By: Neeti Sarkar

One of the things I look forward to the most every summer is catching up on some reading, both for professional development and for personal growth. This year is no exception. And while I spend the first week of the holidays picking up books I'd like to read, if you're looking for some suggestions, these have been my favorite recent reads that you might enjoy too:

1. Connections over Compliance: Rewiring our Perspectives of Discipline by Lori L. Desautels

It's not easy being a school counselor, especially when yours is the lone voice advocating for restorative practices for better behavior management. As someone who believes that you cannot correct problematic behaviors without first connecting with the child exhibiting these behaviors, this book was a fantastic read. The writer puts forth a refreshing perspective on discipline, underlining the importance of building strong connections with students rather than relying solely on compliance-based approaches.

Her book is research and evidence-based, drawing on neuroscience, psychology, and her own experiences as an educator. The book delves into the impact of trauma on students' behavior and provides tools for fostering emotional regulation, resilience, and empathy. By prioritizing relationships and connection, and not being merely theoretical, there are practical strategies the author offers to create nurturing and inclusive learning environments.

This book is a great read for anyone advocating creating safe spaces for learning and for those looking for ways to foster positive discipline culture in their own schools.

2. Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Ruth E. Van Reken, Michael V. Pollock, and David C. Pollock

In September last year, I attended the CIS (Council of International Schools) 3-day I-DEA (Inclusion via Diversity, Equity, and Antiracism) Foundation Workshop, and one of the keynote speakers who is a third culture kid drew our attention to the challenges and complexities that come with growing up in a culture different from that of one's parents, and its impact on various aspects of life. This session prompted me to pick up this book and I'm so glad I did, especially since I work in an international school and we have expat students (many of who are TCKs) who are constantly on the move.

Drawing on extensive research and personal anecdotes, the authors delve into the challenges, benefits, and identity formation of Third Culture Kids (TCKs). Through this book, you get a better understanding of the impact of cross-cultural transitions, the formation of global identity, and the specific needs of TCKs in areas such as relationships, education, and career choices. It is a comprehensive book that takes on a compassionate approach, providing valuable insights for parents, educators, and TCKs themselves to navigate the complexities of a globally mobile lifestyle. As counselors who help students with transitions, this book helps you approach work with TCKs with more empathy and understanding.

3. Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown

One of my favorite authors is Brene Brown so of course, I found myself devouring her latest - "Atlas of the Heart" in which she profoundly and empathetically explores human emotions and their transformative powers. As with her other books, Brown draws on her extensive research and her rich personal experiences, as she delves into the intricate terrain of human emotions, she digs into the areas of love, joy, belonging, vulnerability, and shame.

The writing style is engaging and the concepts are relatable and authentic. The book encourages self-reflection while offering a plethora of practical tools to cultivate emotional resilience and connection. It is transformative in the way it takes the reader on the path of self-discovery as science, psychology, and personal anecdotes bring together the core message the author has for her readers.

4. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

You must be surprised at this recommendation but, this is one book I've found to make sense to me at any time of the year, irrespective of the season in my professional or personal life. For the uninitiated, "The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse" is a poignant and delightfully illustrated story that follows the rare friendship between an inquisitive boy, an affable mole, a sagacious fox, and a nurturing horse as they set about on an experience of self-discovery and togetherness. Through their unique verbal exchanges and encounters, they probe philosophical themes of love, kindness, vulnerability, and courage. The author elicits from his readers a plethora of feelings and offers ageless insight to them, be it if they're eight or eighty years old. I love this book because it celebrates the unparalleled power of belongingness, empathy, authenticity, compassion, and grit.

5. School Counselor Coloring Book by Grace Winter

Okay, I'm sure you weren't expecting this to be my last recommendation but books don't have to all be serious and deep, right? As counselors, we teach and encourage self-care and self-regulation in the form of art, journaling, etc.

I came across this book online and it's going to be something I'm going to use throughout the school year as it offers a collection of fun and engaging illustrations that reflect the daily experiences and challenges faced by school counselors. Even if you don't quite have an artsy side, you will love that the book brings together visually engaging designs with inspirational quotes and affirmations. It is enjoyable and can be therapeutic too, providing the opportunity to focus on self-care, alleviate stress, and encourage self-reflection. I would definitely make this a part of my toolbox to survive another academic year!

About the author: Neeti Sarkar is a Primary School Counselor at an IB school in Bangalore, India. Over the span of almost 10 years, she's worked with students aged 3-18, but enjoys working with the littles the most. Neeti's also a seasoned journalist, so when she isn't making behaviour plans, teaching guidance lessons, and supporting her school community in various other ways, she makes time for her other passion- writing.


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