Updated 04 Jul 2020

Recommended Books, Games

Admin @ 9:49 am

Below are excellent books relating to children’s education and health. Click a heading under “Contents” below to jump straight to that category.

Disclosure: A few of these links are active affiliate links, meaning we get a small percentage if you end up buying something. The vast majority, which go to Amazon.com, are active but no longer earn us any commission. We originally set this page up both to inform our readers about good products and to support our website (Amazon gave us 4-8%, depending on volume). The former reason is still valid, so we have the links in place. However, Amazon cancelled our affiliate agreement because this particular Web page was not receiving enough click-throughs to satisfy them. (There is little point to reapplying until we have enough traffic, and I have no reason to stay committed to Amazon anyway.) So for now, if you use these links to go to Amazon, our website will get nothing. Use this page to check Amazon’s prices and then shop wherever you like. (A primary reason we get so little traffic is that we haven’t gotten around to advertising the site. You are a pioneer here.)

Put your mouse pointer over the link without clicking to display Amazon’s current price. Click the link if you wish to go to Amazon’s product page (in a new window), where you can read the publisher’s description and reviews. A few links are to sites other than Amazon, and they will not display a pop-up. Links to Amazon categories rather than to individual items won’t display a pop-up either.

Alternative Education

Books at AERO

Rather than put up our own list under this category, we refer you to the bookstore at the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO), which is filled with excellent books. You will find many of my favorite authors there (in no particular order): Chris Mercogliano, Yacoov Hecht, Diane Ravitch, Naomi Aldort, Sir Ken Robinson, John Taylor Gatto, John Holt, Lisa Delpit, Alfie Kohn, and others, including a few about or by Dr. Maria Montessori.

Guides, Strategies and Materials Especially Good for Groups (for Teachers, Facilitators, and Parents)


Games can open children up to self-discovery, encourage interpersonal communication, develop cooperation and promote joy. Competitive games sometimes have the opposite effect unless the players play for fun instead of to beat each other. Have you ever noticed that children sometimes decide deliberately not to keep score? Below are some books on cooperative games, the kind just for fun.

Cooperative Games and Sports, Joyful Activities for Everyone (Second Edition)
by Terry Orlick (2006)

I know I’ve seen this book and thought I had a copy. Regardless, the reviews at Amazon support my memory of it as an excellent resource for working with children.

The New Games Book and More New Games are in fact old books now. If they are new to you, see if you can find a used copy, as they are well worth having.

For very small groups (2-4) of children ages 4 and up, check out the peaceable kingdom series of board games.

Another great board game, The Yoga Garden Game combines yoga with a board game for up to six players, ages 4 and up.


25 Read & Write Mini-Books That Teach Word Families

This book is aimed at children with a reasonable (but not yet perfect) ear for the sounds within words who are learning to match those sounds with relatively simple letter representations. Children at this level are drawn to the books because they can figure out so many of the new words by comparing them to the first word (or with a little help from their friends). That gives them independence, which is often a challenge for a classroom full of non-readers and barely-readers. The book is designed to be photocopied and then assembled, which is good for a classroom if you have the time or kidpower to assemble them. (You may need to borrow some older children to help.)


See the general category for “Mathematics” below.


A Guide for Using The Magic School Bus®: Inside the Human Body in the Classroom (Literature Unit (Teacher Created Materials))
by Ruth Young

This goes with the original children’s book, The Magic School Bus®: Inside the Human Body.

Strategies and Tips

Coming soon!


The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Knots and Ropework: Over 200 Tying Techniques with Step-by-Step Photographs
by Geoffrey Budworth (2010)

Knot tying is a great way for children to practice hand-eye and fine motor coordination while training their brains in spacial manipulation. Besides, many love the challenge and feeling of independence when they master knots. Knot-tying has practical applications and can be used artistically as well (as for macramé). This is a fantastic reference for older children or for adults who wish to teach knots to younger children.


Preparation for Pre-Readers (Readers-to-Be) and Emergence into Reading and Writing

Diane McGuinness, Ph.D. is a cognitive psychologist who has researched and published extensively on how children best learn to read as well as other topics, including special needs. Successful reading begins with successful language acquisition, which impacts a child’s reading ability. The book guides parents to nurture their child’s growing language skills through stimulating, interactive communication.

Dr. McGuinness is also the ground-breaking author of Why Our Children Can’t Read and What We Can Do About It (1999), Early Reading Instruction: What Science Really Tells Us about How to Teach Reading (2004) and Sound Steps to Reading: Sound-Targeting Storybook (2008) and Parent/Teacher Handbook (2008), among others.

Reading Reflex: The Foolproof Phono-Graphix Method for Teaching Your Child to Read

How can a child be expected to “sound it out” when letters and their combinations often have multiple possible pronunciations? This book addresses that problem and gives you the tools you need to help your child read without confusion and shame. Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness (not to be confused with Diane McGuinness, who happens to be Geoff’s mother) based this book on their Phono-Graphix reading method and their work founding and running Read America, Inc. and the Read America Clinic. Their approach has roots in Montessori ‐ Carmen had earlier started several Montessori schools ‐ but it goes beyond both Montessori and conventional phonics instruction to better handle the idiosyncrasies of written English.

The book targets parents who want to work individually with their child at home. Classroom teachers may want to go even deeper by taking the Phono-Graphix training course, but get the book first for a good introduction; you’ll want to lend it to parents later anyway.

(By the way, the McGuinnesses have since sold Phono-Graphix and the name, Read America Clinic, to Erin Duncan, one of their earliest and most experienced reading therapist protégés.)

Saving Literacy: How Marks Change Minds (2012) and HandMade Marks (2010)

Children’s scribbles and drawings help them develop focus, hand-eye coordination, emotional connection and symbolic thought, all of which underlie developing the mind as well as literacy. Author Susan Rich Sheridan, Ph.D. has researched cognitive development as it relates to mark-making for over 30 years. Saving Literacy is aimed at teachers, while HandMade Marks is aimed at parents and caregivers. Both books contain a wealth of activities and wisdom that will guide your work with children.

Drawing from A to Z: A Guided Visual Motor Practice to Strengthen Drawing and Writing Skills for Children K-1

The 26 drawing activities are designed to help young children improve their fine motor skills and lead them into writing without relying on unpleasant handwriting drills.

Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write–from Baby to Age 7

Dr. J. Richard Gentry gives practical explanations and activities for encouraging young children to read and write.

Early Reading and Writing

(For emergent readers ‐ those who are starting to read but not quite reading independently ‐ see also above.)

Games for Writing: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Write

Peggy Kaye presents enjoyable, nonthreatening games to encourage creative expression through writing as well as fun ways to practice spelling and penmanship. Numerous children so enjoy the games that they ask to play.

Children’s Books

You may also wish to check out our sister site, Barefoot Books Kids, where we occasionally write book reviews on Barefoot Books children’s books.

Deborah Ellis

I am giving Deborah Ellis her own heading because after hearing her interviewed recently, I believe she is in a class by herself. (This is not to say that other great authors don’t deserve headings, too, but I have not gotten to theirs yet.) Pictured at left is True Blue, which as a detective story is a departure from her usual genre (but a moving story nevertheless). She writes books about children for children – children living in far-away places, in other cultures, and in difficult political situations. She goes beyond simply researching the culture, regularly traveling to interview real children living in those cultures. Her purpose is to broaden and deepen children’s understanding of other people in our world through stories that portray human challenges as a child might experience them. She moves cultural studies from the abstract to the personal and encourages real insight and empathy.

A few more of her many books:

Moon at Nine is about fifteen-year-old Farrin, who goes to school in Tehran but must keep a low profile for several reasons, including her mother’s political activities and her own romantic involvement with another girl, both of which pose great danger in the political and religious climate of her country. (Ages 13+)

The Cat at the Wall is about a girl from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who has died and turned into a cat living in Bethlehem, Israel. From this perspective, she has an objective view of both sides of the Palestinian conflict. (Ages 10+)

Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids is a captivating collection of interviews of U.S. and Canadian Native American and First Nations children. (Ages 12+)

No Ordinary Day follows a year in the life of Valli, a girl living in a coal town in India who runs away after discovering her “aunt” is actually a stranger. She subsequently contracts leprosy, a much-feared disease which is curable with modern medicine for those who have the resources (or who are lucky enough to be sponsored by a charitable organization such as effect:hope, formerly The Leprosy Mission Canada, or American Leprosy Missions). (Ages 9-12)

Other Authors

The Magic School Bus®: Inside the Human Body
by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degen
Ages 4-8

The Magic School Bus series is still loved today after having been tested on a generation of kids. Companion books have been written for several, including this one. The latest, published in 2014, is Magic School Bus Presents: The Human Body: A Nonfiction Companion to the Original Magic School Bus Series. There is also a teacher resource: A Guide for Using The Magic School Bus® Inside the Human Body in the Classroom. Many Kindergarten-age children I have met were well familiar with the animated version, which did not at all detract from their interest in the books. Rather, they eagerly picked up the books because of their familiarity with the stories. You can get the complete series on DVD.

by Pam Munoz Ryan
Ages 9 to 14

This historical fiction tucked within a fantasy begins with a witch’s spell that can only be broken by a particular harmonica. It then follows three children in different places: Germany in World War II, a Hispanic community in California also during World War II, and the US during the Great Depression. Each character finds the courage to overcome serious societal obstacles after the harmonica enters their lives. This engaging book promotes discussion of racism and inequality.


Understanding English Spelling

English has only about 44 sounds (depending upon the dialect) but over 200 ways to spell them. This fact is rarely addressed head-on, but this book is the exception. The confusion for those learning to read and spell is quite serious. This wonderful resource lists spelling patterns and exceptions, along with some English spelling history (spelling has only gotten more difficult), a discussion of various educational approaches, the high cost of our quirky written language, and some possible solutions. It is a wonderful resource, both for teachers and for those interested in the politics of education.

Marsha Bell’s latest book, Spelling it out (pictured at right), explains in further detail how the English language itself is responsible for much of the underachievement of our students. Spelling instruction and reading confusion steal valuable time and energy away from other learning. Children growing up with phonetic languages have a significant advantage. The author makes specific recommendations to minimize ‐ and even to alter ‐ the oddness of our spelling.(Marsha Bell’s work is discussed in the Feburary 9, 2015 article at the Atlantic Journal: “How Spelling Keeps Kids From Learning.”)

1001 Commonly Misspelled Words: What Your Spell Checker Won’t Tell You

This book is a great tool for looking up words by how they ought to be or might be spelled when they are spelled another way.


Basic Concepts and Operations (+, -, ×, ÷)

How Much Is a Million?

20th Anniversary Edition (Reading Rainbow Books)
by David M. Schwartz
Ages 4-8

Moebius Noodles: Adventurous Math for the Playground Crowd
by Yelena McManaman and Maria Droujkova; illustrated by Ever Salazar
Ages 2+

Ever wondered why some kids love math and others hate it? One clue is that math is much more than calculations. When children see patterns in the world, they have a deeper affinity for mathematics as a descriptive language. Moebius Noodles explores math concepts, including symmetry, functions, arrays and fractals, through fun hands-on activities. Such experiences build a solid foundation for young children to build on when they encounter the ideas in a more abstract fashion when they are older (or for older children to review when they struggle with math abstractions).

By the way, the philosophy behind this book is discussed in a very interesting Atlantic Journal article published March 3, 2014, which quotes coauthor Maria Droujkova extensively: “5-Year-Olds Can Learn Calculus,” by education writer Luba Vangelova.

Advanced Basic (Grades 3+)

Hard Math for Elementary School
by Glenn Ellison
Grades 3-5

This book is interesting, challenging and fun for children who would like to dive more deeply into math. It works well for math clubs or home supplementation. For group instruction, I recommend also getting the Workbook and the workbook Answer Key

Older Students: Practical Math, Fundamentals for Review, and References for All Levels

All the Math You’ll Ever Need: A Self-Teaching Guide
by Steve Slavin

I give this book to older students who struggle with fractions, decimals, story problems and other skills the school system confused them about in elementary school and junior high. It has good explanations, samples and practice problems. The explanations are in easy-to-follow English and the book is well-organized. (It is not over-burdened with pages and pages of practice problems, but for those who want more practice, there are plenty of places on the Web to find more.)



Cool Science Experiments (for kids) -365 Experiments in Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Physics, Weather (Hinkler books)
Estelle Longfield (Editor), Glen Singleton (Illustrator)

Investigating the Natural World of Chemistry with Kids: Experiments, Writing, and Drawing Activities for Learning Science
by Michael J. Strauss

Fire Bubbles and Exploding Toothpaste: More Unforgettable Experiments that Make Science Fun (Steve Spangler Science)
by Steve Spangler


Uncover the Human Body: An Uncover It Book
by Luann Colombo and Jennifer Fairman
Ages 4-9 (Amazon says 8+)
Note that it comes as either a board book or hardcover.

An Illustrated Adventure in Human Anatomy: 2nd (second) Edition
by Anatomical Chart Anatomical Chart Company
Ages 4-10

Children appreciate this good basic reference. It seems to be out of print but you can still find it used. The book includes activities appropriate for ages 7-10. Older students will appreciate the detailed illustrations in Anatomy & Pathology, below.

Clever As a Fox: Animal Intelligence And What It Can Teach Us About Ourselves
by Sonja I. Yoerg

Clan Apis
by Jay Hosler

Magic School Bus Presents: The Human Body: A Nonfiction Companion… This is meant to be used together with The Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body. There is also a teacher resource: A Guide for Using The Magic School Bus®: Inside the Human Body in the Classroom.

Physics and Astronomy

by Ellen Hasbrouck, illustrated by Scott McDougall

Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes
Doug Stillinger (Editor)

The Magic Wand and Other Bright Experiments on Light and Color (The Exploratorium Science Snackbook Series)
by Paul Doherty

by Anita Yasuda

13 Planets: The Latest View of the Solar System (National Geographic Kids)
by David A. Aguilar

Born With a Bang: The Universe Tells Our Cosmic Story: Book 1 (The Universe Series)
by Jennifer Morgan

Special Needs

Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It
by Gabor Mate

The Autism Revolution: Whole-Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be
by Dr. Martha Herbert

Simon Says Pay Attention: Help for Children with ADHD
by Daniel Yeager LCSW

Songames for Sensory Processing: 25 Therapist Created Musical Activities for Improving Fine and Gross Motor Skills, Muscle Strength, and Rhythmicity
by Bob Wiz and Aubrey Lande

Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Supporting Children and Adults with Complex Communication Needs, Fourth Edition
by David Beukelman, Pat Mirenda

Teaching Motor Skills to Children With Cerebral Palsy And Similar Movement Disorders: A Guide for Parents And Professionals
by Sieglinde Martin

Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant
by Daniel Tammet

Misc: Health, Emotions, Self-Direction


HeartMath, LLC has a wealth of materials to reduce stress and increase well-being.

Books include:

The College De-Stress Handbook
Solution for Better Sleep Book
Transforming Depression
Stopping Emotional Eating – The emWave Stress and Weight Management Program (e-Book)
Transforming Stress
Transforming Anxiety
Transforming Anger

CD’s include:

Quiet Joy

Yoga for Children

Yoga Pretzels

When I taught in Montessori classrooms, one of the activities children could choose to do individually or with a friend was yoga. On the shelf was a basket containing these very Yoga Pretzels, which are in fact large, stiff (and almost child-proof) cards. Next to that was a rolled yoga mat. Children took the mat and basket to an empty floor space, unrolled the mat and picked a card. Even for those not yet able to read, the pictures served as great references for the poses. Children particularly loved the partner poses, though once in awhile I had to remind them that yoga was to be done slowly for relaxation, not as a tug-o-war.

Another great way to do yoga in class is as a whole group with someone leading them in a pose. This gets everyone stretched and grounded.

By the way, although you can buy them from Amazon, you can also buy them directly from the publisher, Barefoot Books.

Yoga For Children

I have heard this book is fantastic. I plan to buy it when I’m working with kids directly again.

The Yoga Garden Game combines yoga with a cooperative board game for up to six players, ages 4 and up. What a great way for kids to practice yoga together!

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