Social competence – recommended books

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Culture Counts: Changing Power Relations in Education 

Russel Bishop & Ted Glynn

This is essential reading for teachers when reflecting on bi-cultural practice, as well as the implications of the Treaty of Waitangi in everyday practice.  The book is set out in five chapters, looking at the key areas of power relations from a historical perspective through to unequal power relations in the classroom to new approaches.

Kids Are Worth It! 

Barbara Coloroso 

A must read.  Even though this is fundamentally a book about parenting, the principles of treating everyone with dignity and respect means this book is also for teachers.  Teaching children how to think, not what to think is the message throughout this book.  The examples and narratives are useful and can help teachers to build a repertoire of responses in helping children in their social literacy learning.

Empathy – A Handbook For Revolution Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution

Roman Krznaric

Being truly empathetic means being able to walk in another’s shoes. It is being understanding, and involves learning how to take other’s experiences, relating them to your ways of life, and growing due to your new knowledge. Roman Krznaric believes that empathy can create a revolution, helping people step out of more individualistic lives. This is what the book revolves around.

Humans are naturally empathetic beings. We have a complex section of our brains related to empathy, and even show years of evolutionary patterns surrounding social groups and understanding within them. The idea of sympathy is usually seen as just another aspect of our humanity; so what makes it so special? It is the opposite of indifference, and is solely there to benefit others to create social connection. We empathize when imagining what our family would most like as a present and then gift it to them, or when we see an ad for helping children in poverty. We empathize constantly throughout our day. Lack of empathy in turn can create and sustain war, as soldiers remove feelings towards the enemy in order to cope. In other words, empathy can change the state of the world that we live in.

Krznaric determines that empathetic ability is definitely able to develop, due to malleable rewiring of thought. He states that it ‘is a little like musical ability- part nature and part nurture’, but we must learn to use it in a way which makes us achieve to the best of our ability, and make the most out of life and opportunity. The book is set out in six parts, explaining how to achieve this through the main habits of highly empathetic people:

  1. Switch on your empathetic brain
  2. Make the imaginative leap
  3. Seek experimental adventures
  4. Practice the art of conversation
  5. Travel in your armchair
  6. Inspire a revolution

This fantastic book not only teaches you to grow as an empathist, but also shows how empathy can create an exciting social change in our generations to come.

The Girl With the Brown Crayon 

Vivian Gussin Paley

“Paley’s book is a treasure for anyone who wants to know more about what magic is possible in a classroom where a teacher encourages what Paley calls…a ‘narrative community’.”

This is one of Paley’s ‘must reads’.  A reminder of the depth of questions that children ask, and how much can be learnt when teachers take children’s questions seriously.  This book is a story of how children explore issues of race, gender, and fairness.  It is also an insight into a teacher’s thinking.  Teachers can learn much from Vivian Gussin Paley’s ‘stories’.

You Can’t Say You Can’t Play 

Vivian Gussin Paley

This book tells the story of how a classroom works through a new rule; ‘you can’t say you can’t play’.  The real issues of exclusion, lonliness, and rejections are confronted and explored, in a story that is inspiring and thought provoking.  Vivian Gussin Paley’s books are always readable and at least one should be in every teacher’s library.

All profits gained from books purchased via the ELP website will be donated to the ECE Leadership Trust. This Trust is set up specifically to support teachers attending conferences and any other professional development.

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