10 Books to Add to Your Holiday Break Reading List

10 Books to Add to Your Holiday Break Reading List


It's November and that means the holiday season is upon us. For me, the holiday break is a chance to catch my breath and catch up on some reading I've had to set aside during the first few months of school. I love to read, so it can be difficult to get my reading stack down to a manageable number of texts. So, I often look to colleagues for suggestions of their recent reads and recommendations.

If you're like me, you'll enjoy my “Top 10” recommended reads for teachers, especially ELA teachers. They're all works I believe have benefitted me. Listed in a no particular order:


"Book Love" by Penny Kittle: If you are an ELA teacher who believes your students need to do more independent reading, but you aren’t sure how to incorporate it, please read "Book Love."  Kittle offers a very manageable commonsense approach to getting your kids to read. Every. Single. Day. I can speak from experience when I say it works and, if your students are like mine, you will see improvement in their reading fluency, stamina and comprehension, while you help them foster a love of reading.



"Write Like This" by Kelly Gallagher: In my 15 years in the classroom, I have never had a year in which my students didn’t struggle with writing. I feel like I’ve tried all the methods, but always with the same approach. Until I picked up Gallagher’s book and found a way to effectively incorporate modeling in my writing instruction. My students are quick to hop on the internet and watch a video of a “pro” showing them how to master some task. Doesn’t it make sense that watching a writing “pro” in the classroom would elevate their writing skills? As the teacher, we are likely the best writer in the room; by acting as a model writer, we are also modeling vulnerability, a necessary part of learning.



"180 Days" by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle: If you’ve read "Book Love" and you’ve read "Write Like This," but you still aren’t sure how to make all of that good pedagogy fit in one class period, you need to read "180 Days."  In this text, Gallagher and Kittle take us through one year in their respective classrooms, and they give us a transparent and honest look at their planning, instruction, grading methods and assessment models. This book absolutely changed my classroom routine for the better!




"Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters" by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst: In "Disrupting Thinking," Beers and Probst tackle the problem of lack of student engagement in reading. They hypothesize on why our strategies aren’t working and offer hands-on strategies that the classroom teacher can take and use right away!




"Educated" by Tara Westover: "Educated" is a personal memoir in which Westover describes her life in the mountains of Idaho and what it was like to enter a classroom for the first time at the age of seventeen. I have used this work as a model of first-person narrative, and as a classroom book club selection. It resonates with my students on several levels and provides an example of strong writing.  In addition, it’s just an engaging read!





"The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas: "The Hate U Give" is the story of Starr Carter who watched her best friend die at the hands of police and now is living with the aftermath of what that means for her, her family and her community. When our students exist in a world where social justice is an ideal but not quite a reality, Thomas’s work provides us entry to these difficult conversations. I have four copies of this book in my classroom and I can’t keep them on the shelf.




"Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi: Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s childhood in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. Told in graphic novel form, the simplicity of the black and white artistry mixed with the edgy, often heartbreaking, and sometimes funny narrative, Persepolis offers readers an insight into the hard-won wisdom of the author who lived a life most readers may not be able to imagine.





"Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood" by Trevor Noah: While many readers are familiar with Noah from his work on The Daily Show, "Born a Crime" documents his rise from a young man whose mere birth was a crime in his country of origin. Noah does an amazing job of using humor to tell the difficult story of how his mother helped him break the cycle of poverty, violence and abuse.





"Circe" by Madeline Miller: Miller’s feminist retelling of the Circe myth is not only beautifully written (and packaged!), but also full of suspenseful action. While most readers may only be familiar with Circe through the eyes of Odysseus, Miller has made Circe a three-dimensional character who is smart, powerful and vengeful. While my students enjoyed reading this on its own, there are excerpts that would work as an interesting pairing with "The Odyssey."




"Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel: A good post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel almost always peaks my students’ interests (and my own), but I have found few as engaging as "Station Eleven." In the novel, Kirsten Raymonde moves between newfound settlements with the rest of the Travelling Symphony—a group of actors and musicians who have dedicated themselves to keeping art and the humanities alive in the new world and to proving that “survival is insufficient.” This text, when read with a whole class, offers so many opportunities for in-depth discussions about the role of the arts in our society.



What texts are on your list of favorites? What will you be reading over your holiday break this year?

Share your ideas so we can read and learn together!


Toni Polling is an English language arts teacher at Fairmont Senior High School, West Virginia, and 2017 West Virginia Teacher of the Year.

A 1999 graduate of Doddridge County High School, Toni Poling attended the West Virginia University(WVU) five-year teacher education program, earning a bachelor of arts degree in English and a master of arts degree in secondary education.

After graduating cum laude from WVU, Toni taught for one-year each at both Doddridge County High School and Ritchie County High School before joining Fairmont Senior High School in 2006, where she currently teaches AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, and serves in a number of leadership positions. In 2013, she achieved her National Board Certification; in 2016 earned her certification in Public School Administration; and she is currently pursuing a doctorate of education in curriculum, instruction and assessment.

In 2016, Toni was awarded the Fairmont State University Professional Development School Partnership Excellence in Teaching Award, and was named Fairmont Senior High School Teacher of the Year and Marion County Teacher of the Year. In 2017, Toni was honored as the West Virginia State Teacher of the Year and spent her year of service advocating for public education in the Mountain State.

© 2024 NNSTOY, All Rights Reserved
Website by David Taylor Design | NJ Website Design Company