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Six Books on My Summer Reading List

July 11, 2023

In my past posts, I have talked about how I take some time over the summer to dive into learning things I want to know about. Many times that includes books. I am a book lover; I buy books that look interesting to me, and then they sit on my shelf, collecting dust and looking like I am more intellectual than I really am. Many of these books are on subjects I want to deepen my understanding to include the information in my keynote speeches and training. This summer is the summer of deepening my knowledge of trauma-informed work.

I have a lived knowledge of trauma-informed parenting; my husband and I adopted four children from foster care in 2006. Before we adopted our children, I read many books on attachment and bonding—one of my favorites is The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis. 

My lived expertise with our now young adult children with developmental trauma has been a learning experience all on its own. I want to understand better what strategies to use as a teacher or professional that support others with traumatic experiences. I understand with our children that just because you grow older doesn’t mean that the effects of childhood trauma go away. 

My Six Picks for the Summer

  1. Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown
  2. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk
  3. What Happened to You? by Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey
  4. Beyond Behaviors by Mona Delahooke
  5. Connection Over Compliance by Lori Desautels
  6. The Regulated Classroom by Emily Read Daniels

Why these six books?

My mom and I drove to Oklahoma to visit my aunt in March 2022. I had brought Atlas of the Heart for myself and my mom to read together at the beginning of the year. Then the road trip came about; what better way to listen and discuss the book? My mom and I would listen a bit to Brené, with her Texas accent, reading the words and adding in her additional comments. Then we would stop the recording to discuss what we heard. We didn’t get through the whole book on that road trip. It took us two more lengthy road trips to finish the book. 

In Atlas of the Heart, Brown writes about our emotional language being stunted to about three words you can name when you are in the emotion, mad-glad-sad. You need to expand your vocabulary of words and the body sensations that go with those words to develop better connections. Some emotions help connect with others and stay connected; others fall in line with disconnections. Recognizing the emotion, naming it, and staging connected to it within yourself is the key to connection.

Brené Brown also did an HBO series on the book, and this past weekend I watched the first episode of the series. The 5 part series is an excellent way to learn the book’s essence if you don’t have time to read or listen to it. However, I recommend buying the book just for the beautiful and emotionally moving art she refers to throughout the narrative.

The Body Keeps the Score has been collecting dust on my shelf for eight years. It was a difficult book to read due to reading about traumatic experiences. The first four parts of the book are about different types of trauma and the neuroscience (brain science) behind the trauma. The beginning was hard to read because of the events described and the complexity of neuroscience. The book’s last section, part five, was about the paths to recovery. In my opinion, the last part was the most hopeful part of the book. 

There are many paths to recovery, and it’s finding the path that best fits the person that can make a difference. People are not consciously aware of why they respond the way that they do in both stressful and non-stressful situations. The extreme response of a Koren War veteran to the fireworks going off during a celebration is just one of the many examples given in the book. Van Der Kolk offers a number of body-based modalities that can make a difference in healing from traumatic events in the past.

I am about halfway through What Happened to You? at this time. This book is written in an interview and storytelling style. Oprah is interviewing Dr. Perry and adding her stories of childhood trauma. I took a course on the Neurosequetial Model taught by Dr. Perry, so I am familiar with the neuroscience he presents in the book. He talks about the brain and body in terms that are easy to understand. 

This book is packed with background information about developmental trauma that happens in early childhood. My biggest takeaway so far is if we could give parents a high level of support to start out a baby’s life, the first two months are critical, and the child would have a higher level of resilience. Just two months, eight weeks make all the difference. That is eye-opening for me as I think about all the children that could be more equipt to weather the storms of life if their parents had that support. This book needs to be required reading for all parents.

I have yet to crack open the last three books on my list; however, I am looking forward to reading them. All three of the books are about the integration of the Polyvagal Theory with children in school settings. Lori Desautels is someone that I have been following on social media for a while. She has many free resources on her website for school administrators and educators. She has written several books, and this will be the first one I have read. In her book Connection Over Compliance, she is taking on the traditional discipline systems in schools and sets a case as to why it needs to change, which needs to start with the adults in the school.

My colleague, Monica Cochran, has been telling me about Mona Delahooke’s methods for understanding behavioral challenges in children. I finally bought Beyond Behaviors about two years ago. The book is divided into three sections, 1) Understanding Behavior, 2) Solutions, and 3) Neurodiversity, Trauma, and Looking into the Future. I look forward to diving into this book along with the next book for usable strategies for educators in the classroom.

The final book for the summer is a thin spiral-bound book, The Regulated Classroom, by Emily Read Daniels. By the time I read this book, I can skim the first part since it’s all information I have gotten from my previous readings. The meat of this book is in the activities Daniels shares to integrate into the K-12 grade classroom. In consulting with schools, I facilitate embedded professional learning experiences for teachers. One of the experiences is integrating social and emotional learning skills and content into the classroom routine. As I look through the book, I see many of the strategies I already use in the classroom; however, if I can pick up one or two more to share with teachers, the book is worth it. 

This review of my summer reading can give you ideas as to what books you want to dive into that are either sitting on your shelf or have been recommended by others. Let me know what you recommend for trauma-informed teaching by connecting with me on LinkedIn. I would love to know what you would recommend that I read next.