Winter Break is the only long (well, kinda long) break I get, so I always feel like it’s my one chance to catch up on all the reading I want to do. Of course, I never get as much done as I’d like to, but I’m trying to learn to be okay with that and not get frustrated. Some of the books I want to read are totally just-for-fun books, but I also always have a few teaching-related books I want to read. In this post, I’ll list several books that I recommend for language teachers, and I’ll also list the books that are on my own reading list for the upcoming break.
Of course, if you’d rather use your time off to take a complete break from anything teaching or education-related, DO THAT! We all need a break, and there’s nothing wrong with taking a few weeks to just totally forget about work. But if you have free time during the holidays and are looking for some books to read, here are my recommendations:
Embarrassment by Thomas Newkirk
I read this book about a year ago and wrote a review of it here. Newkirk argues that one of the main things holding students back from learning is their feelings of embarrassment. Students fear failure and often worry about making mistakes in front of their classmates. In the book, he offers ideas on how teachers can support and encourage students so their fear of embarrassment won’t hold them back.
The Power of Reading by Stephen Krashen
This is the book that convinced me to finally take the plunge and start a free reading library with my students. The book gives a good overview of the research that supports giving students time in class to read books that they choose.
Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher
This is another excellent book on the topic of reading. Gallagher argues against the over-emphasis on standardized testing, urges teachers to stop relying on the “mind-numbing” reading activities that make students hate reading, and encourages teachers to give students time for free choice reading in class. The book is aimed at English Language Arts teachers, but a lot of the same ideas apply to second/foreign language teachers.
While We’re on the Topic by Bill VanPatten
If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend it. In the book, Bill VanPatten outlines the six major principles of Communicative Language Teaching that he thinks all language teachers should understand. I wrote a full review of it here.
If you would rather listen to a podcast than read books, I highly recommend Bill VanPatten’s Talkin’ L2 (or his old show, Tea with BVP, if you haven’t listened to that yet). I also like the podcast We Teach Languages. If you have to make a long road trip for the holidays, listening to podcasts is a good way to make the time pass quickly.
The following three books are on my own personal reading list for the upcoming break:
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Csikszentmihalyi is famous for his research on “flow,” a state of consciousness where people experience “deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life.” I’m hoping his book will give me good ideas on how to help students reach a flow state in the classroom.
Input-Based Incremental Vocabulary Acquisition by Joe Barcroft
I first heard about this book from this episode of the We Teach Languages podcast, which features an interview with the author. The back of the book says that it is a presentation of current research that “undoes numerous myths about how we most effectively learn new words in a second language.” I’m eager to find out more.
The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read this book yet! From what I’ve heard, it’s an excellent book for teachers to learn how to set up an independent reading program for students that helps them discover a joy for reading and simultaneously develop their literacy skills.
Happy Winter Break and happy reading!