With the Winter Olympics officially underway, it's no surprise that parents across the world are talking to their kids about athletes, competition, patriotism, and of course, the real spirit of the Olympics — hope and determination. While there's plenty of talk on news outlets about what's happening in South Korea, children's books about the Olympics can really teach your kids what the games are all about and how important they are when it comes to promoting unity and sportsmanship.
The best part about this particular list of children's books is that they're pretty broad Olympic stories. While it's time for the Winter Olympics right now, most of these can be read for the Special Olympics, the Summer Olympics, and the Paralympics. These stories range in topics, some focusing on the most spectacular athletes of Team U.S.A. (looking at you, Michael Phelps and Alice Coachman) and some focusing on the most inspiring stories of the Olympics, like the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team. Others specifically talk about the history of the Olympics and how they have become the games we know today (with plenty of traditional moments still involved) and some are just fun, kid-friendly reads that evoke the spirit of the Olympics.
So pick a few, have some fun reading moments to discuss, and then start your own backyard Olympic Games.
G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet by Brad Herzog is a really fun way to talk to your kids about the Olympics. The picture book includes facts like the reasoning behind the five interlocking Olympic rings, shows off some of the most memorable wins in the Olympics, and discusses how the Olympics have changed the world.
The 1988 Winter Olympic Games were a big deal and the real heroes of those games, the Jamaican bobsled team, have their story told in Yes, I Can!: The Story of the Jamaican Bobsled Team by Devon Harris. The picture book highlights all the team had to do to even make it to the Olympics, showing off their courage and determination, and ends with their iconic competition in Canada.
What better book about the Olympics than one written by one of the most decorated Olympians in America? In How to Train with a T.Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals by Michael Phelps, kids get to delve into the world of Phelps' training. The story uses comparisons to help explain what it was like for Phelps to train so he could win eight gold medals, including using the size of dinosaurs as examples of how much he could bench press while training. It's a really cute, fun story that will definitely have your kid thinking about what it really means to train for the Olympics.
A sweetly illustrated story, Snowman Paul Returns to the Winter Olympics by Yossi Lapid is also a fun way to talk to your kids about the Olympics. In the story, Snowman Paul is invited to serve as a referee at the Olympic Games, but is concerned about how being in the spotlight will affect his friendships with others. Sportsmanship, friendship, and healthy competition are all themes here that any kid can appreciate.
For a super current look at the Olympics, you can pick up A Kid's Guide to the 2018 Winter Games by Jack L. Roberts and Michael Owens. Written for kids ages 9 to 12 in mind, the book introduces all of the sports in this year's Winter Olympics along with some of the top American athletes competing in South Korea. There's also an interactive portion of the book where kids can keep up with the amount of medals Team USA has won.
For a historical look on how the Olympics started and how they are today, check out The Olympics: Ancient to Modern by Joe Fullman. This story covers everything from the Summer Olympics to the Winter Olympics and the Paralympics, giving kids an easy-to-read history lesson.
The Olympics represent a lot of things to a lot of people, but above all, they represent hope, spirit, and determination. Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper by Ann Malaspina is a children's book that tells the very true, very powerful story of Alice Coachman, the first African-American woman to win a gold medal, and the story of how she got to the Olympics.
Wilma Rudolph's story is one of triumph, of hope, and of perseverance, which means it's the perfect story to teach your kids what the Olympics are all about. In Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull, children will get a biography, catered to their age, about the first American woman to win three gold medals in the Olympic Games.
For something very generic and broad, you can try Caillou: Backyard Olympics by Kim Thompson. While there's not a lot of history to learn about the Olympics in this story, it's an easy-to-read one that will help your preschooler understand even more what the Olympics are all about and how they can implement the spirit of competition and sportsmanship into their own play.
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