Updated: Mar 23
We first published this list 3 years ago, and oh how the world has changed. Just in time for the holidays, here is an up-to-date list of the best books to give as gifts to teachers and parents to start the year fresh!
Our guide should feel like a breather from the constant bombardment online from marketers selling “quick” solutions around parenting and education. Our list was thoughtfully put together by psychologist, musician, mother, and entrepreneur, director of Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®, Laura Bruce.
We hope that if you have a little human in your life, you will give yourself one of these gifts too!
Many of these books provide tips and support that are especially helpful today with families spending more time together than ever.
For a thoughtful discussion around how parents can maneuver life during COVID, read our 9 Takeaways From Our Interview with Carrie Contey, PhD.
We’ll keep this book list up-to-date, and we hope you’ll send us suggestions!
The following links are Amazon affiliate links that support our small local business.
Must-Reads for All Caregivers: Books on supporting and raising a little life
By Jessica Joelle Alexander & Iben Dissing Sandahl
This is a great book that helps parents explore child development from a different culture and perspective.
The Danish Way of Parenting also explores how to focus on family happiness and admit we all have our individual limits.
By Sandy Blackard
Written by local (Austin, TX) expert Sandy Blackard, this is probably the shortest and easiest book for parents, teachers, and all caregivers to read. It teaches us how to interact with children in a friendly manner even during the most defying situations. We learn to set clear and unnegotiable limits through love, understanding, and support of your child’s self-esteem. It is a must-read for all caregivers!
If you are or were a Mi Casa Es Tu Casa® client in the last 12 months, contact us to get this book for $10.
By Joanna Faber
The title says it all. This is our bible for raising kids! It gives you every tool you need during those first crucial years of raising a little person. We recommend having the audio version of this book if you don’t have time to sit and read. But having a hardcopy will allow you to reference different sections, which is great, because you’ll be going back to it again and again. From empowering your little ones through problem solving (yes, even at 2 years of age) and potty-training, to reconnecting with your child and building a close intimate relationship for years to come.
Parents with older kids might want How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk. Again, the title says it all—it is a thorough book for all things parenting (and all things adults need to understand and nurture in themselves before they can be their best selves and deliver love to their little ones).
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
This is a great read. It will give you an understanding of child development in a simple, easy-to-read way. It also offers parenting tools that accompany and support childhood development without the struggle.
The book looks at the way a child’s brain works (what it’s capable of at an early age), and gives us tips for responding, teaching, and parenting in healthy, age-appropriate ways that get results.
By John Medina
This book is a little controversial but our Director, Laura Bruce, enjoyed it while pregnant and listened to it with “the family” before her expected son arrived.
Here are more of her thoughts on the book:
It turned out to be a great decision because it helped me explore things I wouldn't have thought about before birth such as screen time and breast feeding.
So when the time came, it was a lot easier for me to understand the pros and cons of each decision I was making and feel more confident, informed, and relaxed about it.
You may or may not agree with the book, but in either case it is great to spend the time thinking about how you will support with your parenting, and why you make the decisions you do.
What matters the most: Books that help family life
By Jinny S. Ditzler
There are a million things we say we'll do but how many do we actually accomplish? You know why we don't get them all done? Because there is no plan in place with measurable stepping stones.
This book provides a great way to break down and focus on achieving your goals for next year.
This is a workshop book so we recommend the physical book.
By Patrick Lencioni
We cannot recommend this book enough. Every family comes with their own brand of chaos, but we are all capable of setting achievable goals and growing together. The author, a business consultant, takes what he knows about the methodical way in which his clients approach the organizations they run, and applies it to the most important organization in our lives: our families.
Why we liked it: Great book to teach techniques bring in more structure into a family to help remove some of the typical chaos a family feels.
By Shefali Tsabary
At Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®, not only do we encourage healthy foundations in music and language, but also in parenting. And one of our favorite authors on the subject is Dr. Shefali Tsabary (The Conscious Parent, The Awakened Family). The Conscious Parent takes us on a deep dive into how our own unresolved emotions effect our children and our relationships with them.
We often talk about how our children absorb our own worries, fears, and happiness when something big is going on. But it's more difficult to identify why we "lose our cool" over the smallest things, it takes more work and internal reflection to consciously examine how our past and our own "baggage" informs our parenting. Dr. Tsabary guides us through it all.
By Kim Scott
This book was suggested to us when we had the privilege of being in the City of Austin Accelerator Program for Small Businesses, so, it is a business work.
The reason this book made it to this list in the family category is because the concepts explained here and the tools given to interact with coworkers, employees, etc are really useful for family life.
This book can help you talk to your kids and other family members, like how to give constructive feedback that will be well received. It was also useful to understand that sometimes in life people will be shooting stars and sometimes they can be rock stars and both are okay..
The Big Picture: Books that help parents stay sane
By Brené Brown
We strongly believe that the best way to instill kindness, compassion, self-love, and confidence in your children, is to practice those attributes in yourself.
Nobody illustrates how important it is to “embrace who you are” better than Brené Brown. We think that everything you learn in her book will fill your own heart and then flow directly into the little hearts of the children in your life. Dr. Brown writes in a way that is intelligent, evidence-based, and inspiring, while also breaking concepts down into ten actionable “guideposts.” But if you want to cut to the chase, you can listen to the parenting version of the book: The Gift of Imperfect Parenting.
By Brené Brown
This honest book is a digestible mixture of stories and data, examples and lists. The human stories and examples give meaning to what Brené Brown wants to say. The data and the lists serve as actionable items that help you make sense of it all, that allow you to feel like it's all doable.
Some of the big takeaways from this book: You can't give to someone else what you don't give to yourself. Learning the difference between guilt and shame will do wonders for your relationships (one is useful, the other does damage).
This book is full of poignant, deep, data-driven messages that will change your life.
By Jen Sincero
This has turned out to be a very popular book and for good reason.
Jen Sincero has a very humorous way of writing self development books that offer us actions to take to improve the quality of our lives and unleashing our own very powerful selves. This book is easy to relate to and has some powerful reminders for parents. Why parents? Becoming the best person you can be is the only way of raising children in a healthy, loving, respectful, and mindful environment for a brighter future.
By Stephen R. Covey
While this may not be a parenting book by definition, there’s a reason it’s on this list. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one of the most well-known success books out there—and has certainly stood the test of time (it was published 30 years ago). Author Stephen Covey (1932-2012) asks us to look inside ourselves and do the work—he lays the habits out in an order that brings us from dependence to independence, and then on to interdependence. This allows us to operate from a place where our success is interdependent on the success of others. That is to say: other people don’t have to “lose” in order for you to “win.” We preach this philosophy to our children, so why not find a way to live by it? And we think that habit #5 from the book, “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood,” is the key to parenting.
By Mark Manson
Well... I think the tittle says it all, doesn't it?
Just keep in mind that every time you say 'yes' to something, you are also saying 'no' to something else whether you are conscious of it or not.
Books for Specific Parenting Matters: Communication, Potty Training, and Emotions
By Monta Z. Briant
This book gives parents and babies alike the gift of communication even before baby can talk. The ability to sign helps them alleviate their frustrations, and it gives us incredible insight into how much our little ones really do understand at such an early age.
Here’s a story from the Director of Mi Casa Es Tu Casa® about why she and her husband value this book so much:
This is one of the first books my husband and I read together when our baby was only a couple of months old, and it paid off. When my son was about 10 months old (and still absolutely nonverbal), we were putting him into the bathtub when he starting moving his hand to his mouth and then out and away from his face repeatedly. Having used baby sign language for months with him, we realized he was signing and were able to identify that he was signing the word, “Hot”! When we touched the water, it was almost burning hot! (Please don’t ask why we didn’t test it beforehand-—we don’t know either!) My 10-month-old saved himself from getting burned by his sleep-deprived parents! If this little story isn’t enough to encourage you to start using sign language with your little one, I don’t know what would be.”
Yup! That is the actual title of the book! Oh Crap! Potty Training takes a messy process and makes it simple and manageable by talking about it in terms of blocks (stages). At each block, once you’re ready, you commit—all or nothing. At some point, you’ll find yourself home for an entire day cleaning up after your diaper-less toddler, but there will be successes celebrated that day too
There is only one thing that I disagree with in this book: She says do not expose your child to the training potty until ready to start the process.
I agree it should not be used to do anything but sitting on it. However, having the little potty available for my son to sit down while I was on the big potty, contributed big time to our potty training success because we was already used to sitting on it and I modeled the behavior for at least 12 months before we started training! So I would advice to have one for them to sit down with you while you use the potty, way before starting potty training!
By Gabi Garcia
Listening to My Body is the only book in our list that’s made for grownups to read to a child, but we think it’s an empowering book for both caretakers and little ones. It teaches us to identify body sensations and emotions in different situations like cold, hot, sleepy—but also in situations where you feel uncomfortable, upset, or unsafe. The book is interactive, at one point asking children to jump up and down and feel their hearts beat faster, and at another asking the reader to take deep breaths. We learn to recognize, then name, our feelings so that we can find the best response for handling our emotions.
Books That Give Us Fresh Perspectives on Education
By Betina Love
In this book—winner of the 2020 Society of Professors of Education Outstanding Book Award—Dr. Betina Love calls for U.S. educational reforms to a system that is harmful to students of color. She challenges us to completely rethink our educational system, its policies and practices, so that educators can focus on helping black students thrive, rather than teaching them tactics for survival (improving test-taking, leaving your culture at home).
Dr. Love discusses what it means to take an abolitionist approach to education (protesting, calling-out, and boycotting) in order to make change and encourages us to put love first. Ultimately, she asks us to envision a world where we take care of our most vulnerable children first and to see how, if we do that, the benefits are felt across the whole system.
by Laura Sandefer
Laura Sandefer, co-founder of Acton Academy, (founded in Austin TX over 10 years ago and now tie over 300 branches all over the world) tells the story of how Acton's philosophy turns the traditional education model (which we all know doesn’t work [for everyone]) on its head.
In this model students are encouraged to follow their passions and direct their own learning with the help of guides. There are no teachers t Acton.
Multi-aged classrooms are grouped by interest and ability, and learning is a quest (project) oriented journey.
More than anything, however, this book is about the journey that the husband and wife team embarked on to create Acton Academy and will get you thinking about how we (and our systems) approach education.
We recently took our son out of a traditional Spanish immersion private school to go into Acton Academy. Getting out of Spanish immersion was not an easy decision for us, but the change from traditional schooling to Acton has been of of the best decisions we have made as a family. I do have to work hard every day to maintain Spanish at a native level for him, but his personality, his self esteem, his self image and confidence are blooming like never before! And the questions he has started asking at home are so much more in depth and mindful than ever.
BEWARE: Once you read this book you won't be able to see traditional education the same way ever again.
By Barbara Zurer Pearson
Parents who are interested in raising a bilingual child should read this book: both bilingual parents wanting to pass on their native and heritage language and monolingual parents. Dr. Zurer Pearson gives fascinating insight into what goes on in a baby or child’s brain when learning language, and she shows us how language acquisition in bilingual children differs.
Written in simple, easy-to-understand language, it also breaks down the most effective methods for raising a bilingual child.
For more reading around why young children are so good at learning languages, see this post!
Are there any books that changed your life? Share the wisdom, comment below!
Please help us share this list to your friends and family so together we can raise the best generation yet!