62 books like Free to Learn

By Peter Gray,

Here are 62 books that Free to Learn fans have personally recommended if you like Free to Learn. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Free-Range Kids: How Parents and Teachers Can Let Go and Let Grow

Sara Zaske Author Of Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children

From my list on raising self-reliant children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer who lived in Germany for more than six years with my family. That experience opened my eyes to a different way of parenting in a country that had learned hard lessons about too much authoritarian control. It also taught me that much of what we believe is “true” about raising kids is actually cultural—and therefore, can be changed. In addition to my book about raising kids in Germany, Achtung Baby, I’ve written extensively on raising self-reliant kids, including articles in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Time.com among others.

Sara's book list on raising self-reliant children

Sara Zaske Why did Sara love this book?

No other book – and arguably no other personality – has done more to help loosen the lock-hold helicopter parenting has on our kids than Free-Range Kids and Lenore Skenazy. The book is a primer on ways to give your kids the freedom to grow up while it tears apart many of the paranoid parenting myths: from child predators lurking on every corner to the overblown dangers of choking on uncut grapes. Even better, Skenazy is hilarious and her book is great fun to read.

By Lenore Skenazy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Free-Range Kids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Free Range Kids has become a national movement, sparked by the incredible response to Lenore Skenazy's piece about allowing her 9-year-old to ride the subway alone in NYC. Parent groups argued about it, bloggers blogged, spouses became uncivil with each other, and the media jumped all over it.

A lot of parents today, Skenazy says, see no difference between letting their kids walk to school and letting them walk through a firing range. Any risk is seen as too much risk. But if you try to prevent every possible danger or difficulty in your child's everyday life, that child never…


Book cover of Mommy Laid An Egg: Or, Where Do Babies Come From?

Sara Zaske Author Of Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children

From my list on raising self-reliant children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer who lived in Germany for more than six years with my family. That experience opened my eyes to a different way of parenting in a country that had learned hard lessons about too much authoritarian control. It also taught me that much of what we believe is “true” about raising kids is actually cultural—and therefore, can be changed. In addition to my book about raising kids in Germany, Achtung Baby, I’ve written extensively on raising self-reliant kids, including articles in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Time.com among others.

Sara's book list on raising self-reliant children

Sara Zaske Why did Sara love this book?

When my daughter was in first grade in Germany, her teacher read this book to her entire class. Sex education is considered a right in Germany since knowing how your body works is essential for your reproductive health. In the U.S. it’s left to us as parents to teach sex ed to our kids—which I’d argue is less than ideal, given the high costs of keeping kids ignorant. (The U.S. has higher rates of teen AIDS, teen pregnancy, and abortion than Germany.) If you don’t know how to broach this subject, this book is a good, age-appropriate, place to start when your young kids first begin asking questions.

By Babette Cole,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mommy Laid An Egg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two children explain to their parents, using their own drawings, where babies come from.


Book cover of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Nate G. Hilger Author Of The Parent Trap: How to Stop Overloading Parents and Fix Our Inequality Crisis

From my list on how self-help isn't a magic parenting solution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an economist fascinated by the ways that early opportunities shape lifelong success. My interests go way back to the big public schools I attended in Southern California, where I watched some kids benefit from tutoring, counseling, coaching, and other private resources that most kids couldn’t access. I went on to get a PhD in economics, then taught at Brown University and advised Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign on child development policy. After years of research and teaching – and becoming a dad myself – I wrote The Parent Trap to expose the monumental challenges facing so many parents and the solutions most likely to make a difference.

Nate's book list on how self-help isn't a magic parenting solution

Nate G. Hilger Why did Nate love this book?

As a writer, I admire this book as a great work of creative nonfiction. The book uses captivating stories and research to make a deep point with bipartisan appeal. Yes, “character” matters. That impulse to exert effort, that strength to persevere through challenges, that discipline and self-control, and patience – all the stuff that many people especially on the Right celebrate as “personal responsibility” can and does drive success. But where does “character” come from? Mostly it doesn’t come from individual choices or innate endowments determined at birth. It comes from environmental influences – opportunities and safeguards we provide for children’s development – and that many people especially on the Left try to provide through public policy. If entire demographic groups appear more likely to lack “character,” that reflects our shared collective refusal to make character-building opportunities more widely accessible. 

By Paul Tough,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked How Children Succeed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why character, confidence, and curiosity are more important to your child's success than academic results. The New York Times bestseller. For all fans of Oliver James or Steve Biddulph's Raising Boys, Raising Girls, and The Complete Secrets of Happy Children.

In a world where academic success can seem all-important in deciding our children's success in adult life, Paul Tough sees things very differently.

Instead of fixating on grades and exams, he argues that we, as parents, should be paying more attention to our children's characters.

Inner resilience, a sense of curiosity, the hidden power of confidence - these are the…


Book cover of How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success

Mark E. Crawford Author Of When Two Become Three: Nurturing Your Marriage After Baby Arrives

From my list on growing great kids and maintaining a great marriage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a clinical psychologist for over thirty years, a husband for thirty years, and a father for twenty-seven years. Being the best husband and father that I can possibly be is my highest priority. I sincerely believe that healthy families are the building blocks of healthy societies. Being a good spouse and a good parent (at the same time, no less) is challenging, to say the least. However, creating a family full of love, laughter, and support during the inevitable difficult seasons of life is worthy of a lifetime of study and effort. I’m constantly looking for resources to help me and others to pursue this goal. 

Mark's book list on growing great kids and maintaining a great marriage

Mark E. Crawford Why did Mark love this book?

Julie was a former Dean of Students at Stanford University. She shares how she realized that she was working with kids who had “checked every box” and earned acceptance to one of the most selective universities in the world. However, she could not help but notice that despite their stellar list of achievements and impressive resumes, they sorely lacked the skills necessary to transition to the adult world of navigating normal roommate conflicts or even making minor decisions without the help of their parents.

This book is a great reminder that as parents, our ultimate goal is to prepare our kids to transition into adulthood with the necessary tools and skills to “adult” successfully. I had the opportunity to meet Julie personally, and her compassion, wisdom, and experience are genuine – this is required reading for parents. 

By Julie Lythcott-Haims,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked How to Raise an Adult as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Across a decade as Stanford University's dean of freshmen, Julie Lythcott-Haims noticed a startling rise in parental involvement in students' lives. Every year, more parents were exerting control over students' academic work, extracurricular, and career choices, taking matters into their own hands rather than risk their child's failure or disappointment. Meanwhile, Lythcott-Haims encountered increasing numbers of students who, as a result of hyper attentive parenting, lacked a strong sense of self and were poorly equipped to handle the demands of adult life. In How to Raise an Adult, Lythcott-Haims draws on research, on conversations with admissions officers, educators, and employers,…


Book cover of Paul and Antoinette

Maria Gulemetova Author Of Beyond the Fence

From my list on beyond good and bad, right and wrong.

Why am I passionate about this?

Unburdened with prejudice or beliefs, children are open to the world. I find great joy in books that reflect the child’s fresh perception and playful spirit. Such books have no intention to teach a moral lesson. They rejoice in freedom. In the non-stereotypical, not yet molded to conform reality of the child. Books beyond good or bad may shine with the light of freshness, the unfiltered seeing. In times of great political divisions, non-didactic books can be a window to the glorious amoral way of perceiving.

Maria's book list on beyond good and bad, right and wrong

Maria Gulemetova Why did Maria love this book?

Two siblings with very different personalities. The fun of following these two characters grows with every scene. A very skillful, beautiful depiction of the richness of life and creative collaboration. A funny and endearing book.

By Kerascoët (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Paul and Antoinette as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We have seen a few great odd couples in picture books already, but filled with possibility as the world is, there's always room for one more pair, especially if they are as charming and unforgettable as these pigs, born from the brushes and prolific imagination of Kerascoet. Kerascoet lives and works in Paris in the worlds of cartooning and illustration. Best known for illustrating the book Miss Don't Touch Me written by Hubert, as well as a couple of the Lewis Trondheim Dungeon books, their most recent book Beautiful Darkness broke out on the US scene in 2014, winning them…


Book cover of A Year of Playing Catch: What a Simple Daily Experiment Taught Me about Life

Susie Finkbeiner Author Of The All-American

From my list on making you fall in love with baseball.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m intrigued by baseball. The passion and drama of the games and the way the sport is nearly always linked to a meaningful relationship with someone dear. That curiosity has only been fueled by the books I’ve read over the years and inspired me to write a baseball story of my own. The All-American is my ninth novel and I couldn’t feel more privileged to have been able to write it.

Susie's book list on making you fall in love with baseball

Susie Finkbeiner Why did Susie love this book?

I love backyard games of catch, so when I heard the concept of this book I was sold!

Ethan D. Bryan, an avid baseball player and fan, set a goal to play a game of catch a day for an entire year. He met up with people across the United States for games, learning about their lives and witnessing the ways that tossing a ball around can transform a community.

I loved the heartwarming stories throughout the book and was deeply inspired to connect with people in unique ways. I’ve got to get outside and warm up my throwing arm. Ethan’s invited me to play a game of catch sometime. I want to be ready!

By Ethan D. Bryan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Year of Playing Catch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Journey with prolific author and avid baseball fan Ethan Bryan on an exciting quest to play catch every day for a year, and discover the lessons he learned about the sacredness of play, finding connections, and being fully present to the human experience. A Casey Award finalist!

Ethan Bryan played and wrote about baseball for years. Then his daughters challenged him to set out on a yearlong experiment: to play catch with someone every day. This experience led him across 10 states and 12,000 miles on a quest both quixotic and inspiring.

Taking you from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to…


Book cover of What Is a Playhouse? England at Play, 1520-1620

David McInnis Author Of Shakespeare and Lost Plays

From my list on to understand the history of Shakespeare's theatre.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Shakespeare scholar with a particular interest in theatre history and the repertories of the London commercial playing companies of the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries. I’m particularly fascinated by the hundreds of plays written during this period that have not survived, whether as the result of fire, vandalism, censorship, or more mundane causes like a lack of interest in or opportunity for publication. The surviving plays from the period are the distinct minority; yet the plays lost to us were known to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, who often wrote in response to what else was being performed across London.

David's book list on to understand the history of Shakespeare's theatre

David McInnis Why did David love this book?

Some of the most exciting discoveries in theatre history in recent years have been archaeological, not archival: the excavation of the Curtain theatre’s foundations in Shoreditch, for example, and the revelation that it was rectangular and much larger than previously thought. Davies’ new book capitalises on a series of such findings and complements them with his own rigorous archival work, putting pressure on the very concept of a ‘playhouse’ and what it can beor rather, what it meant to Shakespeare’s audiences.

By Callan Davies,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Is a Playhouse? England at Play, 1520-1620 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book offers an accessible introduction to England's sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century playing industry and a fresh account of the architecture, multiple uses, communities, crowds, and proprietors of playhouses.

It builds on recent scholarship and new documentary and archaeological discoveries to answer the questions: what did playhouses do, what did they look like, and how did they function? The book will accordingly introduce readers to a rich and exciting spectrum of "play" and playhouses, not only in London but also around England. The detailed but wide-ranging case studies examined here go beyond staged drama to explore early modern sport, gambling,…


Book cover of Ruby's Sword

Rachel Greening Author Of If My Oak Tree Could Speak

From my list on turning natural world into imaginative wonderland.

Why am I passionate about this?

I live in my imagination. I never really grew out of seeing imaginary friends and fantastical elements in the world. Every budding flower or dancing sun shadow is a call to create. This is why I find children’s literature so thrilling and why my own writing often resides within the realm of make-believe. I love kids lit because it allows a grown-up like me to be a kid again – even if it’s just for a few pages.

Rachel's book list on turning natural world into imaginative wonderland

Rachel Greening Why did Rachel love this book?

Ruby’s Sword explores the type of imaginative play that can be had with natural world elements. Letting your kids explore nature in a tangible way does wonders for their learning and ingenuity. A simple stick turns into a sword, turning a little girl into a gallant knight. Our children do not need colourful plastic toys to have fun. All they need is a little fresh air and something as simple as a stick. Once my family moved out to the country, I saw my children transform before my eyes. Rocks have become treasures and bugs their newest friends. With the first signs of spring, socks are flung aside as their naked toes seek sand and grass. Let your kids fall in love with nature and it will be a love affair that lasts a lifetime. 

By Jacqueline Veissid, Paola Zakimi (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ruby's Sword as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

Ruby is always racing after her big brothers. But no matter how hard she tries, she can never catch up. Then one day, she discovers some sticks in the grass. Not just any sticks-swords! And suddenly the world is her kingdom. Readers will cheer on Ruby's perseverance and creativity as they delight in the antics of the adorable animals that join her along the way. Anyone who has ever imagined themselves the star of their own swashbuckling adventure will find this sweet book irresistible.


Book cover of Circle Round

Nancy Loewen Author Of The Everybody Club

From my list on that create a sense of belonging.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve published many books for children, but this one is truly special. The Everybody Club is a collaboration with my dear friend Linda Hayen in memory of her daughter, Carissa. As a child, Carissa started a real-life Everybody Club. The first members were toys, dolls, the family cat, and her brothers, one of whom had severe disabilities. Carissa died in a car accident at the age of 16, and this book is Linda’s way of sharing her daughter’s generous spirit with the world. A note for adults at the end of the book shares this backstory.

Nancy's book list on that create a sense of belonging

Nancy Loewen Why did Nancy love this book?

What can a circle be? It can be a ball, a bike tire, a bubble, a cookie, a balloon… A circle can also be people joined together in the spirit of love and acceptance. Circle Round has few words, but the illustrations pull readers into a world full of activity and fun. It’s a counting book that is both playful and profound. 

At the end of the book, I felt I was part of the circle myself.

By Anne Sibley O'Brien, Hanna Cha (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Circle Round as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A circle of children ask others to join in their play and soon find out that inclusion is irresistible!

From the author of I'm New Here and Someone New comes an inspiring new story of inclusion. One child in a park waves over a second child. Two children then wave over a third. Counting from one to ten, a growing circle of children see new faces outside the group and invite them over. Children of different abilities, ages, genders, and races demonstrate how easy it can be to expand your group, extend yourself, and welcome new friends.


Book cover of Playful Parenting: An Exciting New Approach to Raising Children That Will Help You Nurture Close Connections, Solve Behavior Problems, and Encourage Confidence

Darcia Narváez Author Of Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom

From my list on neuroscientific parenting.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am passionate about raising each human being for lifelong wellbeing and a full set of intelligences. High-income nations don’t do this so much anymore. I conduct empirical studies with children, parents, and other adults to examine how early experience affects capacities for getting along in life and with others. My book has won awards for its holistic view, integrating neuroscience, anthropology, and developmental science. This work led me to start the Evolved Nest website with lots of resources for parents and for all who care about human wellbeing. Humanity is facing many challenges and we need everyone’s gifts to be well grown to help us solve the problems we face.

Darcia's book list on neuroscientific parenting

Darcia Narváez Why did Darcia love this book?

This book is full of fun ideas for learning to play with your children at different ages, letting them lead the play. Play is a fundamental way to grow the brain at any age. So the approach is beneficial for parents as well as kids. Imagine playing as a way to solve behavior problems!

By Lawrence J. Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Playful Parenting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Have you ever stepped back to watch what really goes on when your children play? As psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen points out, play is children’s way of exploring the world, communicating deep feelings, getting close to those they care about, working through stressful situations, and simply blowing off steam. That’s why “playful parenting” is so important and so successful in building strong, close bonds between parents and children. Through play we join our kids in their world–and help them to

• Express and understand complex emotions
• Break through shyness, anger, and fear
• Empower themselves and respect diversity
•…


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