The best books for teaching (and raising) creative, curious, caring kids

Why are we passionate about this?

For more than five years, we’ve been asking ourselves a question: How? How did Mister Rogers help millions of kids feel accepted, special, and safe? Was there a method to what he did? Was there a blueprint he left behind—one that we might continue to learn from today? The answer, of course, is yes. In fact, we’re only scratching the surface of what we can learn from Fred Rogers and the incredible educators, researchers, and authors who are following in his footsteps. We hope you’ll find echoes of the Neighborhood—and the feelings that Fred inspired—in each of the books we’ve listed here.

We wrote...

When You Wonder, You're Learning: Mister Rogers' Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids

By Ryan Rydzewski and Gregg Behr,

Book cover of When You Wonder, You're Learning: Mister Rogers' Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids

What is our book about?

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood isn’t just a children’s program—it’s a proven blueprint for raising happier, healthier kids. As young people grapple with constant reminders that the world isn’t always kind, parents and teachers can look to Fred Rogers: an ingenious scientist and legendary caregiver who was decades ahead of his time.

When You Wonder, You’re Learning reveals this never-before-seen side of America’s favorite neighbor, exploring how Rogers nurtured the “tools for learning” now deemed essential for school, work, and life. With insights from thinkers, scientists, and teachers—many of whom worked with Rogers himself—When You Wonder, You’re Learning helps kids and the people who care for them do what Rogers taught best: become the best of whoever they are.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books we picked & why

Book cover of Whole Child, Whole Life: 10 Ways to Help Kids Live, Learn, and Thrive

Ryan Rydzewski and Gregg Behr Why did I love this book?

We love the side-by-side pairing of two separate (but inseparable) concepts: a child’s inner needs and a child’s outer life.

Author Stephanie Malia Krauss carefully considers the social, emotional, and environmental factors that can help every child thrive. And because it’s written as a guidebook, Whole Child, Whole Life helps busy parents and teachers get straight to the things that matter most.

Plus, it’s beautifully illustrated by Manuel S. Herrera!

By Stephanie Malia Krauss, Manuel Herrera (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Whole Child, Whole Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

10 proven practices to help children thrive

In a world that seems to grow more unpredictable and challenging by the day, how can we increase learning and joy for children while offering them much-needed support?

Uncertainty and disruption have created a youth mental health crisis that requires all hands on deck. This urgently needed guidebook offers comprehensive and scientifically-grounded methods you can use to support young people's well-being, no matter what obstacles they face. Written by an expert with decades of experience in education, youth development, and social work, this timely and timeless resource includes:

10 practices that can prevent…

Book cover of The Pepper Effect: Tap into the Magic of Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation

Ryan Rydzewski and Gregg Behr Why did I love this book?

This book combines a few of our favorite things: creativity, collaboration, and…The Beatles?!

Using one of the best albums of all time—Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—author Sean Gaillard shows educators what it takes to build the kind of school that every child deserves. Can you imagine walking into a schoolhouse that’s bursting with the energy of Sgt. Pepper?

Gaillard shows it’s possible, and he makes sure we have some fun along the way.

By Sean Gaillard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pepper Effect as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Make Your School a Masterpiece Can you imagine starting a school day with the festive, circus-like nature of the Beatles’ music? That kind of positivity, says author–educator Sean Gaillard, is the attitude “all schoolhouses must be rooted in, as we are in the collective agency for world-changing work.” In The Pepper Effect, Gaillard uses Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles as a template for inspiring the educators and principals to become more positive, innovative, creative, and collaborative—and for encouraging students to do the same. The book explores the four steps necessary for creating the conditions for motivation,…

Book cover of What STEM Can Do for Your Classroom: Improving Student Problem Solving, Collaboration, and Engagement

Ryan Rydzewski and Gregg Behr Why did I love this book?

Anyone in the education world likely hears about STEM all the time.

We know, intuitively, that science and technology matter. But rarely does anyone so beautifully make the case for what great STEM learning can look like.

In What STEM Can Do for Your Classroom, author Jason McKenna provides practical advice; turnkey activities; and helpful, plainspoken research that can help teachers change students’ lives through STEM—just as McKenna’s teachers did for him.

By Jason McKenna,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What STEM Can Do for Your Classroom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Author and educator Jason McKenna describes how teaching STEM education in his elementary school changed his classroom and his life, improving his students’ and his own approaches to problem solving, collaboration, and general motivation to learn. Offering examples, tried and tested classroom projects, and collaborative strategies, this innovative resource opens up STEM education in K–6 classrooms in exciting and expansive new ways.

K–6 educators will: Understand the benefits and importance of STEM in elementary schools Build resiliency and curiosity in students Discover a variety of classroom instruction strategies to approach STEM assessment Read vignettes discussing STEM implementation across grade levels…

Book cover of Growing Up in Public: Coming of Age in a Digital World

Ryan Rydzewski and Gregg Behr Why did I love this book?

Growing Up in Public addresses something that keeps digital-age parents awake at night: the fact that everything kids say and do will live online forever.

What does authenticity look like when the whole world is watching? How do kids develop character in an always-connected age? And how might we help our kids use digital tools to become the best of whoever they are?

We had the privilege of previewing the answers in Devorah Heitner’s fantastic book, forthcoming on September 12.

By Devorah Heitner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Growing Up in Public as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The definitive book on helping kids navigate growing up in a world where nearly every moment of their lives can be shared and compared

With social media and constant connection, the boundaries of privacy are stretched thin. Growing Up in Public shows parents how to help tweens and teens navigate boundaries, identity, privacy, and reputation in their digital world.
     We can track our kids’ every move with apps, see their grades within minutes of being posted, and fixate on their digital footprint, anxious that a misstep could cause them to be “canceled” or even jeopardize their admission to college. And…

Book cover of Finding the Magic in Middle School: Tapping Into the Power and Potential of the Middle School Years

Ryan Rydzewski and Gregg Behr Why did I love this book?

Middle school gets a bad rap.

It’s synonymous with petty gossip and nervous insecurity—a time that many adults would rather forget. But as author Chris Balme shows, middle school can also be magical. By taking us into the adolescent brain, Finding the Magic in Middle School helps parents and teachers understand the challenges—and the potential—unique to these oft-maligned years.

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Saving Raine

By Marian L Thomas,

Book cover of Saving Raine

Marian L Thomas

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Saving Raine is a captivating tale of resilience, redemption, and the enduring power of love, penned by the acclaimed author Marian L. Thomas.

This contemporary fiction novel chronicles the compelling journey of Raine Reynolds as she confronts heartache, betrayal, and loss. Against the vibrant backdrops of Atlanta and Paris, Raine's story unfolds as she grapples with the aftermath of her husband's infidelity and tragic passing.

Through poignant prose and compelling characters, "Saving Raine" delves into themes of forgiveness, healing, and the strength discovered in confronting life's greatest challenges. Readers will be captivated by Raine's emotional odyssey as she unearths hope, redemption, and the courage to embrace a brighter future.

Saving Raine

By Marian L Thomas,

What is this book about?

Raine Reynolds stands at the crossroads of despair and opportunity.
When the life you've built crumbles and the past refuses to release its grip, sometimes you need a fresh start-a new beginning that promises hope and redemption.
Once a celebrated author, Raine's life unraveled, sending her fleeing to the picturesque streets of Paris to escape the tormenting heartache that threatened to consume her. Yet, no matter how far she traveled, the pain remained her unwelcome companion.
Returning to bustling Atlanta as a senior VP for an ad agency, Raine is forced to confront a city steeped in…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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