Best Books to Read on Trauma for Teachers

The elementary classroom has become quite the hot topic with words like behavior, trauma, and resilience being thrown around. 

Thirty years ago, teachers didn’t actively think about how trauma affected the students in their classroom. However, in today’s classrooms, teachers must have a foundational understanding of trauma in order to create a supportive environment for vulnerable students. The role of teachers in supporting traumatized students is complex. 

Here’s a short list of possible traumas a student in your classroom may have experienced:

  • child abuse
  • physical abuse
  • neglect 
  • witnessing violence
  • divorce
  • parent incarceration
  • collective trauma (hello, COVID)
  • domestic violence + domestic abuse
  • developmental trauma

Traumatic events and trauma in general effect mental health issues, physical health, and more. When we think of childhood stress through the lens of trauma, we have a new way of looking at complex trauma, the nervous system effects and at survivors of trauma in general.

There are so many other ways trauma can be experienced and held in the body. Trauma can have a profound impact on a child’s ability to learn and thrive in the classroom. Some manifestations of trauma you may see in your classroom are:

  • poor impulse control
  • mistrust
  • physical aggression
  • poor executive functioning skills
  • lack of social skills
  • learning disabilities

It’s important to remember that trauma isn’t a one size fits all. All children and adults see traumatic experiences very differently. Two children can experience the exact same event, but one could internalize the event as traumatic, while the other may not. Your students may also show some of the manifestations above, or they may not. 

Trauma is based on personal experiences. We, as teachers, don’t assign trauma to our students based on what we would view as traumatic, or what we think has happened to them. Having a deeper understanding of how trauma affects the body, brain, and well-being of our students is incredibly important for the health of all students in our care. 

In this blog post, I’ll share 5 books with you that are all wonderful resources for gaining more information on childhood trauma. 

Please note this blog post contains Amazon affiliate links.

These books show you the different ways trauma presents. They will also deepen your personal growth and provide insight on the healing process. Your own experience of trauma may, or may not, be present. Yet, yours and your students emotional needs will be served by the information below. 

Book Recommendations

1. “What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing” by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., and Oprah Winfrey

This book explores the impact of trauma on individuals and society as a whole. Through conversations and personal anecdotes, the authors examine how early childhood experiences shape our brains, bodies, and behavior. We also learn how understanding trauma can lead to healing and resilience. 

For teachers, “What Happened to You?” offers valuable insights into the lives of students who have experienced trauma, helping educators develop empathy and compassion for their students’ struggles. Teachers will learn how to recognize the signs of trauma and offer support and understanding. 

It will also help you to create a more compassionate and trauma-sensitive learning environment where all students thrive. Grab it here.

2. “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity” by Nadine Burke Harris, M.D.A.

In this book, the author explores the profound impact of childhood adversity on health and well-being. As a pediatrician and public health advocate, Dr. Burke Harris delves into the findings of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study, which revealed a strong correlation between childhood trauma and a host of physical and mental health problems later in life. This book directly links past traumas to illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, and substance abuse.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are extremely common and learning more about them, helps teachers see how student behavior, health, and learning ability can sometimes be related to these early traumas. 

The book offers scientific research, personal anecdotes, and case studies, that show us how childhood trauma can shape health outcomes across a lifespan. Shockingly, ACEs can often result in a waterfall of chronic diseases and social issues.

While the book does rely on scientific research, it is also a personal reflection of the author, her deep connections with patients, and how resilience plays a huge part in transforming the lives of trauma survivors. The conversation becomes focused more on how healthcare providers, educators, and communities as a whole can help these children. The book is solution-focused to promote healing and resilience for those affected by childhood trauma.

Get it here.

3. “Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom” by Kristin Souers and Pete Hall

Creating a trauma-sensitive classroom requires more than just awareness of trauma. Although that’s a great place to start, teachers need actual strategies to put in place.

These strategies need to be practical for supporting students who have experienced trauma. They should also be seamlessly able to be integrated into your busy classroom without completely changing every aspect of your day. 

In “Fostering Resilient Learners,” Souers and Hall provide teachers with a framework for building resilience and promoting positive outcomes for all students. The tips given are not just for those impacted by trauma, but are also solid strategies to support all students. 

With an emphasis on the latest research in neuroscience, attachment theory, and trauma-informed practice, the book offers concrete strategies for creating a safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environment. From establishing trust and rapport to managing behavior and emotions. You’ll gain tools you need to help students thrive academically and emotionally. 

Read it here.

4. “Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges Are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them” by Ross W. Greene, Ph.D.

Let’s face it, you’re likely reading about trauma because of student behavior. You may be a counselor, but you’re likely a classroom teacher reading this. You weren’t taught how to deal with big behaviors in your teacher prep program. While you don’t need a Ph.D. in psychology to support behaviors in your classroom, it has fallen largely on teachers to do their own research to help those students that don’t follow the rules. 

This book offers you an insight into why those students act the way they do, and helps you turn it around. 

This is another book that offers valuable insights and practical strategies for promoting positive behavior change. Author Ross W. Greene argues that traditional discipline methods often fail to address the underlying issues driving challenging behavior. 

He believes the “old school” approaches to disciplining student behavior perpetuate a cycle of frustration and disengagement. Greene introduces his Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach. This model emphasizes collaboration and problem-solving to address the root causes of behavior problems. 

By shifting the focus from punishment to understanding and support, teachers can create a more compassionate and effective response to challenging behavior in the classroom.

Get it here.

5. “Relationship, Responsibility, and Regulation: Trauma-Invested Practices for Fostering Resilient Learners” by Kristin Souers and Pete Hall

Yes, this is another book by Kristin Souers and Pete Hall, but they’re on here for a reason! Their books are easy to digest, quick reads, that offer tangible action steps for teachers. 

I’m sure you’ve either learned, or know through practice, how important building a relationship with students is. But, building a relationship with a child affected by trauma is a whole different ball game!

Trauma can create mistrust, poor social skills, and nervous system regulation issues. Combine these effects together and you have the perfect storm for a student pushing you away and making it difficult to form a bond with them.

This book emphasizes the importance of building positive relationships with students, fostering a sense of responsibility, and teaching self-regulation skills to promote resilience.

Souers and Hall provide practical strategies for implementing trauma-invested practices in the classroom. They discuss how to establish trust and rapport, create a safe and predictable environment, and teach students how to manage their emotions and behaviors effectively. 

Through real-life examples and case studies, the authors demonstrate how these practices can help students feel supported, valued, and empowered to succeed academically and emotionally.

Overall, “Relationship, Responsibility, and Regulation” is an incredible resource for teachers seeking to create trauma-sensitive learning environments where all students can thrive. If prioritizing relationships, fostering a sense of responsibility, and teaching self-regulation skills, is on your list of goals for your classroom, which they should be, this book it for you. 

Read it here.

Now you have 5 new books to add to your Amazon cart or grab at your local library! Here’s a recap:

1. “What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing”  by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., and Oprah Winfrey

2. “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity” by Nadine Burke Harris, M.D.A.

3. “Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom” by Kristin Souers and Pete Hall

4. “Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges Are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them” by Ross W. Greene, Ph.D.

5. “Relationship, Responsibility, and Regulation: Trauma-Invested Practices for Fostering Resilient Learners” by Kristin Souers and Pete Hall

Hopefully you see the importance of deepening our understanding of trauma in the classroom. As a teacher, you are absolutely not meant to diagnose, treat, or attempt to heal any child’s trauma. Yet, it’s becoming more and more important that you understand the depths of it. 

Knowing where trauma comes from, how it affects the brain and body, and what it can look like in the classroom are all differentiating factors in being able to support students better. 

Understanding trauma is kind of like turning a light on that you can’t turn off. Once you truly understand it, you will never go back to spinning your wheels with difficult student behavior or feeling stressed to the max because your classroom is in chaos. Instead, you’ll have tools in your toolbox that work for the specific needs of a child with trauma. 

You’ll be able to build stronger relationships, support healthy physiology, and align your days to research-based principles that actually work.

Learning about trauma isn’t just for the benefit of your students, though. The books above are not textbooks. They are a comprehensive guide to deepening your own understanding of yours and your families health and happiness. 

Being a trauma-informed educator means you become a trauma-informed person. This, in turn, creates a ripple effect for how you show up for yourself, colleagues, family, AND your students. 

While trauma affects millions of children around the world, and we can’t prevent it, teachers play a critical role in supporting these students in their daily lives. We help them succeed academically and emotionally. We build their confidence, skills, relationships with their community, and we pour so much love into them.

By educating ourselves about trauma and its effects, we can create trauma-sensitive classrooms where all students feel safe, supported, and valued. 

The books mentioned in this blog post offer valuable insights, strategies, and practical advice for teachers looking to deepen their understanding of trauma and implement trauma-informed practices in the classroom. Whether you’re a seasoned educator or just starting your teaching career, these books are essential reading for anyone committed to creating a positive and inclusive learning environment for all students.

With summer coming up, it’s a great time to stock up on your reading list. While you may not see these books as a great beach read, September-you will no doubt thank summer-you for taking the time to read up on something so important. 

If you’re looking for more trauma supportive steps to take here are some tips:

1. Reflect on Personal Mindset/Bias: Take time to reflect on personal beliefs and attitudes about trauma and its impact on students. Consider any biases or assumptions that may influence interactions with students who have experienced trauma.

Strive to cultivate empathy, understanding, and a non-judgmental approach. Think about how you were raised to view education and the school system. It’s likely very different from other families and those distinctions help us understand where our students are coming from.

2. Build Positive Relationships: Prioritize building positive relationships with students by demonstrating warmth, empathy, and respect. Take the time to get to know each student individually, listen to their stories, and validate their experiences.

Create a safe and trusting environment where students feel comfortable expressing themselves and seeking support when needed.

3. Foster a Sense of Belonging: Create a classroom culture that fosters a sense of belonging and inclusion for all students. Celebrate diversity, promote kindness and empathy, and actively work to prevent exclusion. Provide opportunities for students to collaborate, connect, and support one another in meaningful ways. 

4. Establish Clear Expectations and Boundaries: Establish clear expectations and boundaries for behavior in the classroom, and communicate them consistently and transparently with students. Use positive language to reinforce desired behaviors.

Provide opportunities for students to practice self-regulation skills such as mindfulness, deep breathing, and conflict resolution. Understanding where behavior comes from doesn’t mean we’re excusing it!  Here is an easy and fun support for teaching these skills!

5. Seek Professional Development and Support: Continue to seek out professional development opportunities and resources on trauma-informed practice. This could be attending workshops, webinars, and conferences, and participating in peer learning communities. Engage in ongoing reflection and self-assessment, and seek support from colleagues, administrators, and mental health professionals as needed. You can even start a book club with your teacher besties! Use the above books to get your team members on board with trauma sensitive education!

While these aren’t all academically focused, you’ll get so much more engagement out of your students in the long run when prioritizing these things in the beginning. 

Start small, don’t overwhelm yourself with thinking that you have to know everything about trauma, or do all the things these books tell you to. Find what works for you, your classroom, and your community and start there.

I’m rooting for you!

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