Your summer reading and listening list

From the NJEA Professional Development and Instructional Issues Division

The summer reading list is a long-time tradition in most public schools in New Jersey—a collection of recommended titles for students to attack over the course of the summer, when there is a little leisure time to be able to reflect on what they are reading. In that tradition, the Professional Development and Instructional Issues Division (PDII) offers our version for school employees.

Our expanded edition includes traditional professional texts, personal reads, audio books and podcasts. We hope you find something in this list that sparks your interest and helps you enjoy the summer just a little bit more.

As a division who works closely with members, we have focused many of our workshops this year on personal healing. In that vein, we begin our list with a recommendation from Elisabeth Yucis, Real Self-Care: A Transformative Program for Redefining Wellnessby Pooja Lakshmin, M.D. Battling against the marketing of “self-care” as an excuse to sell “cures” to the public, Lakshmin lays out a four-step method of true self-care: being true to yourself as a strategy to claim and use your power for the greater good. Reading this book will give you a sense of hope for what’s possible.

In the same wellness space, Dawn Howlen suggests the podcast, “On Purpose” with Jay Shetty. This podcast offers new ways to think about our multifaceted world. From matters of the heart to healthy living, Shetty gives practical guidance and steps to being a better person. His guests vary from Trevor Noah to Dax Shepard, all sharing their journey with mental health and living a life of purpose.

Lizandaa Alburg suggest a novel, Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue, in which the reader joins Cameroonian immigrants Jende Jonga, his wife Neni and their family as they experience the glitter of the American dream—and the disappointing reality of the American illusion in NYC during the Great Recession. Themes of marriage, family, class, gender, race and immigration are woven together into a complex, yet entertaining story filled with the challenges of freedom, dignity and citizenship, and the reminder that we are all connected. Lizandaa recommends listening to the audiobook where the accents and personalities come to life!

Another novel is on the mind of Camy Kobylinski as she has been reading Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye. The novel, which has been the subject of several challenges in New Jersey public schools this year, is set in depression era Ohio and tells the story of a young girl and her struggle with identity that results in her desire for the bluest eyes, which she equates with whiteness. Once again, Camy recommends the audio version, this time because it is read by Toni Morrison herself.

Moving to another genre, Amanda Adams suggests a book of poetry, The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana and Nate Marshall. This anthology features the works of 78 poets, born between 1961 and 1999, creating a book of poetry by and for the hip-hop generation. The anthology expands the definition of who a poet is, and what a poem is for.

True crime, combined with the twist of examining our approach to domestic violence, brings a recommendation from PDII’s newest associate director and NJEA Convention Coordinator, Vicki Serreino. The
“Believe Her” podcast by Lemonada Media is a powerful six-part podcast that explores the tragic case of Nikki Addimado, a survivor of domestic abuse who fatally shot her partner and was convicted of murder and sentenced to 19 years in prison. The podcast pieces together the puzzle of this case, revealing the dangerous consequences of misguided assumptions about domestic violence. It raises important questions about the impact of trauma and the criminalization of survival.

Tell Me So I Can Hear You is the recommendation of PDII Division Director Dr. Chrissi Miles. She sees it as excellent reading for developing leaders to provide constructive feedback that supports the growth of their teams. The book, co-authored by Dr. Eleanor Drago-Severson and Dr. Jessica Blum-DeStefano, asserts that feedback is a critical component of professional growth and fostering an open, trusting team culture. The authors provide practical strategies for feedback, with an emphasis on the importance of addressing emotional reactions to feedback and creating a psychologically safe space for vulnerability and honesty.

Anna Muessig was also thinking of ways to motivate people at work, recommending a classic, Drive, by Daniel Pink. In what is probably his most well-known work, Pink explores the key elements of motivation based on decades of scientific research in an approachable, relevant way. He also provides practical techniques for implementing these strategies.

If you are looking for something completely different, Rich Wilson suggests Queer Ducks (and Other Animals): The Natural World of Animal Sexuality, written by Eliot Schrefer with delightful illustrations by Jules Zuckerberg. In a highly entertaining style, Schrefer, who was the keynote speaker at the NJEA Professional Development Transform Conference in April, shares stories of the thousands of documented cases of same-sex attraction and gender diversity in the animal kingdom, challenging the notion of what is “natural” and making the case for the need for a diverse scientific community.

Whether you simply want to be in the sun getting lost in a good story, or want to be challenged, or even provoked to think in new ways, we hope there is something here that will help you enjoy your summer just a little more.