Reading List

From the earliest days, Play Mountain Place has been strongly influenced by powerful writers and thinkers. These resources help to guide our work at Play Mountain Place, and we hope they will help you as well.


How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk is an excellent communication tool kit based on a series of workshops developed by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Faber and Mazlish provide a step-by-step approach to improving relationships in your house. The “Reminder” pages, helpful cartoon illustrations, and excellent exercises will improve your ability as a parent to talk and problem-solve with your children. The book can be used alone or in parenting groups, and the solid tools provided are appropriate for kids of all ages.

Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges

by Patty Wipfler

Listen introduces parents to five simple, practical skills even the most harried parent can use. These tools will help parents strengthen their connection with their child and help build their child’s intelligence, cooperation, and ability to learn as they grow. The book delivers detailed information accompanied by more than one hundred real-life stories from parents who’ve used this approach to address the root causes of their child’s difficult behaviors.

Parent Speak: What’s Wrong with How We Talk to Our Children — and What to Say Instead

by Jennifer Lehr

A provocative guide to the hidden dangers of “parentspeak”—those seemingly innocent phrases parents use when speaking to their young children. Jennifer Lehr is a smart, funny, and fearless writer who offers a conscious approach to parenting based on respect and love for the child as an individual.

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion

by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Marshall Rosenberg has rediscovered the lost language of humankind, the language of a people who care about one another and long to live in harmony. He guides us in reframing the way we express ourselves and listen to others by focusing our consciousness on four areas: what we are observing, feeling, and needing and what we are requesting to enrich our lives. The skill he teaches fosters deep listening, respect, and empathy and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart.

Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children

by Thomas Gordon

P.E.T., or Parent Effectiveness Training, began almost forty years ago as the first national parent-training program to teach parents how to communicate more effectively with kids and offer step-by-step advice to resolving family conflicts so everybody wins.  Using the timeless methods of P.E.T. will have immediate results: less fighting, fewer tantrums and lies, no need for punishment. Whether you have a toddler striking out for independence or a teenager who has already started rebelling, you’ll find P.E.T. a compassionate, effective way to instill responsibility and create a nurturing family environment in which your child will thrive.


Your Child’s Self Esteem

by Dorothy Corkille-Briggs

Step-by step guidelines for raising responsible, productive, happy children. Self-image is your child’s most important characteristic. How to help create strong feelings of self-worth is the central challenge for every parent and teacher. The formula for how is spelled out in Your Child’s Self-Esteem.
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The Hurried Child

by David Elkind

Dr. David Elkind eloquently calls our attention to the dangers of exposing our children to overwhelming pressures, pressures that can lead to a wide range of childhood and teenage crises. Internationally recognized as the voice of reason and compassion, Dr. Elkind shows that in blurring the boundaries of what is age appropriate, by expecting — or imposing — too much too soon, we force our kids to grow up far too fast. Dr. Elkind shows parents where hurrying occurs and why and what we can do about it.

Emotional Intelligence

by Daniel Goleman

Everyone knows that high IQ is no guarantee of success, happiness, or virtue, but until Emotional Intelligence, we could only guess why. Daniel Goleman’s brilliant report from the frontiers of psychology and neuroscience offers startling new insight into our “two minds”—the rational and the emotional—and how they together shape our destiny. Through vivid examples, Goleman delineates the five crucial skills of emotional intelligence, and shows how they determine our success in relationships, work, and even our physical well being. What emerges is an entirely new way to talk about being smart.

Playground Politics

by Stanley I. Greenspan, MD

The playground is as important as the classroom. Elementary children’s emotional and social lives are busy with practicing and establishing the interpersonal skills that will serve them their whole lives. They need as much adult help, if not more, with interpersonal dynamics and emotional skills, as with intellectual skill building.

Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason

by Alfie Kohn (Book/DVD)

Alfie Kohn is as well known for his lectures— passionate, thought provoking, and funny— as he is for his writings. His knack for blending stories and studies has the effect of making complicated concepts easy to understand—and controversial ideas impossible to dismiss. In this Book or DVD, one of Alfie Kohn’s lectures is captured. In it he explores how most advice for parents begins with the question “How can we get kids to do what they’re told?”— and then proceeds to offer various techniques for controlling them. In his landmark book Unconditional Parenting—and in this talk based on that book—Kohn begins instead by asking “What are our long-term goals for our children?” It follows that we need to work with them rather than doing things to them, in order to reach those goals. Kohn argues that punishments (including time-outs) and rewards (including positive reinforcement) may sometimes produce temporary compliance, but they do nothing to help kids grow into responsible, caring, ethical, happy people. Moreover, he suggests that permissiveness is less worrisome than a fear of permissiveness that leads us to over-control our children. Kohn concludes with ten important guidelines to help viewers reconnect to their own best instincts as parents.

The Magical Child

by Joseph Chilton Pearce

Right from the instant of birth, says Joseph Chilton Pearce, the human child has only one concern — to learn all that there is to learn about the world. But in the West we tend to thwart this concern from the very start. Available once again, The Magical Child shows how to restore this amazing capacity for creative intelligence that is innate in every human.

Parenting from the Inside Out: How A Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive

by Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Mary Hartzell M. Ed.

How many parents have found themselves thinking: I can’t believe I just said to my child the very thing my parents used to say to me! Am I just destined to repeat the mistakes of my parents? In Parenting from the Inside Out, child psychiatrist Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and early childhood expert Mary Hartzell, M.Ed., explores the extent to which our childhood experiences actually do shape the way we parent. Drawing upon stunning new findings in neurobiology and attachment research, they explain how interpersonal relationships directly impact the development of the brain, and offer parents a step-by-step approach to forming a deeper understanding of their own life stories, which will help them raise compassionate and resilient children. Born out of a series of parents’ workshops that combined Siegel’s cutting-edge research on how communication impacts brain development with Hartzell’s thirty years of experience as a child-development specialist and parent educator, Parenting from the Inside Out guides parents through creating the necessary foundations for loving and secure relationships with their children.


A Free Range Childhood: Self-Regulation at Summerhill School

by Matthew Appleton

Summerhill is probably Britain’s most Famous school. Its radical philosophy of education has led to constant conflict with the educational establishment. Matthew Appleton was a houseparent at Surnmerhill for nine years. He has lectured and written extensively on his experiences, and now has written this book. He works as a psychotherapist and craniosacral therapist in England. He is also a follower of the work of Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), whose friendship with Summerhill founder A.S. Neill’s formed an important aspect of the lives and work of both men.

Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

by Peter Gray

In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that our children, if free to pursue their own interests through play, will not only learn all they need to know, but will do so with energy and passion. Children come into this world burning to learn, equipped with the curiosity, playfulness, and sociability to direct their own education.

Lives of Children

by George Dennison

The Lives of Children is George Dennison’s story of The First Street School and how he succeeded in helping kids no one had been able to help. Of all the books written on education in the sixties and seventies, The Lives of Children was one of the most significant. When it was first published, Herbert Kohl wrote, “There is no book I know of that shows so well what a free and humane education can be like, nor is they’re a more eloquent description of its philosophy.” John Holt, reviewing the book for The New York Review of Books, wrote, “If anyone felt he had time to read only one book on education, The Lives of Children should be the one.”

Deschooling Our Lives

edited by Matt Hern

Challenges our assumptions about the nature of education by illustrating many learner-centered options that people are doing (successfully!) in place of traditional schooling.

Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood

by A.S. Neill

Portrays the development of Play Mountain’s “ideological match,” a well-known free school in England. Summerhill is based on Neill’s firm belief in self-regulation and allowing children to make their own rules and determine for themselves how much to study.

Making It Up As We Go Along

by Chris Mercogliano

Tells of the real life experiences of The Albany Free School where the guiding principles of educating are “love, emotional honesty, peer-level leadership, and cooperation.”

Freedom To Learn

by Carl Rogers

This is the text that championed a revolutionary approach to education that changed the way we teach our children. Now, in the Third Edition, it’s challenging the status quo with twenty years of evidence that defies current thinking. Five exciting new chapters focus on issues of importance now and in the future–learning from children who love school; researching person- centered issues in education; developing the administrator’s role as a facilitator; building discipline and classroom management with the learner; and person-centered views of transforming schools. Freedom to Learn, Third Edition is written in the first person, with two goals in mind–to aid the development of the minds of children and young persons, and to encourage the kinds of adventurous enterprises being carried out daily by dedicated, caring teachers in creative classrooms and supportive schools throughout the nation.



by Sylvia Ashton-Warner

This book reads like a diary and includes wonderful stories of the author’s “organic teaching” of reading to Maori children in New Zealand. Her joy in life comes through in every sentence.

Dumbing Us Down

by John Taylor Gatto

A critique of traditional school structure and teaching styles which limit and harm students’ creativity, self esteem, ability to solve problems and think critically, and dramatically increase the chances that they will hate learning for the rest of their lives.

Teacher Effectiveness Training

by Thomas Gordon

Older classic on styles of teacher/child communication which keep communication channels open in the classroom.

Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning From Birth to Adolescence

by Jane Healy

Dr. Healy addresses academic learning, offering countless suggestions for how parents can help without pushing. She explains the building blocks of reading, writing, spelling, and mathematics and shows how to help youngsters of all ages develop motivation, attention, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Using the science of childhood development, she also examines today’s hot issues, including learning disabilities, ADHD, the influences of electronic media, and the hazards of forced early learning. From infancy to adolescence, this is the perfect guide to helping and enjoying a youngster’s mental, personal, and academic growth.

Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community

by Alfie Kohn

A modest attempt to overthrow the entire field of classroom management, which describes how creating democratic learning communities is more effective than coercing children into complying with teachers’ expectations.

How to Talk So Kids Can Learn

by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish

Using the unique communication strategies, down-to-earth dialogues, and delightful cartoons that are the hallmark of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish show parents and teachers how to help children handle the everyday problems that interfere with learning. This breakthrough book demonstrates how parents and teachers can join forces to inspire kids to be self-directed, self-disciplined, and responsive to the wonders of learning.


On Becoming a Person

by Carl Rogers

The late Carl Rogers, founder of the humanistic psychology movement, revolutionized psychotherapy with his concept of “client-centered therapy.” His influence has spanned decades, but that influence has become so much a part of mainstream psychology that the ingenious nature of his work has almost been forgotten. A new introduction by Peter Kramer sheds light on the significance of Dr. Rogers’s work today. New discoveries in the field of psychopharmacology, especially that of the antidepressant Prozac, have spawned a quick-fix drug revolution that has obscured the psychotherapeutic relationship. As the pendulum slowly swings back toward an appreciation of the therapeutic encounter, Dr. Rogers’s “client-centered therapy” becomes particularly timely and important.


Pedagogy of the Oppressed

by Paulo Friere

An absolute must for educators who wish to understand the implications of the choice of educational methodology, particularly in literacy learning. Friere’s understanding of the inherent liberation or oppression of various methods is a clarifying underpinning for an educator who wants to foster equal opportunity for every child. His passion keeps the reader inspired through this theoretical book, which is sometimes a slow read.

Pedagogy of Hope

by Paulo Friere

Published years after Pedagogy of Oppression, this is a reflection upon the early work and upon his lifetime of applying his methodology in a multitude of countries and settings. The most important figure in literacy campaigns in our century.

Freedom and Beyond

by John Holt

A critique of society and the place of traditional education in it. Some wonderful thoughts on uses of freedom, tensions of freedom, authority, choice, deschooling.

Education and Ecstasy

by George B. Leonard

Believing that learning changes the learner, learning involved interaction with the environment, and that education, at best, is ecstatic, the author in 1968 explored what schools could be. Much is still relevant today.

Looking for Home

by Carollyne Sinclaire

A book that explores the potential for using the classroom as a place for “becoming at home in the world,” not merely a place of instruction. It contains more inclusive educational goals, like Play Mountain Place’s.


Filtering People: Understanding and Confronting Our Prejudices

by Jim Cole

A simply written, but highly intelligent book which shows how prejudices develop and can be overcome.

Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children

by Louise Derman-Sparks and the A.B.C. Task Force

An influential best-seller full of suggestions for helping staff and children respect each other as individuals and confronting, transcending, and eliminating barriers based on race, culture, gender, or ability. Chapters include: why an anti-bias curriculum; creating an anti-bias environment; learning about racial differences and similarities; learning about disabilities; learning about gender identity; learning about cultural differences and similarities; learning to resist stereotyping and discriminatory behavior; and working with parents.

Everyday Acts Against Racism

by Maureen T. Reddy, ed.
This book looks at practical ways teachers and parents have acted against overt and subtle racism.


Books suitable for 2 to 4 year olds:

The Chocolate-Covered-Cookie Tantrum

by Deborah Blumenthal & Harvey Stevenson

This is a story about Sophie, who goes to the park with her mother and sees another child eating a cookie. Sophie wants one too but her mother didn’t bring one for her. Sophie gets very upset and angry about not getting a cookie and her mother waits while she has her feelings before going home. This is a well-written book with bright, colorful pictures. I particularly like the message of the book, which is that adults don’t have to give children whatever they want or try and reason with them. They simply need to let children have their feelings about not getting what they want.

Proud Of Our Feelings

by Lindsay Leghorn

Corny title but great book. In this story, Priscilla introduces her friends, each of whom is feeling and expressing a different emotion. The book is designed to encourage discussion about feelings between children and their caregivers with the goal being that children can know and trust their own feelings. There are questions on each page of the story, allowing children to relate times when they have felt these different feelings. I like the examples given for the friends’ different feelings because they are ones that most children can identify with, such as feeling shy when meeting new people, feeling sad when friends don’t listen, feeling happy about getting a puppy, etc. Great multi-cultural pictures too!

Who’s In A Family?

by Robert Skutch & Laura Nienhaus

This is a beautiful book showing a wide variety of different kinds of families–nuclear family with siblings, family with one child, single parent family, gay and lesbian families, family with a mother and grandmother, divorced family, biracial family, even a family with no children, but two pets. I like this book because it helps young children identify their own particular family and develop a tolerance and appreciation for different family structures. It is also a good anti-bias book, since the pictures represent a wide range of races and cultures.

Your Body Belongs To You

by Cornelia Spelman & Teri Wiedner

This book, in very simple, straight-forward language, teaches children that being touched is their own choice, not another’s. With clear illustrations, the book seeks to empower children by teaching them that their own response to touch counts, and by giving examples of how to let someone know if you don’t want to be touched. Your Body Belongs To You is an excellent and well-written book with an important message.

Owl Babies

by Martin Waddell & Patrick Benson

A wonderful book about separation. Three baby owls wake up one night and find that their mother is gone. They decide to wait for her. The two older ones know she’ll come back and figure she just went to get food for them, but all the youngest one can say is “I want my mommy.” The pictures and words in this book so clearly and simply express the feelings inherent in the separation process. I’ve found that young children love this book ask for it again and again.

Books suitable for 4 to 6 year olds:

Nobody’s Perfect, Not Even My Mother

by Norma Simon and Dora Leder

Children discover that nobody is perfect, but that it’s okay.

I Was So Mad!

by Norma Simon and Dora Leder

”Lots of things make me mad — when somebody breaks my best toy, when it rains and I can’t go swimming, when the kids tease me… But my mother says it’s not so bad to get mad — sometimes.”

I Am Not a Crybaby

by Norma Simon and Helen Cogancherry

Why Am I Different?

by Nomra Simon and Dora Leder

These Nora Simon titles are just a few from a vast series that deal with difficult feelings.

Dinofours: I’m Not Your Friend!

by Steve Metzger and Hans Wilhelm

They’re dinosaurs. They’re four years old. They’re having fun until Tracy tells Danielle, “You’re not my friend!” Join the Dinofours as they learn what it means to be good friends.

I Have to Go!

by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

A little boy waits too long to go pee.

Books About Death and Loss

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney

by Judith Viorst, Erik Blegvad (Illustrator)

Barney was a cat. He died last Friday. And everyone was sad. They did what most people do when a cat they like dies. They had a funeral. And then they tried to think of good things about him. They wanted to remember him as he was; and they thought about some other things, too. Whenever a cat dies, or a dog, or a bird, or any friend, it can be a little like this story about Barney.

The Dead Bird

by Margaret Wise Brown, Remy Charlip (Illustrator)

Finding a still warm but dead bird, a group of children give it a fitting burial and every day, until they forget, come again to the woods to sing to the dead bird and place fresh flowers on its grave. This book has an excellent handling of the subject of death.

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