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Big Picture Learning Summer Reading List


It’s summer! That means: warmer days, trips to amusement parks, the continuation of real-world learning, and – naturally – summer book clubs. We at Big Picture Learning have our perennial favorites (this book and this book, for instance). But there’s a thirst amongst our staff and our network to stay on the cutting edge, while also paying tribute to the past, when it comes to reading. After some surveying of Big Picture Learning staff, as well as from colleagues doing similar work, we’ve boiled our summer reading list down to these five books.

Creative SchoolsSir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson has spent the better part of the last four decades visiting schools that work. In Creative Schools (and in many of his previous works), Sir Ken shares out his learning so that we might all become better educators by exposure. We at Big Picture Learning have always been proud of the creative schools that make up our network; but we’re humble enough to know that there is much to learn from other creative schools around the nation and around the world. Of course, part of selecting this book is ensuring that do our homework before Sir Ken keynotes Big Bang—our annual conference on student-centered learning—later this month!



Dr. Christopher Emdin – social critic, science advocate, and co-creator of the #HipHopEd movement, won’t mince words, nor apologize for proudly exclaiming his “dopeness” (nor the dopeness of his students). We know. We were honored to welcome Dr. Emdin as the keynote speaker of our most recent BPL Leadership Conference. Through his remarks (see below), Dr. Emdin started us on the path toward “reality pedagogy”, a path that For White Folks continues. We’re not alone in including Dr. Emdin in our list of essential summer reads. Education book clubs around the country, including this one, recognize the influence this book can have as we approach another school year; another opportunity to have a meaningful impact on the lives of our students.



A Letter to TeachersVito Perrone

This book may be hard to locate, but the best books are. With Perrone, we travel back a couple of decades, to 1991, to a book that my colleague Jeff Petty exclaims “is SO Big Picture before there was a Big Picture!” In our book selections, we seek knowledge from those taking a fresh look at transforming education, but we also seek comfort in the ideas of the past, those which have taken hold and formed the proper foundation for our own efforts. A Letter to Teachers, which celebrates teaching and learning as an art, is part of that foundation.



In this follow up to his 2013 bestseller, Paul Tough applies much of the science imparted in How Children Succeed to communities of adversity; taking parents, educators and policy makers through strategies for creating the types of environments in which successful qualities of learning are best able to flourish. For Tough, it’s not enough for educators to simply stress the importance of non-cognitive traits like grit and preference; they must also create the ecosystems in which those traits may more authentically emerge. For more, check out Getting Smart’s podcast interview of Tough.



Perhaps the most talked about education book of the year thus far, Todd Rose dispels the myth that there is anything average about learning (really, that there is anything average about anyone) and that – by extension – any standard way of measuring one’s aptitude risk misses the truly unique and distinctive talents that we each dynamically bring to this world. In a world without average, our educational paradigm is forced to shift its focus to the individual learner. That’s something we at Big Picture Learning can get behind.

We invite you to join us, between now and Labor Day, as we dive into these important thought pieces – some for the first time, some as an annual rite of passage. Join the conversation and share your thoughts on twitter using the hashtag #BPLreads. Happy reading!


Photo credit Sam Seidel