What We’re Reading: 13 Books to Keep Your Learning Alive this Summer

Summertime: it is a time to relax, spend time outdoors, and possibly catch up on those tasks that fell to the wayside during the school year. Though the following books are not exactly “beach reads”, we invite you to join us in some fun summer reading that will stretch your mind as you stretch out at the beach. Here is what our staff is reading this summer. Be sure to let us know what you are reading in the comment box below!

Note: If you’re inspired by this list and decide to purchase a book or two through Amazon, we invite you to use AmazonSmile and designate the Christian Learning Center. When you do this, Amazon will contribute a percentage of your purchase to us! Simply click this link to enroll! 

  • Adam, God's BelovedAdam, God’s Beloved” by Henri Nouwen

    This is truly an excellent book that talks about the profound impact Adam had on Henri Nouwen’s life. Henri was assigned to come alongside Adam in the L’Arche Community called Daybreak in Canada. – Barbara Newman, consultant and director of church services

  • Design and Deliver“Design and Deliver: Planning and Teaching Using Universal Design for Learning” by Loui Lord Nelson, Ph.D.

    This is an easy to read, practical, and idea filled resource book on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). It explains key principals of multiple means of engagement, representation and action/expression for diverse learners. It also gives practical ways to put them into action. – Becci Zwiers, teacher consultant

  • Flipping 2.0“Flipping 2.0: Practical Strategies for Flipping Your Class” by Jason Bretzmann

    The chapters range from details on flipping certain content areas to philosophical reasoning and empirical evidence on the benefits of flipping.  I’m finding great details and suggestions so far! – Becci Zwiers, teacher consultant

  • Have the Guts to Do it Right“Have the Guts to Do It Right: Raising Grateful and Responsible Children in an Era of Indulgence” by Sheri Moskowitz Noga

    This obscure book is a treasure of common sense wisdom and practical strategies to assist parents in understanding their relationship with their children in their own styles of parenting.

    For example, in a section titled, “Manners”, the author points out the importance of teaching children to say “please” and “thank you”, a process which should begin as early as possible. The parent’s clear expectation is for their child to treat people with politeness, good manners, respect and appreciation. The author adds, “If you want your children to be polite and have good manners, work on relating to them [with good manners].”

    Other compelling topics in this gem of a parenting resource include: respect, autonomy, gratitude, boundaries, self-control, work/chores, computer use and access to media (as in “do not allow your children to have television sets in their bedrooms”). –Doug Bouman, S.Psy.S.

  • Lost at School“Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How we Can Help Them” by Ross Greene D.

    I’m finding that this book is a really great reminder that when students are struggling, it is important to meet them where they are and work with them on developing the lagging skills, either behavioral or academic. – Linda Weemhoff, teacher consultant

  • No Greatness without Goodness“No Greatness without Goodness: How a Father’s Love Changed a Company and Sparked a Movement” by Randy Lewis

    I’ve recommended this book to several people in the short time since I’ve read it. Randy Lewis goes over the steps he took and lessons learned from helping Walgreens re-design their distribution centers to employ persons with disabilities. Although pithy at times, it challenged me to think more purposefully about how we design our work and organizations to unlock the gifts of every person. – Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski, advancement director (as of September 2015)

  • Quiet“Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain

    This book is PACKED with cool stuff.  This writer looks at introversion/extroversion from every possible angle.  She includes interesting data from psychology, sociology, history, neuroscience, anthropology, economics, politics, and education.  You could pretty much make a meal out of each section.  It would be a fun book to study with a book club…at least if the book clubbers want to gain personal insight and cultural awareness  It is possibly more a winter read rather than a summer read…but with that being said, it is very readable, full of stories and fun facts.  It feels like both a novel and a textbook.  – Dr. Sherri Rozema

  • The Wounded Healer“The Wounded Healer” by Henri Nouwen

    I was so taken with “Adam, God’s Beloved”, that I also intend to read “The Wounded Healer”as a way to understand Henri Nouwen’s encouragement to engage in ministry in our faith communities today. – Barbara Newman, consultant and director of church services

  • UDL in the Classroom“Universal Design for Learning in the Classroom: Practical Applications” by Tracey E. Hall Ph.D., Anne Meyer Ed.D., and David H Rose D.

    This textbook-type book dives into the theory, practice and evidence of UDL. – Becci Zwiers, teacher consultant

What are you reading? Leave us a comment in the box below!

All God’s Children: Building Community through Disability Awareness

Understanding the inherent God-given purpose and gifts of each of his children is crucial to living in interdependent community.  Julia Murray, an American Heritage Girls troop leader, shares an experience that enriched both her and her troop’s understanding of community in today’s post.    

Sometimes, God works in dramatic ways to guide our footsteps. But frankly, I smile much bigger when He does it in His subtle “betcha didn’t see that coming” kind of style.

American Heritage Girls doing the "puzzle piece" activityI lead a troop of 30 American Heritage Girls, ages 6-12. This faith-based scouting organization has challenged me AND the girls in my troop to venture out from our comfort zones, so when I saw a badge entitled “All God’s Children” about disabilities awareness, I prayed that the right person would come along who could make this personal to my girls.

God answers prayers in His own time and did so when I learned about Vangie Rodenbeck of PURE Ministries in Gainesville, GA. I was charmed by her humor about her life as a mom to young man with autism spectrum disorder, as well as her role as a ministry leader. But I knew immediately Vangie was the one to teach my troop when she told me simply, “If we can teach your kids to be friends with someone like my son, we can change the world!”

Vangie Rodenbeck

Vangie Rodenbeck shares how our strengths and weaknesses complement one another.

She held the girls and parents spellbound with the concepts clearly explained for all ages, beginning with a cookbook. The girls completely understood how God has a recipe for each and every one of us, based on the job He has for us to do on this earth. The recipes are all different and only scratch the surface.

“Don’t ignore my child’s diagnosis…I worked HARD to get it!” she explains.

“But honor [the diagnosis] and accept it for what it is. And remember that diagnosis doesn’t tell you everything about Noah. It doesn’t tell you that he loves rock & roll, or that he can ride a bike. It doesn’t tell you what he’s like at all.”

This concept was driven home by the use of the two green and pink puzzle pieces that she held in each hand from the CLC Network “Inclusion Awareness Kit”. The girls were given their own large puzzle pieces and took a few minutes writing all the things they do well on the green side, and the things they don’t do so well on the pink side. The group discussion that followed was a thing of beauty.

Student working on puzzle piece

Each student wrote their areas of strength and struggle on the green and pink puzzle pieces.

We learned that Rachel is good at reading, but not so good at math. Megan can draw really well, but isn’t good at creative writing. Emma can write great stories, but stick figures are her illustrations.

If the lightbulbs that went off in their heads were real, we could have lit up the entire building.

Suddenly, they realized that one girl’s “greens” often complemented another girl’s “pinks.” And that’s why they got along so well and accomplished so much in meetings…they were tapping into their individual God-given strengths, which were all different. How boring would it be if we were ALL “green” at everything? It’s God’s design – His recipe – that we all have our pinks and greens.

It was a perfect lead-in to scripture in Romans that tells us God created us all as parts of a body; no one person can be the entire body. We’re often more alike than we are different, and it’s our “alikeness” that brings us together.

Julia Murray is the Pastoral Ministry Assistant at Midway United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, GA. American Heritage Girls, based in Ohio and  founded in 1995, has as its mission to “build women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.”

Inclusive Education at Ada Christian School

Third grade students at Ada Christian School

Third grade learners and friends at Ada Christian School.

When asked how inclusive education fits into Ada Christian’s vision, Principal Melissa Brower is stumped. “Without it, we wouldn’t be whole,” she says. “Inclusive education fits in just like everything else we do.”

Ada Christian School (Ada, Michigan) enrolls approximately 560 students in preschool through 8th grade, and has worked with CLC Network since 1987. Their mission, equipping students for service in God’s world, breaks down into four focus areas: mind, body, soul, and community. Mrs. Brower explains,

“As a school of course we have high standards for our students, but high standards may look different for different learners. Our job is to meet each student where they are and help them grow.”

Melissa Brower with students

Third graders share what they’re learning with principal Melissa Brower.

Part of that growth is making sure parent-teacher conferences and classroom dynamics reflect all areas of personal growth. “Our society can be so focused on judging people by their output, their ability to produce something. We want our students to know that everyone plays a part in God’s Kingdom, no matter their abilities.”

Each week, homeroom classes review how they are treating each other in community. In middle school, small groups led by teachers, youth pastors, and adult volunteers help students reflect on their faith. Commitments like this help create a safe environment of care, which is especially valued by parents of kids with disabilities.

Parents like Jim Horman have an especially strong relationship with the school. His son, Cole, transferred to Ada Christian last year after struggling in a public school. “It’s been a surprise how much Christianity is infused into everything at this school,” he shares.

“They are Christian in their responses to Cole, not just in the title of the school. They help other students see Cole beyond his disability, and talk openly about his needs. As his parents, we feel like an extension of the team surrounding him with compassion and understanding.”

Ada 03

Sixth graders demonstrating that everyone is part of God’s family with a “family portrait”.

“I couldn’t express strongly enough how positive our experience at Ada Christian has been,” reflects Randy Russo, whose daughter Isabelle is enrolled in 7th grade. “As a parent of a child with a disability, that positive experience becomes emotional for us. The teachers and students just accept her so easily, she blends into the school in all capacities without hesitation. The feeling of acceptance in this school is incredibly unique.”

Ada Christian continues to refine its approach. This year, Jim Hapner became the first full-time Inclusion Specialist. “I’ve been really impressed by how the school’s vision guides everyone here, helping us work together,” he reflects. “I look forward to working closely with students who may struggle to meet social and academic challenges.”

Linda Slotsema has served as an instructional aide at Ada Christian for more than thirteen years. Over that time, she’s observed many changes in how teachers react to students with special needs.

“Our teachers are proactive about getting help for their students — not for the purposes of getting them out of the classroom, but to make sure they are successful inside of the general education classroom.”

Mrs. Brower shares some of the demonstrations of success she sees in her day. “It’s the little things that are really such big things. Like during a band concert, seeing a student reach out and calm the person next to her who may be panicking over the change in routine. Or watching a student hurry out, but when his friend reaches out to say goodbye he stops, and takes time to recognize that person and ask about his day. That’s the picture of Christlike behavior we are striving for.”

Elizabeth Dombrowski photo

Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the advancement director at CLC Network. 

This article originally appeared in the 2014 Inclusive newsletter – CLC Network’s semiannual newsletter.

Inclusion at Zeeland Christian School

Principal Bill Van Dyk

Zeeland Christian Schoool Principal Bill Van Dyk

With more than 54 students who have moderate to significant impairments in a preschool through grade 8 building of 900 students, inclusion is part of daily life at Zeeland Christian Schools (ZCS) in Zeeland, Michigan. That’s just been the reality there for more than twenty-five years, with the help of CLC Network.

Bill Van Dyk, Administrator and Principal, has been a strong partner and advocate for Inclusive Education from the beginning. CLC Network sat down with Bill to interview him further about his experience.

CLC: Tell us about what it was like to start the inclusion program at Zeeland, when no one else was doing it at this scale.

Logan and friends at ZCS

Logan participates in the annual 12-minute Jingle Jog with his classmates at Zeeland Christian School.

Bill: Within two weeks of my first day on the job, a parent called wanting to enroll her son with mild autism at Zeeland Christian School. We met with Doug Bouman from CLC Network, who explained to her that we were not equipped to educate her child. She put her head on her desk and cried, and it broke my heart. I knew we had to do something.

There were conversations at the time about setting up a separate campus for CLC in Ottawa County, so we said we would try it here. At the last minute, CLC proposed to go for including kids with high needs into the school instead of a separate classroom. I knew it was a gamble; it would be an unbelievable success or I would have a short career here at ZCS. Clearly it wasn’t actually a gamble, since God has blessed it so much.

CLC: What impact did inclusion have on your school?

Bill: We were a typical school, where the popular kids were the stars, and all of a sudden the stars were the kids with disabilities.

It turned the peer structure on its head, and in a good way. How powerful to have kids teaching kids how to reflect the body of Christ! Today, the students have to think about who has special needs.

We saw it change whole families, by helping them celebrate differences. Churches became more inclusive as a result of the kids’ friendships with each other. Today we have an extremely compassionate community for all children.

CLC: What have been the benefits of inclusion?

Caleb and classmates at ZCS

Caleb smiles at a joke during “Family Group” time at Zeeland Christian School.

Bill: Without the inclusion program, we would never have been able to launch a Spanish immersion program or our new Mandarin immersion program. Inclusion built an incredibly high level of trust between Zeeland Christian and the community, and popularized the notion that being different here is cool and special.

Of course, no school could have done it alone. The credibility and experience of CLC Network established our inclusion program with a strong reputation. Plus, CLC Network provides a gatekeeper for myself as principal. When a parent has very personal questions or concerns about the level of services their child may need, CLC Network provides a team of experts who can offer an objective assessment of what is best for that student.

CLC: What are the challenges of inclusion?

John and Ryan

John and Ryan have been friends since their early years at Zeeland Christian School.

Bill: You can say it’s money, but it’s not. God has blessed this program. Zeeland has grown by over 100 students during the last ten years, despite the recession. From a purely business perspective, we have 54 students who brought at least 100 additional family members. Inclusion can be part of a growth model for any school.

God also brings the right people to the right places at the right times. CLC Network provides the expertise, so you can bless the whole community with inclusion, and then God will bless your school. CLC Network provides an inclusion program plan for each school, but it’s really God’s plan and it’s been fun to be along for the ride.

CLC: Was there any resistance to starting an inclusion program for students at all levels of ability?

Bill: There were questions in the beginning, but we asked everyone to let us try it, and then to tell us about any concerns. In the 24 years since, no parent has said that the inclusive program is a detriment to their kids’ education.

Many parents have said that their kids are becoming better people thanks to the inclusion program.

Teachers were worried they weren’t qualified to teach kids at all levels of ability, but now CLC Network has the resources to help understand each child, and then the sky’s the limit. We make decisions around each child, and let the program build around that. It didn’t have to be big, it was just a matter of deciding that students with special needs would be part of our community.
There is powerful scripture behind that decision; all children are created in God’s image and God doesn’t really give us a choice about whether or not to include them.

CLC: Can you share any stories about inclusion at your school?

Bill: For the first couple of years, there was story after story. One second grader would slip out of the room through the fire escape every time the teacher turned her back. Finally, the other kids got the picture and surrounded him when he tried. He wasn’t going to fight twenty other second graders, so he didn’t exit the room again.

The cool thing is, we don’t have stories about it now. Miracles are happening here all the time, it’s just life. It’s part of being a school built on relationships; we all have a role to play.

Elizabeth Dombrowski photoElizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the advancement director at CLC Network.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2012 Inclusive newsletter – CLC Network’s semiannual newsletter. Updated Fall 2014.

The Movement Toward Inclusion in Kenya

In today’s post, our friend David Anderson, Ph.D. shares about his experience working alongside Kenyan leaders and schools to welcome persons with disabilities through his role as president of Crossing Bridges, Inc. 

Meet Eva

One of the brightest and most capable students I had in over 30 years of preparing special education teachers was a Kenyan woman whom God led to Lock Haven University (Lock Haven, PA), where I was teaching in the mid-1980s. My relationship with Eva has continued over the years since she received her degree and returned to her homeland, where she eventually opened a private school, Acorn Special Tutorials, and began serving children with various disabilities.

Eva and Clara at Logos Christian School

Eva and Clara, an administrator at Logos Christian School (Nairobi, Kenya)

It has been my privilege to travel to Kenya a dozen times since 1997 to teach at Daystar University or Great Commission School of Theology, to speak at conferences for pastors and church leaders about the opportunity (and responsibility) to minister to and with families affected by disability. I’ve also had the opportunity to teach students in the diploma program Eva created which prepares teachers to work with students who have a disability. Eva has become a widely-respected and outspoken advocate for the inclusion of children with special needs in Kenyan schools, and I am blessed to partner with her in these efforts.

Education for Students with Disabilities

Although Kenya is a signatory of the United Nation’s “Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities,” (which includes the right to an appropriate education), many social, cultural, and economic factors in Kenya impede full implementation of the Convention (the same is true in many developing nations). Schools in the private sector are more active in seeking to include children with disabilities in their programs. The government schools have been slow to open their doors, especially to students with significant disabilities.

Little Helping Hands School

Students at Little Helping Hands School (Naivasha, Kenya)

In July 2014, Eva and I visited Little Helping Hands School, a private Christian school in Naivasha, to observe several classes for young children with special needs and offer feedback and encouragement to the teachers. It was good to see the effectiveness of those who had attended seminars on special education I presented in 2013, but their need for additional training was apparent. Little Helping Hands School desires to incorporate the children with special needs more directly in its programs. At the school’s request, we will return next year for this purpose.

Visiting Nairobi

Eva also arranged for me to present seminars on inclusive education at two schools in Nairobi. One session was for the Kindergarten Headmistress Association, at the Kensington Kindergarten School. About 30 students studying early childhood education attended this seminar, along with several of their teachers. Questions asked by the students evidenced their desire to understand how to include students with disabilities into their classrooms.

The second session was for the teachers at Logos Christian School, which serves students from early childhood through 8th grade. Although this seminar was on a Friday afternoon at the close of school, roughly 50 teachers and administrators were in attendance—a sign of their interest in moving forward with including students with disabilities in their programs. This school has also requested that we provide more training next year.

I noticed a significant increase in the Kenyan schools’ interest in inclusive education since my first visit in 1997. On this most recent trip, I was able to encourage the Christian schools by sharing information about the effective inclusive programming at Grand Rapids Christian Elementary and Middle Schools. I was also able to help these present and future teachers understand how inclusive education has more to do with the heart than simply head knowledge as we explored what “normalcy” and “disability” mean, and some theological principles that are the basis for inclusion (e.g., interdependence, community, hospitality, etc.).

I’m looking forward to returning next year to continue training teachers and fostering an inclusive environment in Kenyan schools.

How can you support international inclusion efforts?

Prayer. Pray for Eva and Clara as they move forward to implement inclusive education in Kenya.

Connect with Crossing Bridges. Visit our website to learn more about ways you can get involved – directly and indirectly – with our inclusion efforts.


David AndersonDavid W Anderson, Ed.D., is Emeritus Professor of Special Education, Bethel University, St. Paul, MN, where he served for 15 years as Director of Graduate Programs in Special Education. He is also President of Crossing Bridges, Inc., an international ministry focusing on issues of disability and special education, which seeks to promote inclusive practices in churches and schools.