As teachers and students head back to school, a flurry of inquiries has come into ATN about the “best” materials to help our schools create more trauma-informed educators. The Trauma-Sensitive School movement is still young, so in previous years I had a hard time answering that question, as no one had yet written most of these books. Thankfully, we have them now! Below, you’ll find my top 5 favorites. More exist that I find useful, but these are the titles I keep close by and refer to often.
Let’s count backward, Jay Leno style:
The Trauma-Informed School by Jim Sporleder and Heather Forbes, LCSW. This comprehensive how-to guide is one of the first to specifically address a trauma-informed school structure. Having read it even before I saw Paper Tigers, I was taken with Mr. Sporleder’s clarity on step-by-step “how-tos”, coupled with Ms. Forbes’s insightful understanding from her mental health background.
Lost at School by Dr. Ross Greene. Dr. Greene says that he is not specifically trauma-informed. Yet at the core of his book–and his Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) model–lies the understanding that behavior equals communication. “Kids will do well if they can,” he says. This is the crux of the paradigm shift that educators and indeed all adults must embrace if we want truly trauma-informed educators. Chock-full of examples that illustrate the principles of the CPS model, this book imparts practical application for teachers struggling to help students with lagging behavior skills.
Building Trauma-Sensitive Schools by Jen Alexander. If you seek THE comprehensive trauma-informed schools guide, you’ve found it! No other available resource is as comprehensive in explaining both the need for understanding trauma’s impact on children’s development and the strategies for building a trauma-sensitive school. Ms. Jen has carefully compiled the ultimate reference book for us all.
Teachers’ Guide to Trauma by Dr. Melissa Sadin and Nathan Levy. This guide is the quickest way to learn about the impact of early childhood trauma. It explains what teachers can do to help their students through the eyes of Dr. Sadin’s son, Theo. I literally read the whole book in a single plane ride, nodding my head in agreement the entire time.
Quick disclosure regarding two fabulous trauma-informed educators
Books #2 & #3 on this list are written by my colleagues at ATN’s Trauma-Sensitive Schools Program–Melissa Sadin and Jen Alexander. Both authors have parented trauma-impacted children and are incredible educators in their own right, yet they took directly opposite approaches to their books. Jen’s book is comprehensive, with an index and bibliography that will point you to any and every resource trauma-informed educators could ever need. Melissa, on the other hand, gives you a quick plunge into the “whats” and “whys” of what kids with trauma wish their teachers knew. I’m thrilled to know both of these brilliant authors and their books!
AND NOW, NUMBER ONE!
Reaching and Teaching Children Who Hurt by Dr. Susan Craig. This book has been available the longest of the five. It is the only resource I could find more than a decade ago that clearly explained early trauma and attachment challenges to teachers, and offered practical implementation strategies. Dr. Craig is clearly a teacher teaching teachers. I have bought multiple copies of this book to give to my daughter’s teachers, and I take it with me to IEP meetings and other times I’ve advocated for children impacted by trauma. Dr. Craig has since written two other great books on this topic, but her wisdom and passion for helping teachers to understand their traumatized students is crystal clear in this first one. An absolute must read.
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NB: The above links take you to Amazon, but that is just one option. We encourage you to support your independent bookseller or purchase wherever you feel most comfortable.