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5 Brainy SEL Books for Your School

Updated: 5 days ago

5 Brainy SEL Books for Your School

If you are an educator, then you will want to add these 5 brainy SEL books to your school’s book club list pronto! Read on to find out how these books on social-emotional learning can help you as an educator. 


Why Start a Book Club?

When we consider tier-one strategies to support the mental health of our staff (and we should be considering that), I believe a well-run book club is a great place to start.


You might be thinking, “we are all overwhelmed with the workload as it is, why in the world would you ask me to add another thing?!”  I get it! I understand how at a glance the thought of adding one more thing and scheduling one more meeting could sound absurd; but, hear me out.


We know that workload, paperwork, and high-stakes testing are just a few of the causes of teacher burnout. We also know that student behavior and the gap between preservice training expectations and actual work experiences are two of the greatest causes for burnout, compassion fatigue and teacher dissatisfaction (Lever, Mathis & Mayworm, 2017). In an effort to reduce burnout and compassion fatigue, we must begin by pouring into our staff. 


Supporting staff mental health leads to teacher retention, increased job satisfaction and greater student academic outcomes, just to name a few of the benefits. Utilizing book studies to promote self-development while developing an understanding of our students’ needs and improving skills that can be translated into the classroom is a win-win.


The strategies in the books below provide examples of streamlined referral processes, student discipline strategies, social-emotional learning strategies and so much more! This type of knowledge can lead to reduced paperwork, stronger communication, increased positive student behavior and a positive school climate!  I’ve chosen these five titles specifically to assist you in supporting the brain health of staff and students. So, let’s get started!


Book Recommendations for Leadership Teams


By Gerald L. Cox, Psy.D, Kimberly F. Arnold, M.A.ED, Theresa R. Kummer, B.S.ED, Deanne K. McCullough, ED.D. and Amanda E. Settle, M.A.Ed.

5 Brainy SEL Books for Your School

While the need for shifting to a trauma-informed lens is widely accepted and even desired by educators today, it is often difficult to know how to get started. We’re also often strapped for time and while reacting to the very real needs of students everyday, there is little time or energy to allocate resources towards prevention.


Thankfully, a team of mental health professionals, educators and administrators saw that need and filled it with this guide! From philosophy and purpose to referral process and data collection, this manual walks teams through the steps of creating a trauma-informed leadership committee and creating trauma-informed conditions for learning. It even has a two year pacing guide for training and implementation. 



5 Brainy SEL Books for Your School

Created by leaders in the trauma-informed school movement, this comprehensive guide to transforming your school is an easy but powerful read. Packed full of strategies, real world examples and brain science, this guide covers the why and the how in a digestible and actionable format. My personal copy is dog eared, highlighted and full of coffee stains! This is one I continue to turn to when working with schools at any stage in the process of shifting from traditional to trauma-informed models.  


Book Recommendations for Whole Staff

  1. Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW

5 Brainy SEL Books for Your School

Brown defines a leader as, “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential.” If that doesn’t describe teachers, I don’t know what does! I am not exaggerating when I say this book is an absolute game-changer for personal growth, team development and professional growth.


Through stories and supported by solid research, this book delivers strategies that will change the way we communicate with one another, the way we treat ourselves and each other and the skills we develop in our students. In addition to the book itself, Dr. Brown and her team have created an entire hub of supplemental resources specifically for teachers.


Found here, Daring Classrooms, includes read-along guides, a leadership assessment, classroom integration ideas, learning videos and more. This work is so useful and important in developing courageous and empathetic leaders who create psychologically safe environments where curiosity, honest feedback, tough conversations and personal growth can occur. An absolute must-read!!! 


 by Lori L. Desautels, Ph.D. and Michael McKnight, M.A.

5 Brainy SEL Books for Your School

Written by leaders in the educational neuroscience movement, this book tops the list for an in-depth look at trauma, adversity and toxic stress and their impact on the developing brain and more specifically, the impact on education. Perhaps, most importantly, it offers practical and powerful strategies that can change the way our teachers teach and our students learn.


In fact, it has over 100 pages of strategies to bring educational neuroscience into the classroom in addition to the dozens of specific integration ideas throughout the book.  Finally, turning it into a book study is made easier with this pacing guide. If you are seeking actionable tasks that can be integrated into the policies and procedures of your school, this book is for you! 


  1. Lost at School by Ross W. Greene, Ph.D.

5 Brainy SEL Books for Your School

An important read for educators who understand the need for a shift in school discipline. Dr. Greene helps shift the lens from “kids do well if they want to” to “kids do well if they can.” This distinction is important in not only understanding challenging behaviors but in helping kids develop skills to meet the demands of their environment.


Through detailed examples and a look at the importance of collaboration, this is a great resource for bringing this research-based approach to your school. In addition to the book, there is a plethora of resources available for educators and parents on the Lives in the Balance website. You’ll even find free access to the paperwork necessary to implement the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions approach! In a time where we know school discipline needs an overhaul, this work is instrumental in bringing that change to our schools. 



These are just a few of my favorite books that I find myself returning to time and again for practical and impactful strategies to create positive change. Each one will undoubtedly bring inspiration, growth and great conversation to your book clubs! Throw in some snacks and you’re sure to have a great time learning and growing together!

 If you want to learn more about getting started with SEL and mental health supports in your school, click here and if you are looking for additional ways to support your staff’s mental health, click here


Lever, N., Mathis, E., & Mayworm, A. (2017). School Mental Health Is Not Just for Students: Why Teacher and School Staff Wellness Matters. 



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