5 ESL Teacher Books that Make Great Book Studies

Educators of multilingual learners have multiple responsibilities to carry, and one of these is continuous professional learning. To keep up with these responsibilities, teachers must continue learning and growing as professionals in the educational field. As educators, we often find ourselves looking for the best books for ESL teachers to enhance our ability to provide high-quality instruction and services to multilingual learners.

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As an ESOL coordinator, I implement book studies as part of my school district’s professional learning experience. The use of books has given educators the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions about multilingual learners. The below books are the best books for ESL teacher book studies, which I highly recommend using.

This post is a follow-up to another post that discusses how to plan a successful book study. The previous post discusses setting up a book study, choosing an online platform, question selection and creation, and member participation.

Collaborating for English Learners

Collaboration and co-teaching Strategies for English Learners is written by Andrea Honigsfeld and Maria G. Dove, two well-known experts in the English learner world. This is an excellent book for any educator, not just new ESL teachers. In my view, this book provides ESOL teachers with a step-by-step guide addressing how to collaborate, co-plan, and co-teach with classroom teachers of multilingual learners.

It starts with a rationale about the importance of collaborating and co-teaching. Each chapter provides insights into how to plan and when collaboration is most appropriate.  The new edition contains a section within each chapter that highlights administrators’ roles at each stage of the collaboration process.

Why Do English Learners Struggle with Reading?

When we found ourselves collaborating and answering more and more questions about multilingual learners and reading struggles, I felt the need to learn more about this topic. I wanted to strengthen our ability to collaborate with our special education department by differentiating language acquisition from learning disabilities. My research for professional learning to support our work led me to an excellent resource. 

Why Do English Learners Struggle with Reading provides educators ways to determine whether their multilingual learners are struggling with reading because of a learning disability or second language acquisition. Additionally, the book clarifies many of the misconceptions surrounding English learning instruction and assessment.  This particular book study gave us the opportunity to discuss and focus on:

  • Distinguishing between language acquisition and learning disabilities
  • MTSS model for educating multilingual learners
  • Hone in on the language acquisition process
  • Challenges faced by multilingual learners
  • Evidence-based practices
  • Assessments
  • Data-driven decision-making. 

My approach for each of the above chapter sections was to connect the discussion with what we saw in the classroom. As a result, we were able to engage in scenarios and concerns that we were regularly experiencing. 

The 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching of English Learners

The first time I saw this book, I knew that this book would become part of our next book study. Hence, some ESL teachers felt the same way. We thought that this particular book would provide us with consistent language to use among regular classroom educators. The 6 principles for exemplary teaching of English learners lays out important information that teachers should know about English language development.

As a district, we were able to engage in discussions with classroom teachers of multilingual learners. This was a great opportunity to collaborate with a different audience and build relationships.

Students with Interrupted Formal Education

Although Students with interrupted education are not the majority of students we work with, it is a group of students we must know how to serve. In 2018, an increase in SIFE students led us to hold a book study to improve our services.

Students With Interrupted Formal Education: Bridging Where They Are and What They Need offers a “whole child” approach to serving the at-risk student population (Custodio, O’Louglin 2017 pxi). Furthermore, I find this book to be a quick read with 5 chapters only. It provides an overview of different SIFE students, including Latinos, refugees, social, emotional support, and school-based support and resources. 

Building Literacy with English Language Learners

This particular book study took our learning to the next level in understanding literacy development and English language learners. The authors of this book believe that children enter school with many assets and abilities, and this fund of knowledge is coaxed, shaped, and developed over the course of their school experiences (pvii).

In sum, Building Literacy with English Language Learners second edition addresses the language-specific needs of different content disciplines. As noted by the authors (Lems, Miller, and Soro 2017), in this book, you’ll find answers to the following questions:

  • How are languages put together?
  • What do languages share in common?
  • Which aspects of a child’s first language can be easily applied to learning English as a new language, which cannot?
  • How can we engage in best practices once we have a deeper understanding of language, literacy, and linguistics?

This is a book that I truly enjoyed reading because it provides a clear understanding of the different types of language-related assets such as orthographies that ESOL teachers must speak to and recognize.


It is no longer enough to only learn certain languages. Multilingual learners represent hundreds of languages that ESOL and content teachers must be able to support.

Not all books make a great book study. It is important to consider your team or school’s needs and initiatives when selecting a book. The planning of successful book studies gives us opportunities to grow our skills, enhance ESL instruction, and plan future services.

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