Professional Development Books: Child Development

Welcome to Part 3 of my Professional Development Books series. Part 1 showcases books about language and literacy, while Part 2 features my go-to program planning resources.

This post is all about child development, child psychology, and brain development. In truth, I have not read all of these in full – this list is partly for my own reading inspiration. My goal is to read one a month. Anyone with me?

The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids (2014) by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl
I am a little biased about this one because firstly, if my last name didn’t give it away, my family is Danish, and secondly, this is how I raise the little one in my life. The authors spend a chapter each on the 6 elements of PARENT: Play, Authenticity, Reframing, Empathy, No Ultimatums, and Togetherness. Written in accessible language, this is a great book to read for yourself or to recommend to other caregivers.

The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids by Alexandra Lange
A design critic steps into the world of children by investigating how toys, homes, schools, playgrounds, and cities affect children’s health, values, and behaviours. Though not directly related to library service, this is a fascinating look at the other things in the world that heavily influence child development.

Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How Our Children Really Learn – and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less (2003) by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff
These two authors are also on my Literacy and Language list. In this book they push against the accelerated learning trend and make the case for play (which we know is so important!). I haven’t read it yet, but they’ve got a 2017 book out called Becoming Brilliant that I also want to check out.

The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children (2016) by Alison Gopnik
I recommend all of Gopnik’s books. This is her most recent one which centers on the myth of “good parenting.” She argues that prescriptive parenting has made life worse for adults and kids, and offers advice on how to create a safe and stable environment for children which fosters exploration and experimentation. I also put it on my Language and Literacy list.

The Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (2010) by Ellen Galinsky
Committed to providing a research-based parenting advice book, Galinsky lays out 7 critical areas where science can inform our interactions with small children. Filled with lots of suggestions that caregivers can use (or not). Highly recommend for anyone wanting to learn more about executive function.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (2009) by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
I’ve written about my love of this book before, and it’s no wonder it’s a bestseller. Each chapter covers a different topic – praising children, sleep, race, lying, self-control, teen rebellion, and more. A quick, fun read that will get you thinking in new ways.

Nurturing Personal, Social and Emotional Development in Early Childhood: A Practical Guide to Understanding Brain Development and Young Children’s Behaviour (2018) by Debbie Garvey
Case studies and examples fill this guide which aims to inform early childhood educators about brain development and encourages them to reflect on their own practice. Some topics such as reward systems and food eating aren’t as applicable to a library setting as a home or childcare, but there’s lots of recent research to explore here.

The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive (2019) by W. Thomas Boyce
I first learned about this book through an interview with the author on NPR. Using the metaphor of the two flowers, Boyce examines what makes some children able to cope with stress, while others are more sensitive and reactive. An interesting look at how we can support kids who need it most.

The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life (2010) by Alison Gopnik
As I said, I recommend everything written by Gopnik. This one is especially relevant for those of us serving babies. Learn about memory, attachment, language acquisition, and how babies view the world.

Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps – And What We Can Do About It (2009) by Lise Eliot
A neuroscientist takes on assumptions and stereotypes about gender that start from birth. I like how she explains how small differences become amplified over time with parental reinforcement, but also how she looks at the role of genes and hormones to see what differences actually exist. Differences among us are presented as emerging, malleable characteristics rather than fixed biological traits.

The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children (2007) by David Elkind
Another push towards play as a method of learning versus the regimented educational curriculum popular in the 1990s. Elkind explores how play can help with reading, science, and math. An easy read with lots of great examples.

The Psychology of Babies: How Relationships Support Development From Birth to Two (2014) by Lynne Murray
Written by a professor of developmental psychology, I highly recommend this book to anyone doing babytime. Learn how a baby’s brain grows and changes in the first two years and how relationships can aid that development. I love the photograph sequences that illustrate main concepts so you see it in action.

The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind (2000) by Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff, and Patricia K. Kuhl
Revolutionary when it was published this book argues that “evolution designed us to both teach and learn.” Although the research they cite can’t be counted as groundbreaking anymore, they do a great job of using cognitive science to explain children’s brains and language development.

Screen Time: How Electronic Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Your Young Child (2007) by Lisa Guernsey
Despite being published in 2007, this book offers a great framework for choosing digital media that I still use today – Content, Context, and Your Child. Guernsey provides a critical look at technology for little ones but doesn’t give into the fear mongering common in the media.

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults (2015) by Frances E. Jensen
Changes the question about teens from “What were they thinking?” to “How were they thinking?” The first four chapters provide the inside (brain) scoop on what’s happening as teens develop and were the most interesting to me. The next 12 chapters dive into specific topics such as drug and alcohol use, sleep, taking risks, mental illness, and stress. Highly recommend for those us serving teens and trying to understand them better.

The Toddler Brain: Nurture the Skills Today that Will Shape Your Child’s Tomorrow (2017) by Laura A. Jana
The premise of this book is based on the premise that the Information Age requires much different thinking abilities than the Industrial Age (which we still see in the structure of our schools). The author argues that the first five years are a prime time to develop what she calls QI Skills and she spends a chapter each describing how we can foster emotional intelligence and qualities such as curiosity, creativity, and empathy.

Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College (2011) by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang
This one contains the most science-y language and the most breadth covering from birth to teenage years. The neuroscientist authors lay out neural development, the importance of play, and how children’s brains adapt to school and other challenging environments.

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind (2011) by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
Written by a psychotherapist and a clinical professor of psychiatry, this popular book explains how a child’s developing brain affects emotions and behaviour. Written for caregivers, this book gives concrete strategies for dealing with common parental frustrations that are tied to brain development. Includes a chart showing the 12 strategies applied to different ages and stages.

Do you have a book about child development that has impacted the way you think or serve children in libraries? I would love to know about it!

5 thoughts on “Professional Development Books: Child Development

  1. What a great list of recommendations, thank you! We follow you guys on Instagram and really like your content. This post is especially relevant for us because we run sensory classes for babies so we’re all about promoting development in babies. Check us out @ lullaland.winnipeg on Instagram if you’re curious to find out more!

    1. Thank you, Denise! I love finding new Instagram accounts to follow with kid content so I’ll definitely check you out 🙂

  2. I love this list! I try and keep a professional development book as a regular read. I just completed Thirty Million Words: Building a child by Dana Suskind of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Confirmation on things I practice at Babytime and Storytime and things to develop, I learned more and the book includes excellent resources.

    I see three books for sure I am adding to my list. Thank you!

  3. So many books, so little time! I would love to get some reading buddies together so I actually make more progress on these. It’s so much more motivating and fun when you have great minds to talk about all the things with! When I was a teacher I used to love participating in summer blogger PD book studies and posting thoughts on a chapter a week (but of course summer is like the WORST time for children’s librarians)…

    Anyways, another new book on my PD radar is Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool.

    1. Yes, totally agree! That’s one of the reasons I started the Library Services for Children Journal Club – to encourage us as a profession to discuss emerging research even one article at a time. I’ve got a hold on Cribsheet – seen lots of buzz about it!

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