Pedagogical Leadership Team studied it together over the course of the year and it has prompted rich discussions and improved practices.

“The Adaptive School is about developing strong groups and schools in which collaborative faculties are capable of meeting the uncertain challenges of tomorrow.”

Robert J. Garmston and Bruce N. Wellman

My summer reading list 2021:

Daily STEM: How to Create a STEM Culture in Your Classrooms & Communities by Chris Woods, 2020

This one seems to be getting a lot of buzz online at the moment, and the quotes that I have seen really resonate with me. I love the idea of STEM being fully embedded in classroom and school cultures, rather than confined to special, one-off activities or events. It arrived last week and I can’t wait to dive in!

Inquiry Mindset Assessment Edition: Scaffolding a Partnership for Equity and Agency in Learning by Trevor MacKenzie, 2021

This one is hot off the press! The latest inquiry installment from Trevor MacKenzie offers a deep dive into assessment practices in the inquiry classroom that promote equity and student agency. I’m excited by all of the quotes, stories and infographics that I have seen online, and so Inquiry Mindset Assessment Edition is up next on my reading list!

Educated by Design: Designing the Space to Experiment, Explore, and Extract Your Creative Potential by Michael Cohen, 2019

This book by Michael Cohen (AKA The Tech Rabbi) has been on my desk since it was delivered in January, unopened and seemingly unloved through no fault of its own. I keep getting distracted by new arrivals and releases. But it will be forgotten no longer! I look forward to diving in over summer and, no doubt, I’ll wish I’d read it sooner.

I hope that these recommendations are useful. If you do read one of them, please share your thoughts with me on social media or drop a comment below. Also, feel free to add to this list. What other books do you recommend for teachers?


  1. Such a good and varied selection. I’m already reading 2 of these – the element and inquiry mindset assessment edition. Look forward to catching up with a few more in my break. Thanks!

  2. Hi Adam, thanks for your recommendations – some of these are on my list too. Some books I just finished, and that I would recommend. Are ‘The Power of Us’ by David Price, ‘Permission to Feel’ by Marc Brackett, ‘From What is to What if’ by Rob Hopkins, and free to Learn by Peter Gray. Thanks again.

  3. This came at an opportune time as this is my last week of school and I just pulled out a half read book from last summer and put it on my desk. Let the reading begin! (Unfortunately my book is about the stock market,..but you are giving me some good ed ideas)

    1. Hi Beckett,

      I’m pleased that you found value in this post. Definitely check out one or more of these titles as soon as you finish reading about the stock market!



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