The Best Books for New Counselors, Teachers, & Parents

Sometimes I think the only way I can learn is through the struggle of figuring it out myself, but let’s save you a decade and get you to some of the best books if you’re just starting in the counseling field, teaching profession, or you’re about to bring home your first little bundle of joy. 

None of these books have “parent,” “teacher,” or “school counselor” in the title, and yet, they’re all so incredibly relevant; each book helped me be better in all three areas.

#1 Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships (Nonviolent Communication Guides) by Marshall Rosenberg

“Nonviolent Communication” is a revelation, and I’m so disappointed I didn’t find it sooner! Learn how to attend to the feelings and needs behind somebody else’s rejection. (Think: Hearing “no” time and again.) Discover new ways of empathizing and communicating and get the skills you need to listen and actually hear the perspective of others. 


#2 What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry

In “What Happened to You?” you’ll learn the basics of brain structures and how trauma impacts how we interact with the world. Ever wondered why someone lashes out at you for “no reason?” This book gives a sneak peek behind the curtain of your brain. 

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll discover how connecting with others can support healing. One of my favorite quotes from this work is, “Love, given and felt, is dependent upon the ability to be present, attentive, attuned, and respond to another human being.” This book is an absolute treasure trove of actionable skills for connecting with people. (Spoiler Alert: It’s often the little moments that matter the most.)  


#3 Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn 

“Punished by Rewards” is a book that revolutionized how I see my interactions with children. I’ve never been one to punish or bribe to get my way but hearing the research supporting how rewards often undermine interest and destroy intrinsic motivation solidified my desire to avoid giving out gold stars. This is an absolute must read for new teachers.

The common theme throughout all the books is connection. We’re hardwired to connect with others; when that need is met, we can become our best selves. Each book gives a different perspective on the connection process and makes learning these skills second nature.    

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