Texans Care for Children's Summer Book List

If you’re looking for a good book to read by the pool this summer, Texans Care for Children has several suggestions that will inform and inspire your work to support the children of our state.

Here are eight book recommendations, each with a brief explanation by one of our staff members. We might not agree with every page of each book, but we’re sure each one will give you something to think about.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough

It turns out cognitive skills alone do not a successful student make. Paul Tough leads readers on his journey to find out what is behind the non-cognitive skills that are linked to success, such as social and emotional skills and resiliency. He makes an extensive body of research accessible and, along the way, introduces us to people, places, and innovative practices that give form to what that research tells us. Not only does How Children Succeed reinforce the importance of programs in Texas that foster early brain development, like high quality early care and education, home visiting, and Early Childhood Intervention (ECI); it also pushes us to reexamine how Texas approaches our education, learning support, and discipline policies and practices. The book certainly makes social emotional learning, positive behavioral interventions and supports, and trauma-informed schools look more and more attractive.

- Josette Saxton, Children’s Mental Health Policy Associate

Cage-Busting Leadership, by Frederick Hess

Hess, a prominent education researcher, shows how to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve real changes in schools. The book profiles school leaders with a can-do attitude and their experiences driving change.

- Peter Clark, Communications Director

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, by Jill Leovy

Leovy, a former reporter, offers a moving look into the cycle of urban violence, the dedication of homicide detectives, and how the deployment of law enforcement resources can contribute to the problem. This book highlights opportunities for reform and inspires us to continue working tirelessly to ensure Texas children grow up in safe and healthy environments.

- Stephanie Rubin, CEO

Spark, the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey

In this book, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School John J. Ratey examines the relationship between the mind, the body, and the role that physical activity plays in our health and wellness. For me, it was the perfect mix of science and real life stories. It includes remarkable case studies, such as the fitness program in Illinois that has helped the local school district become number one in the world in science test scores. The book not only inspired me to get up and move a little more throughout the day, but is also a reminder of why we need to make sure kids get that same opportunity throughout their school day. Who knows what we could be number one in if that was the case for all Texas kids?

- Lauren Dimitry, Health and Fitness Policy Associate

The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics, by David L. Kirp

Kirp examines the growing nationwide movement towards prioritizing pre-K and other investments in children as well as the research backing those policies. The book includes CHIP and pre-K case studies from Texas. Although it was written a few years before Governor Abbott began championing the pre-K initiative that passed this legislative session, the book will help you understand how we got there.

- Peter Clark, Communications Director

Everything is Normal Until Proven Otherwise: A Book About Wraparound Services, by Karl Dennis and Ira Lourie

The authors offer the most fascinating stories of what the Wraparound process is and how it can help heal communities. They are masters at telling stories and using their own experience and the experiences of youth and families to help educate us about what this process looks like.

- Deborah Rosales-Elkins, Engagement Coordinator

The Invisible Safety Net: Protecting the Nation's Poor Children and Families, by Janet Currie

The Invisible Safety Net offers an accessible overview of safety net programs, with a particular eye towards their impact on children. Currie's book stresses the critical role the safety net has played in improving the lives of poor families in the United States, and provides a starting point for debate around the challenges these programs face in Texas and nationwide.

- Alice Bufkin, Early Opportunities Policy Associate

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink

In this quick read, Pink explores the research showing that autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the keys to motivation. I recommend the book to anyone working with or raising kids, managing people at work, designing policies and programs, or just trying to boost their own performance and satisfaction.

- Peter Clark, Communications Director