3 Summer Reads to Enhance Your Practice

To me, summer is synonymous with reading. There is nothing I like better than getting lost in a great book. If you’re looking to enhance your practice this summer with reading, I’d love to share three great books with you. None of these books are written especially for art teachers, but I believe each has an important lesson to teach us about our students.


1. Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet

Born on a Blue Day

The author of this book has a truly unique perspective. Daniel Tammet is autistic, but unlike some people with autism, has the ability to share exactly what is going on in his mind with others. Bearing in mind that autism is a spectrum disorder that takes on many different forms, reading this book is a fascinating look into an autistic mind. Although not directly related to art teaching, this memoir may help you understand some of your students with autism just a bit better. If you’re looking for even more information about autism, we have a great class on the subject here at AOE.


2. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

If you missed this book when it came out 15 years ago, now is the time to pick it up. The true story chronicles the medical care of Lia Lee, a Hmong girl diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy. The book highlights the differences between traditional western medicine and deeply rooted cultural beliefs about healing, as both Lia’s doctors and her parents search for a cure. The tragic end paves the way for an important discussion about culture and understanding. It’s a truly emotional and thought-provoking read. This book really inspired me to present culture in an authentic way in my classroom.


3. In Pictures and In Words: Teaching the Qualities of Good Writing Through Illustration Study by Katie Wood Ray

In Pictures and In Words

This is obviously the most academic book that I’m recommending, but it’s great for summer because you can pick it up for ten minutes at a time. The book is actually written for teachers that teach writing, but I found so many great ideas for art teachers in it that I had to share.

The author’s goal is to help students become better writers by having them do activities that work on both writing and illustrating at the same time. There are fifty ideas and activities centered on this theme that you can put to use in your classroom with little to no planning. I found these ideas often help with art skills just as much as writing skills. For example, one idea from the book focuses on having students think about WHY authors and illustrators make certain decisions. For example, why does an illustrator choose to draw something close up on one page, but far away on another? Or, why does an illustrator choose to add a background on some pages and not on others? You could easily talk about this idea during a read-aloud with younger students, or have older students think about this idea while comparing and contrasting the work of multiple illustrators.

So, tell us, what’s on your reading list this summer?

Do you have a book that you think all art teachers should read?

Feel free to throw in all types of books, not just those that deal with teaching! We’d love to hear your suggestions.


Amanda Heyn

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


  • spencefi

    I’m reading Choice Without Chaos by Anne Bedrick right now. It’s giving me lots of details and ideas about how to teach art with choice/TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior). Nice bonus: the Kindle version has embedded videos showing her art class in action. It’s inspiring me to make big changes!

    • That sounds awesome! TAB is something I’ve been wanting to research. Thanks for the great suggestion.

    • The embedded videos are a great idea.

  • I haven’t read this, but I am hearing good things about the book “Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom” by Lisa Delpit. Undergrad programs and teacher PD groups are starting to use this all around the country? Has anyone read this?