World Book Day 2021: What’s on our reading list?

The nation as a whole has found comfort in curling up with a good book, almost doubling the amount of time we spend reading, from an average of 3.5 hours a week to six.

Some of Ambition Institute’s faculty and participants have let us have a peek at their virtual bookshelves to see what they’ve been reading.

With a range of education books, non-fiction and some fiction, we hope that you will find something in this list to teach or inspire you, or simply to enjoy.

Peps Mcrea

Peps McCrea

Dean of Learning Design at Ambition Institute

Peps McCrea is Dean of Learning Design at Ambition Institute, where he oversees the design of our programmes, including Master's in Expert Teaching, Teacher Education Fellows, and Early Career Teachers. In the past, he has been a senior lecturer in teacher education, a teacher, and a school leader.

On my list is Science Fictions by Stuart J Richie. It’s a great analysis of the state of science, where is it failing, through fraud, bias, negligence and hype, and how it might start to tackle these issues in pursuit of more trustworthy insights. There are lots of examples of psychology research that is relevant to those interested in the science of learning.

I’m also reading Get Better Faster by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo. It’s a strong pitch and model for the place of modelling, practice and feedback in service of teacher development. Essential reading for teacher educators.

Jo Riley

Jo Riley

Headteacher, Randal Cremer Primary School

Jo Riley is headteacher at Randal Cremer Primary School in Hackney. She is an alum of our Future Leaders programme and is now enrolled on our Teacher Education Fellows programme. 

I’m reading Seven Myths About Education by Daisy Christodoulou, head of research and innovation at Ark Academies. I’m also reading Angela Browne’s Lighting the Way - I strongly recommend it to anyone starting out in leadership.


Nisha Smales

Senior Director of Strategy and Development, Ambition Institute

Nisha Smales is Senior Director of Strategy and Development at Ambition Institute. She is originally from Chicago and now lives in London.

I’m partway through reading The Coach’s Guide to Teaching by Doug Lemov. I’m a big fan of Lemov and am enjoying reading his take on coaching athletics and thinking about familiar teaching techniques (e.g. Ratio and Check for Understanding) in this new context.

The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias by Dolly Chugh is my favourite book thus far on diversity and inclusion. It’s very much “up my alley” in its grounding in science and in how actionable it is. It’s the sort of read that leaves you thinking and reflecting months later — and then wanting to go back and re-read. I find myself thinking about concepts from the book (e.g. “identity granting” and “ordinary privilege”) regularly in my daily life.

Tom Rees

Tom Rees

Executive Director, Ambition Institute

Tom Rees is Executive Director at Ambition Institute and leads our programmes. He is a member of his regional Headteacher Board, trustee of a local MAT, and author of Wholesome Leadership. Tom is a former headteacher and education director. He is also founder of a charity supporting families affected by Down’s Syndrome.

I am reading The Tyranny of Merit by Michael J. Sandel. It challenges what has been the accepted view that a meritocracy exists in society, whereby social mobility can take place if people work hard enough and create their own opportunity.


Harry Fletcher-Wood

Dean of Learning Design, Ambition Institute

Harry Fletcher-Wood is a former teacher turned educational researcher who now mostly focuses on teacher development. Harry is an associate dean in Learning Design and is studying for a PhD in Public Policy at King’s College London. He leads our Teacher Education Fellows programme.

One book I’ve been enjoying recently is David Epstein’s Range. Epstein critiques the prevalent belief that we succeed through single-minded focus on a specific field. Roger Federer’s mother was a tennis coach – but she didn’t teach him tennis: “He would have just upset me anyway.” Before winning twenty men’s single titles, he dabbled in skiing, wrestling, swimming, skateboarding, handball, baseball and many other sports. Epstein emphasises the importance of a breadth of experience, of trying things out, and of solving problems based on knowledge from multiple domains.

I’ve also been reading a classic book called Implementation. The subtitle tells it all: “How great expectations in Washington are dashed in Oakland; or, why it’s amazing that federal programs work at all.” It’s a careful examination of a specific job creation programme in the 1960s – but it offers lasting lessons about how and why programmes struggle to achieve their intended impact, particularly if they are rushed, complicated, and don’t have local support.

"During lockdown, I have fallen back in love with reading."

- Emily Davenport
Emily Davenport.jpg

Emily Davenport

Programme Manager

Emily Davenport is Programme Manager at Ambition Institute, working on the Early Career Teachers programme. She is our BAME network lead, chairs our network steering groups and is on our culture committee.

During lockdown, I have fallen back in love with reading. I’ve been reading The Woman In The Window by AJ Finn and The Split by Sharon Bolton Peps. The Woman In The Window has a very Gone Girl/Girl On A Train vibe and has also been made into a film. The Split is a very tense and atmospheric book set mostly in south Georgia in a remote island in the Antarctic.

MicrosoftTeams-image (5).png

Katy Patten

Dean of Learning Design, Ambition Institute

Katy Patten leads on content within the Ambition learning design team.

I've recently read Culturally Responsive Teaching & the Brain by Zaretta Hammond.

I've found it really interesting. She explores how teachers might shape their instruction in a way that promotes equity — focusing on culturally and linguistically diverse pupils. She takes a neuroscience lens to the problems she identifies and seeks to make her recommendations practical for teachers through what she calls the 'Ready for Rigour framework', that supports teachers to refine or change practices to ensure they better meet the needs of all learners.

I would recommend, though with the caveat that she draws largely on the American school system. That’s not to say isn't highly relevant for UK pupils too.

You can find out more about any of our programmes here.

World Book Day

Check out some of our other WBD content