Have some extra time this summer? If you're interested in reading an inspiring true story of a teacher, parent, or reformer who has started a grassroots education movement, we've got a few suggestions.
(Photo: Laurie Rotko)
As public schools across the nation face budget cuts, arts education usually takes the biggest hit. Tricia Tunstall's book Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music profiles a Venezuelan music program for underprivileged youth and serves as an argument against arts defunding. Founded by José Antonio Abreu in 1975, El Sistema is a network of youth orchestras that provide children with after-school musical training to keep them away from the world of crime. Approximately 370,000 students participate in the program. One of its famous students includes Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dudamel has successfully brought the concept to the United States and is making a major impact. The book is an inspiring read and shows just how much music education can transform lives.
Following her husband's death, education reformer Deborah Kenny was determined to start a public charter school in Harlem. In 2001, her dream came true when Harlem Village Academies opened its doors. A few years later, middle and high schools were added. By 2009, the students became the first Harlem class to “achieve 100% proficiency in eighth-grade math,” CNN reports. This June, Kenny released Born to Rise: A Story of Children and Teachers Reaching Their Highest Potential, a powerful book about the trials and tribulations she faced while starting the school. Kenny's hope is that readers will be motivated to join her education movement after reading her story.
Tony Wagner, founder of the Change Leadership Group at Harvard University, attributes “play, passion, and purpose” as the key ingredients in raising the next generation of innovators. He teaches educators and parents how to integrate creativity and imagination into the classroom and into their everyday lives. In his new book, Creating Innovators, Wagner profiles compelling innovators with the hopes of encouraging teachers, parents, and employers to develop the capacities of young people to become the next changemakers.
Published in 1999, The Freedom Writers Diary still stands the test of time as a true inspirational story of a teacher who taught inner-city students to convey their emotions and struggles through writing. Erin Gruwell's perseverance led to all 150 of her students graduating and attending college. In 2007, the book was made into a movie starring Hilary Swank.
Anne T. Henderson, along with other educators, conducted interviews at public schools across the country to gauge the areas in need of reform. In their findings, they emphasized the importance of creating a community in which parents are engaged in their children's education. The updated book shows how to form strong partnerships and how to make them work. It's a great resource for parents who want to dive in and create change in their community.