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21 Books Teachers Wish They Had Read Before They Were 18

The Competencies without a Classroom Knowledge Library
Griffin Jaeger
May 25, 2021

We all have a book that changed our life for the better, opening our mind to new concepts, ideas, and competencies.

For some, it's a childhood story that they couldn't put down. For others, a self-help book that taught them 21st-century skills, life skills, and lessons that they’ll never forget.

Throughout season two of our podcast, Competencies Without a Classroom, we interviewed teachers, and education consultants, asking them to name one book that they wish they had read before they were 18.

Buckle your seatbelts, everyone, the Competencies Without a Classroom book club is back in session. Here are 21 more book recommendations for both you, and your students, that focus on how to develop different skill sets.

Did you miss the top reads shared by industry professionals? Check it out here!

1. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Starting off strong, this book has been recommended numerous times throughout our podcast. The book acts as a guide to breaking bad habits and creating great ones, setting up a framework for success. According to Damian and Bonnie Nieves, if there is one book you should read this year, it’s Atomic Habits.

2. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations is a collection of thoughts written by Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, covering several valuable lessons, soft skills, and 21st-century skills such as confidence and self-discipline, among others. Ryan Tibbens tells us that it’s a fantastic and easy read.

3. Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Highly recommended by Matt Rhoads, this book touches on the accuracy of data and search in learning about the behaviors of both ourselves and others. As the Internet and big data evolve daily, we need to understand just how easy it is to access and learn from search data of all major platforms. In a 21st-century, skills-based economy there are tons of opportunities for those who can tell a story through data. It really is the future.

4. An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger

Russell Gordon shares that meaningful work is not necessarily scoring highly on a test, but contributing to a project where individuals can take classroom learnings and feel compelled to use what they learn to make a difference in their community. An Ethic of Excellence is a great read that outlines what it means to do something meaningful that is meant to solve real-world problems.

5. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Rachelle Dene Poth wishes she had read this book before she was 18 because it would have pushed her to take a lot more risks. As Josh Ecker shares, life skills involve embracing discomfort and exploring what life has to offer. Daring Greatly is a powerful text by an incredible author teaching readers to find the courage and confidence to be vulnerable. This is a powerful life skill we can all benefit from.

6. Becoming by Michelle Obama

A powerful memoir by the former president of the United States, need we say more? Becoming is a favourite of Laura Heyes and is a great addition to anyone’s bookshelf.

7. The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton

If financial literacy is a 21st-century skill that you are looking to develop and work on, this is the book for you. Recommended by Richard Byrne, the book outlines critical skills like how to manage funds and save money. It also covers various useful investment strategies, like compound interest.

8. Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam

For those getting into investment and looking to learn more, this book is a great option to break down how to make millions on a teacher’s salary through compound interest.

9. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Ryan Scott loves this book because of the way it teaches readers how to turn negatives into positives. By learning and accepting this lesson, readers can build on 21st-century skills like resilience and critical thinking.

10. Think Again by Adam Grant

As Damian shares, it’s okay to have a strong opinion. However, you have to be open-minded enough to listen to other people's perspectives and to receive new information as it becomes available. Think Again is a great book to check out for those looking to read more about this 21st-century mindset and the key skill of lifelong learning.

11. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Learning to be a great leader is a competency that incorporates a wide variety of 21st-century skills. A Wrinkle in Time is a fictional sci-fi story that David Beyer recommends for anyone looking to be immersed in a story full of valuable lessons and learn more leadership skills.

12. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Kathy Paciejko loved this book so much, she decided to read it to her students. It’s fascinating, quick, and will inspire you to strive to make any of your dreams and wishes come to life.

13. Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain by Zaretta Hammond

Jonathan So shares that it’s important to take a step back and think about the power involved in any position you hold - teachers or students, and how it affects the ways you walk and see the world. This book will inspire and urge you to consider this.

14. Rehumanizing Mathematics for Black, Indigenous and Latinx Students by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

As teachers, rethinking how assessment impacts the way you serve your students is important. In a lot of cases, it can cause more harm than good, which is why some teachers have begun to remove grades entirely. For those interested in a gradeless classroom model, this book offers an important lesson to consider: ensuring that students of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds feel seen and heard.

15. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Described by Glen Coleman as a beautiful book that showcases the power of story. The ability to share stories clearly, concisely, and enticingly (in short, communication skills) is a highly regarded 21st-century skill. For those looking to dive deeper into the power of storytelling, this book is for you!

16. The Millie Maven Trilogy by Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker

According to Carol Mclaughlin, this series includes many good truths. It follows the story of an individual who suffers from verbal abuse, teaching readers that no matter what anyone says about you, you can overcome it, hold onto your truth and do good things. It shares a powerful message - you matter, and you are valuable.

17. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

This book shares how to help people feel safe and vulnerable in order to work better in a team setting, whether that be between teachers and students or future colleagues. We all find ourselves having to work in teams at some point or another, and Johanna Brown shares just how valuable collaboration skills and the lessons in this book will be to readers.

18. Drive by Daniel H. Pink

Drive focuses on how humans are motivated through autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Although it is not directly about education, Jake Miller describes how phenomenal and influential it can be for educators.

19. What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and It’s Always Your Turn) by Seth Godin

If there are things that you want to do and learn, why aren't you doing them? This book motivates readers to carve out a path and go for it. With 21st-century skills like passion and self-awareness, you can conquer anything you put your mind to.

20. Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld

As a lover of comedy, Ronald Hae is a big fan of the works of Jerry Seinfeld. It’s important to laugh, and this book is packed with Seinfeld material that is sure to bring light to anyone’s day.

21. Heart Talk by Cleo Wade

We all deserve some self-care. Heart Talk, recommended by Maddie from EdTech Classroom, is a collection of heartwarming poems that she wishes she would have read when she was younger. Words are powerful and if you are looking for an uplifting boost, this book is for you.

BONUS: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey

The original book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, was frequently recommended across both seasons of our podcast in the way it helps readers prioritize and reach their goals. Readers come back to it time and time again. Lucky for you, there is more where that came from - a version made for teens. According to Lizanne Foster, if she would have read it before she turned 18, her life would have been so much easier. This is a great book to add to the classroom library.

There is truly nothing better than picking up a book and not wanting to put it down. These books rope readers into a new world full of rich lessons, enticing stories and, of course, valuable life skills.

Lucky for you, you now have 22 books to add to your classroom reading list.

Do you have a book that you wish you had read before you were 18 that you’d love to recommend? Let us know by reaching out to us on Twitter @spaces_edu.

Happy reading!

Griffin Jaeger

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