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Top Books Recommended by School Social Workers

During the Fall, SSWAA surveyed our members on a number of fun topics in the hopes of gathering knowledge and advice from our very own professionals in the field. The first topic we dove into was book recommendations. It was clear from the start that books on trauma and resilience were the top topics School Social Workers reported as having the biggest impact on their professional practice. Below are the top book recommendations by your very own SSWAA members.


1. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.


2. The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog by Dr. Bruce Perry

How does trauma affect a child's mind—and how can that mind recover? Child psychiatrist Dr. Bruce D. Perry has helped children faced with unimaginable horror: genocide survivors, murder witnesses, kidnapped teenagers, and victims of family violence. In the classic The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Dr. Perry tells their stories of trauma and transformation and shares their lessons of courage, humanity, and hope. Deftly combining unforgettable case histories with his own compassionate, insightful strategies for rehabilitation, Perry explains what happens to children’s brain when they are exposed to extreme stress—and reveals the unexpected measures that can be taken to ease such pain and help them grow into healthy adults. Only when we understand the science of the mind and the power of love and nurturing can we hope to heal the spirit of even the most wounded child.


3. What Happened to you? by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey

Our earliest experiences shape our lives far down the road, and What Happened to You? provides powerful scientific and emotional insights into the behavioral patterns so many of us struggle to understand.


“Through this lens we can build a renewed sense of personal self-worth and ultimately recalibrate our responses to circumstances, situations, and relationships. It is, in other words, the key to reshaping our very lives.”―Oprah Winfrey


This book is going to change the way you see your life. Have you ever wondered "Why did I do that?" or "Why can't I just control my behavior?" Others may judge our reactions and think, "What's wrong with that person?" When questioning our emotions, it's easy to place the blame on ourselves; holding ourselves and those around us to an impossible standard. It's time we started asking a different question.


Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”


Here, Winfrey shares stories from her own past, understanding through experience the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma and adversity at a young age. In conversation throughout the book, she and Dr. Perry focus on understanding people, behavior, and ourselves. It’s a subtle but profound shift in our approach to trauma, and it’s one that allows us to understand our pasts in order to clear a path to our future―opening the door to resilience and healing in a proven, powerful way.


4. The Art of Becoming Indispensable: What School Social Workers Need to Know in Their First Three Years of Practice by Tory Cox, Terence Fitzgerald, et al.

Despite their institutional preparation and lived experiences, new school social workers encounter numerous practices, political considerations, community engagement strategies, and seemingly fundamental elements involved in the learning curve needed to move from entry-level to proficiency.


The Art of Being Indispensable What School Social Workers Need to Know in Their First Three Years of Practice contains content specific to what they will need in their first three years of practice, bridging the learning gap from their academic preparation to early employment in P-12 settings.


Organized into four sections - The Host Environment, The Macro School Social Worker, Integration and Intervention, and School Social Worker Sustainability - the content of the book is framed by a mixed-methods study on the needs of new practitioners. It is an indispensable guide that new school social workers can consult to effectively execute their roles and responsibilities.



Other Book Recommendations

  • Love’s Executioner: & Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom

  • Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard

  • Daring Greatly by Brene' Brown

  • Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approach to Helping Challenging Children in the Classroom by Heather T. Forbes

  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire and Donaldo Macedo

  • The Comprehensive Clinician's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by Leslie Sokol and Marci Fox

  • Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk

  • Lost At School: Why Our Kids With Behavioral Challenges Are Falling Through The Cracks And How We Can Help Them by Ross W. Greene

  • Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett

  • Building Resilience in Students Impacted by Adverse Childhood Experiences: A Whole-Staff Approach by Victoria E. Romero, Ricky Robertson, et al.

  • The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are by Daniel J. Siegel M.D., Fred Stella, et al.

  • A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, et al.

  • Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour Ph.D.

  • The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

  • Cutting School: The Segrenomics of American Education by Noliwe Rooks and Diane Ravitch

  • How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

  • Ridiculously Amazing Schools: Creating a Culture Where Everyone Thrives by Tracey Smith and Jeff Waller

  • The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon and Ken Blanchard

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