Every school year begins with hope of a fresh start and a clean slate, but oftentimes it quickly becomes apparent that any new strategies and ideas for helping your child survive and thrive are going to have to come from you. Get ready to fight the good fight with these books, reviewed for the Harried Parent's Book Club, that provide plenty of inspiration for your advocacy efforts, from tips to share with teachers to IEP improvements to request from your team to programs to propose to higher-ups or implement yourself at home. Do your homework now; the tests are coming soon.
The Teacher's Guide to Inclusive Education
by Peggy A. Hammeken
Looking for some proof, going into a new school year, that inclusion is something schools do, that there are best practices for it, and that somebody has written down exactly what needs to be done to make not only classrooms but the education that goes on in them work for everybody? Read this book, and then pass it on to your child's teacher.
Late, Lost, and Unprepared
by Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel
If your child is organizationally challenged, you're probably dreading another year of missed homework, lost papers, and teacher admonishments. This book challenges the conventional wisdom that kids who can't seem to get it together are just lazy and unmotivated with an explanation of Executive Functioning, an acknowledgment that some kids have a legitimate disability in this area, and techniques that will help them succeed.
Math Doesn't Suck
by Danica McKellar
The actress best-known as Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years has gone on to be a math goddess, authoring both theorems and books making math accessible to girls. You may not be able to get your child to read this with you (if she hates reading, for example, or if he's a boy), but it's an enjoyable text that can give you some good ideas for expressing abstract math concepts in ways that will capture your child's interest.
Mosaic of Thought
by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann
Speaking of hating reading, if your child struggles with reading comprehension, this book can explain some of the latest research on reading, the newest techniques used in classrooms, and the ways you can use the strategies of strong readers to pump up your weaker one. There's a newer edition of this book out since the one I read and reviewed, if you're interested in really up-to-the-minute advice.
You, Your Child, and "Special" Education
by Barbara Coyne Cutler with Sue Pratt
I had my issues with this special-education primer -- my personal style is less confrontational, though the author might call it more co-opted -- but if you're looking for something to psych you up for IEP battles ahead, the well-written text and useful dialogs here will coach you into advocacy fitness after your lazy summer off.
The Behavior Code
by Jessica Minahan and Nancy Rappaport
Behavior is always a big worry as the routine of summer moves into the routine of school, and a whole range of new people and classrooms and schedules and antecedents threaten to trip our kiddos up. Reading up on the kind of planning and environment-changing that can head off behavior problems before they start can give you some well-researched, professional-endorsed, proactive ideas to bring to your first meeting with the teacher.
Peer Support Strategies
by Erik W. Carter, Lisa S. Cushing, and Craig H. Kennedy
Wonder what it would look like if the other kids in your child's class provided help and support the way paraprofessionals do? If you're a parent who's advocated hard to get that adult assistance for your child, it may sound like a sneaky underhanded way for the school to cut down on personnel and overturn your efforts. It's worth giving this book a read to get the other side of the story -- why peer support might really help your child and others, and how the adults you've fought to put in that classroom can be the ones to facilitate it.
The Pressured Child
by Michael Thompson with Teresa Barker
Your worries about the upcoming year may pale in comparison to the fears and anxieties stuffed into your child's mental book bag. When you're making your plans on what your child's classroom should look like, and what sort of work he or she should be doing, and what goals you will expect the professionals to be pursuing, take a moment to consider what all that stuff feels like to the student who's the target of it. Respecting those feelings can help relieve that pressure.
The Learning Tree
by Stanley I. Greenspan and Nancy Thorndike Greenspan, with Richard Lodish, EdD
Parts of this book may make you feel blue that your child isn't going to a cool school that puts these theories in practice, but there's nothing stopping you from implementing this Floortime approach to learning disabilities from the late Dr. Stanley Greenspan at home or using some of the ideas to increase your understanding of what makes your child struggle.
A Smile as Big as the Moon
by Mike Kersjes with Joe Layden
Did you catch the Hallmark movie based on the book? Whether the story is entirely new to you or not, it's a good inspirational read for back-to-school -- and a reminder that oftentimes, teachers are fighting just as hard for our kids as we are.