By Todd Nesloney and Travis Crowder

The community we build in our buildings with both students and educators is tremendous. Across time, we have witnessed positive correlations between our reading lives and the work we do in our respective school and organizational settings. In this article, we share books we’ve recently read in hopes they will make excellent additions to the work you do with teachers and other administrators across the state.

Teaching for Black Lives, Edited by Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, and Wayne Au
Various authors and editors came together to create this compelling, timely compendium of ideas, information, and pedagogy for teachers. It is necessary reading. If we claim to teach every child, we have to understand every child. Our curriculum has to change. Our language has to change. And so does our thinking. This book is a wonderful start to beginning equity work and it serves as a powerful reminder of the work and ideas that help shape an inclusive learning environment.

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, Art by Hatem Aly
We are both vociferous proponents of picture books for all ages, even educators! Told through striking color and vivid imagery, this memoir of Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad unfolds as she, through her childhood eyes, watches her sister come of age and begin wearing hijab. For her, it is a breathtaking experience, one that she anxiously anticipates for herself. She observes her sister’s experience. This is a beautifully affirming story of community, love and self-respect.

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf
As adults, as well as our students, we need to be reading books that are reflective of more than just our own experiences. This is an encouraging and easy to digest story about a group of friends whose worlds are turned upside down when a new student joins their class. As they come to learn he is a refugee, the friends not only befriend the new student but also develop a crazy plan to try and reunite their new friend’s family. This is an easy entry point to talk with students about refugees.

A Boy Like You by Frank Murphy, Art by Kayla Harren
One of the best picture books of 2019. This is a needed narrative not only for boys, but for all our children. What qualities do we hope our children encapsulate? We hope that our boys leave rooms better than they found them. That they raise their hand when they know the answer. That they sit with the new kid. That they hold their head high. And so much more. This book will touch you deeply and you’ll find yourself wanting to buy copies for everyone you know.

Since the beginning of our collaborative efforts we’ve shared book recommendations with each other and those around us. We believe in the benefits of a healthy reading life. Our students deserve leaders who read. And we hope that you will stand beside us in a year of reading.

Please share your book recommendations and tag #SparksInTheDark and #WeLeadTX!

Todd Nesloney is TEPSA’s Director of Culture and Strategic Leadership. He is an award winning educator, author and international speaker.

Travis Crowder, a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches middle school students in North Carolina. He co-hosts the popular podcast series “Sparks in the Dark” and is co-author of Sparks in the Dark.

TEPSA News, March/April 2020, Vol 77, No 2

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The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas PK-8 school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 5,900 members who direct the activities of 3 million PK-8 school children. TEPSA is an affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

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