Looking for some sports books for kids? These beautiful picture books will bring any sport alive for your little one! Many of them are written by top-ranking athletes, and all of them speak to a love of movement and play. They’re about sports, but they’re also about family, adversity, emotions, and finding yourself. These books introduce young readers to everything from hiking, yoga, and surfing to soccer, football, and baseball. No matter what sport you’re hoping to share with the children in your life, these sports books for kids will surprise, delight, and energize them!
Life Lessons & Lifestyle
Sports provide ample opportunity for teaching life lessons to children. Whether it’s a great sports metaphor or an inspiring story of perseverance, there’s a lot to be learned through athletics. The books in this section all have a lesson or two to teach children about themselves and the world around them.
How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion by Ashima Shiraishi and Yao Xiao
This book by champion rock climber Ashima Shiraishi is beautifully illustrated. It tells a story of hard work and determination. Featuring a female athlete in a male-dominated field, How to Solve a Problem is a must-read for any budding boulderer, but is especially powerful for girls.
Bike On, Bear! by Cynthea Liu and Kristyna Litten
Bear can do just about anything, but he can’t figure out how to ride his bike! Full of silly antics, Bike On, Bear! will have you laughing as you read along to find out how Bear finds his balance. Bonus: Kristyna Litten’s illustrations are adorable!
Mop Rides the Waves of Life: A Story of Mindfulness and Surfing by Jaimal Yogis and Matthew Allen
Mop has been having a hard time with the kids at school. When he turns to surfing, he learns all kinds of useful lessons about mindfulness and nature. This book works simple breathing exercises into the story, which adds a nice dimension to storytime.
Saturday is Swimming Day by Hyewon Yum
This sweet book is about a reluctant swimmer whose weekly “stomachache” slowly fades as she grows more comfortable trying new things. As she moves out of her comfort zone a little more each week, the little protagonist teaches young readers the value of trying new things.
Winners Never Quit! by Mia Hamm and Carol Thompson
Written by two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion Mia Hamm, this book focuses on how to lose without getting mad or quitting. Hamm shares a story from her life about how to navigate the emotional side of sports.
Hockey in the Wild by Nicholas Oldland
You’ve got to have patience if you want to play hockey in the wild, which these three friends find out when they go out on the ice before it’s ready and fall right through it! Their antics, along with Oldland’s silly illustrations, make for a fun story time read that will have everyone laughing. Described as a love letter to the sport of hockey, this book shares that joy with young readers. And if your little reader likes the characters, there are six more books in the series (although this is the only one with a sporting focus).
She’s Got This by Laurie Hernandez and Nina Mata
Olympic gold medal gymnast Laurie Hernandez tells the story of a little girl named Zoe who dreams of flying. She turns to gymnastics and realizes achieving her dream is going to take a lot of hard work and bravery. This tale about the importance of believing in yourself is accompanied by Nina Mata’s appealing illustrations.
I Am a Triathlete by Nia Obotette and Adriel Meka
Obotette’s book promotes the idea that people of all ages can be athletes. When Niya discovers a flyer for a triathlon tucked inside a book at the library, she decides to start training so she can participate. As she works toward her goal, she learns the importance of perseverance and determination.
Let’s Go On a Hike! by Katrina Liu and Heru Setiawan
Let’s Go on a Hike! is about a family that hits the trails. As they walk, they also pay attention to the natural world that surrounds them. The story is delivered through rhyming verses that are pleasant to read and add a fun quality to the experience. On top of that, Heru Setiawan’s colorful illustrations are super cute!
Family Huddle by Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Archie Manning, and Jim Madsen
Written by perhaps the most prominent NFL family, the Mannings (brothers Eli and Peyton and father Archie), Family Huddle is all about family. Based on some of the Mannings’ family memories, the book also teaches a few fun plays as the characters play football together whenever they can.
Overcoming Adversity Through Sport
Sports, like every other aspect of social life, reflect society’s prejudices and injustices. As such, the following sports books for kids feature amazing people who rise above challenging situations and circumstances to conquer not only the field of play, but also larger stakes tied to race, class, gender, and ability.
Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis’ Fleet-of-Foot Girl by Megan Reid and Laura Freeman
Althea Gibson was the first Black tennis player to win a trophy at Wimbledon. Megan Reid tells her story in lively prose accompanied by Laura Freeman’s rich illustrations. From her beginnings in Harlem to her success at Wimbledon, Gibson’s journey broke racial barriers imposed by segregation. This is an empowering book!
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah was born with a leg disability, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams. Emmanuel’s Dream tells the inspiring story of the young Ghanaian as he hops over two miles to school each day, plays soccer, and cares for his family. Yeboah becomes a cyclist. In 2001, he rides hundreds of miles across Ghana to spread the message that disability is not inability.
Swish!: The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters by Suzanne Slade and Don Tate
Swish! is a rollicking story of how a Chicago-based high school basketball team found a way around segregated sports to found an amazing traveling sports team: the Harlem Globetrotters. The fast-paced prose is supplemented by lively illustrations that fill the pages with energy and spirit. You’ll want to stand up and cheer when you finish this book!
She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick and Don Tate
Effa Manley was the first (and, so far, only) woman to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Her story is one of strength and resilience. Growing up biracial in Philadelphia in the early 20th century, Manley was all too familiar with discrimination. But she didn’t let that stop her! She organized labor protests and went on to found the Newark Eagles (a Negro League team). Vernick’s biography highlights Manley’s activism alongside her love of baseball.
Charlie Takes His Shot: How Charlie Sifford Broke the Color Barrier in Golf by Nancy Churnin and John Joven
Charlie Sifford was the first Black golfer to win a PGA tournament. After meeting Jackie Robinson, Sifford fought to be allowed to play in the PGA. His journey wasn’t easy. He broke the color barrier in golf, but he continued to face discrimination from all sides — not just on the green, but in hotels and clubs, too. His inspiring story will engage young readers even as it invites them to share in Sifford’s passion for golf.
Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki and Dom Lee
During World War II, over 120,000 Japanese-descended people (more than half of them US citizens) were forcibly relocated into government-operated internment camps. Ken Mochizuki’s book tells the true story about a Japanese American boy in one of these camps. Within the barbed wire boundaries caging them in, Shorty and the other internees start a baseball league. Baseball Saved Us is a moving story about the power of sport in moments of adversity.
There are so many talented athletes out there, but the athletes featured in this section have each become legends in their own rights. These biographies for young sports enthusiasts will have readers feeling inspired to reach for their dreams. After all, sports aren’t simply about winning — they’re also about being the best version of yourself you can be.
Sisters: Venus & Serena Williams by Jeanette Winter
This is the story of two sisters who love tennis. It’s also the story of an African American family living in an impoverished suburb of Los Angeles. Tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams’s story highlights their hard work and strength; at the same time, it presents an honest look at the ways race and class are present on the courts just as they are in life.
Megan Rapinoe by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Paulina Morgan
Olympic Gold medalist and World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe is a champion of LGBTQIA+ rights. This book tells her story — her whole story. From playing soccer with her sister to realizing she’s not interested in boys, this is a story of being true to yourself and pursuing your dreams. Bonus: This book is part of the Little People, BIG DREAMS series (it’s not a sports series) that focuses on people like Rapinoe who are agents of change in the world.
Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief, Rosemary Wells, and Gary Kelley
Maria Tallchief was the first prima ballerina of the company that would become the New York City Ballet. In this autobiography, Tallchief tells the story of her childhood as a mixed-race Native American (Osage) girl with a love of music in her heart. At the age of 12, her father pushes her to choose between her love of dance and her love of the piano — a choice that ultimately transformed ballet in the United States.
Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream by Deloris Jordan, Roslyn M. Jordan, and Kadir Nelson
Michael Jordan is one of the most accomplished and well-known basketball players of all time. Salt in His Shoes, written by his mother and sister, is about Michael Jordan’s childhood dreams of becoming a professional basketball player. With some help from his parents, he learned that being a champion is about more than just winning.
Pelé: King of Soccer / Pelé: el re del fútbol by Monica Brown and Rudy Gutiérrez
This bilingual book tells the true story of Brazilian soccer legend Pelé. He was the first person in the history of soccer to score 1000 goals (!). From his humble beginnings to his amazing accomplishments, this inspiring story teaches young readers that anyone can achieve excellence.
Sports Series For Kids
Sometimes you find a good book and wish there were more like it. Well, these sports books for kids make it easy to find others like them! Try them out! If you like them, you can hit your local bookstore or library and get more to share with your little reader.
Goodnight Football by Michael Dahl and Christina E. Forshay
Goodnight Football is told through rhyming text and features cute illustrations by Christina Forshay. It introduces young readers to the language of football (including everything from end zone to band). Praised for its depiction of visual diversity in players and fans, the book operates equally well as a teaching tool and a bedtime story. It’s also part of a four-book Sports Illustrated Kids Bedtime Books series that includes titles on soccer, baseball, and hockey — all of which follow the same “goodnight” format.
Dino-Wrestling by Lisa Wheeler and Barry Gott
These wild dinosaurs are all about wrestling! Theres’ Mexican wrestling, sumo wrestling, freestyle wrestling, and more. This is a wacky introduction to the myriad kinds of wrestling youngsters might be drawn to, and it’s so fun that readers will want to experience wrestling either from the mat or the sidelines. And there’s more good news: Wheeler and Gott have produced 10 books in the Dino-Sports series that focus on mainstream sports and alternative sports alike.
Lucy Tries Hockey by Lisa Bowes and James Hearne
Lucy discovers soccer while she’s ice skating with her family. As Lucy joins a hockey clinic, she is introduced to basic hockey skills and terms that young readers will get to experience alongside her. James Hearne’s charming illustrations add to the pleasurable reading experience. This is one of five books in the Lucy Tries Sports series.
Dinosaur Yoga by Miriam Gates and Matthew Rivera
The dinosaurs are loud and destructive, “crashing, bashing, thrashing through the leafy green” as they experience their emotions. They don’t want to cause so much damage, so they turn to yoga. Miriam Gates, creator of Kid Power Yoga, delivers dinosaurs who make basic yoga accessible to young children. In the back, there are instructions for individual poses, a yoga flow, and even some fun facts about the different dinosaurs pictured in the book. While this isn’t an “official” series, Gates has written numerous other children’s books on yoga for kids of all ages!
If you’re interested in more sports books for young readers, check these posts out: