Top 10 Books to Support Parents

Posted: August 17, 2020 | Updated: September 14, 2020
Created by: Ms. Sylvia

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Thank you for the work you do.

As a parent you are doing something beautiful. Something difficult. Something exhausting and scary and overwhelming and rewarding and joyful.

Each parent has their own approach to navigating the challenges of raising children. Personally, one of my favorite strategies is to empower myself with research. What are experts suggesting? Could that work with my family culture, with my life? Not every suggestion might be a fit, but I appreciate the insights.

There are thousands and thousands (and thousands) of books on parenting. From my research and reading, these are the books I’ve found most helpful. If you are looking to be inspired, if you feel stuck, if you’re feeling alone, if you’re open to trying something new, if you’re hoping to learn more about your child’s development, or if it’s a combination of reasons, these books are a great starting point.

Read on!

Books to Learn About Your Child’s Development

  1. Your __-Year Old by Dr. Louise Bates Ames
    Technically, I’m cheating by counting this as only one book. (Since I know it’s cheating, I thought I’d list it first to keep myself a little honest.) Dr. Louise Bates Ames writes my favorite books on typical milestones of childhood and the stages of development to expect at each age. My mom read these books while raising me and recommended them to me when I began working with young children. Dr. Bates acknowledges that each child will do things in their own way and at their own pace; however, she also covers invaluable descriptions of the milestones you can expect. Her books begin with Your One-Year-Old, continuing with a book for each year until the compilation of Your Ten- to Fourteen-Year-Old. I appreciate that this keeps resources relevant to the age you are most interested in.
  2. You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy
    This one is a true classic of parenting literature and is one of my favorites. The book leads you through the developmental stages from birth through age six. It’s an enriching, inspiring read by a knowledgeable guide. The tone is gentle, encouraging and sincere. I always feel inspired after diving into this book!
  3. Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, M.D. with Christopher Vaughan
    When I was teaching third grade, my teaching partner and I offered this as a book club selection. It is so easy to forget our sense of play as adults and it is so important to rediscover -- not only for our children, but for ourselves. I find that Dr. Brown’s research on play, along with the reflective exercises in this book, helped me advocate for and prioritize play in my own life, as well as in my classroom. May the same be true for you!

Books with My Favorite Advice

  1. Joyful Toddlers & Preschoolers: Create a Life that You and Your Child Both Love by Faith Collins
    Recommended to me by a colleague this summer, Joyful Toddlers & Preschoolers is a wonderful, practical book for parents (and caregivers!) of young children. I walked away from this book feeling empowered and reassured. I would also recommend Collins’ blog,
  2. Mr. Rogers Speaks to Parents by Fred Rogers
    I’m including this out-of-print classic on the list in the hopes that we can work together to get it back in print. Yes, a few parts of it are out of date (my copy is from 1993, a time when the technology landscape looked very different), but his advice for talking to children about their fears, for meeting them on their level, and for caring about their emotions is wonderful. If you can get your hands on a copy, please do! If you can’t (and would like to), join me in asking the publisher to reprint this gem.
  3. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
    This is the other book my parents handed me when I started working with children. Its practical, down-to-earth advice set a strong foundation in positive, clear communication for me that still serves me today. Each time I return to it, I find something new. Like so many authors on this list, I recommend this duo’s other collaborations, particularly Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So That You Can Live Too.
  4. The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage Curiosity and Resilience in Your Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.
    The first book I encountered by Dr. Siegel was Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, which a colleague recommended. This book got me through some bumpy days of teaching middle school and inspired me to read more of his books. The Yes Brain is one of my favorites, but I also recommend The Whole Child. There are more that I’ve yet to read, but based on the strength of these familiar titles, I don’t think you can go wrong.

What I love about The Yes Brain is that it seamlessly integrates accessible scientific explanations with practical and compassionate guidance. I also love that they offer The Yes Brain Workbook: Exercises , Activities, and Worksheets to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, & Resilience in Your Child. So practical!

  1. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne
    Kim John Payne writes beautifully and skillfully about the art of parenting, offering inspiration and practical tools. I stand by his ideas and hope that you’ll find some helpful treasures, too.

Beyond Simplicity Parenting, I also highly recommend Kim John Payne’s other books, especially his most recent publication, The Soul of Discipline: The Simplicity Parenting Approach to Warm, Firm, and Calm Guidance -- From Toddlers to Teens, which modernizes his advice and offers even more practical strategies. I also absolutely love his book, Being at Your Best When Your Kids Are at Their Worst: Practical Compassion in Parenting. What a title, right? Parenting is also an art of taking care of ourselves, as well as our children.

  1. The Gift of Imperfect Parenting: Raising a Child with Courage, Compassion, and Connection by Brené Brown
    Brené Brown is definitely having a moment -- and, in my book, rightfully so! Managing to be wise without being “preachy”, I thought this book was wonderful. It is practical, inspiring, and kind. It’s also a quick, accessible read after a long day, while still being profoundly thought-provoking. Many of her books and talks are helpful to those of us raising or working with children, but this book consolidates many important ideas on resilience, gratitude, courage, shame, worthiness, and more.

Practical Family Life Suggestions

  1. Festivals, Family, and Food: Guide to Seasonal Celebrations by Diana Carey and Judy Large
    Sometimes you just want some practical suggestions to bring your family together. This collection of recipes, songs, crafts, stories, poems, games, and suggestions is full of gems! It is definitely Eurocentric and certainly needs supplementing to serve a broader range of holidays, cultures, and traditions, but its offerings are an inspiring starting point!

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