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Go for the Gold: 7 Books to Read During the 2016 Summer Olympics

Athlete or otherwise, you'll be off to a running start with these reads

Caitlin Flynn

Published on: June 02, 2016

Watching the Olympics is a bonding activity that many families eagerly look forward to. It’s also an event that’s rich with world history, tradition and inspiring role models so there’s no time like the present to educate our kids about the Games. 

The 2016 Summer Olympics hit our small screens this month; here are some books to share with your children throughout August. They cover everything from the fascinating history behind the Games to the inspirational stories of modern Olympians who overcame incredible odds to reach their dreams.

Betty Bunny Wants a Goal

By Michael Kaplan

Age recommendation: 3 to 5

When Betty Bunny steps onto the soccer field for her first game, she announces that’ll score not one but ten goals.

Humiliated and disappointed when she fails to get a single ball into the net, Betty decides to quit the sport entirely and tosses her equipment into the trash.

But Betty changes her tune when her family encourages her to give the sport another try — this time with humility, patience and perseverance. 


By Victoria Jamieson 

Age recommendation: 5 to 8 

Meet Boomer the Pig, a lovable underdog who is training for the Animal Olympics. He’s eager to be the first pig to compete in the Games and has high expectations for himself. But despite his best efforts, Boomer just can’t seem to win a race. In fact, he never places any higher than dead last. 

Boomer doesn’t turn into an overnight champion, but he doesn’t let that stop him from running. Instead, he keeps his chin up and pursues the more realistic goal of improving in time for the Winter Olympics. Olympig! sends a great message to kids about perseverance and not giving up on something they love just because they’re not immediately successful. 

G Is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet

By Brad Herzog

Age recommendation: 6 to 9 

Accompanied by beautiful illustrations, G Is for Gold Medal uses every letter of the alphabet to describe an important chapter in Olympic history or introduce readers to a fun fact, such as the meaning behind the interlocking rings featured on the Olympic flag. 

For each letter, there’s a short rhyme and a sidebar with additional information on the topic. The fun rhymes make this an accessible read-aloud for younger kids, while older readers will enjoy the more detailed text. 

You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Greek Athlete!

By Michael Ford

Age recommendation: 8 to 12 

Training for the modern Olympics is no easy feat, but things were a whole lot rougher for the participants in the Ancient Games.

Perfect for kids who aren’t fans of straightforward history, You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Greek Athlete! mixes humor with history. You’ll learn loads about the first Olympic Games, from the brutal training process to the not-so-easy events themselves. 

Raising the Bar

By Gabrielle Douglas

Age recommendation: 9 to 12

At the young age of 16, Gabrielle Douglas made history at the 2012 Summer Olympics when she became the first female gymnast to bring home gold medals in both the individual and team all-around competitions. She is also the first African-American gymnast to win the individual all-around competition.

Raising the Bar is inspirational and accessible for all tween readers, regardless of whether or not they’re athletes. Douglas discusses the changes in her life after becoming an overnight celebrity, but she also provides practical advice to her young fans who are pursuing their dreams.  

The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation)

By Daniel James Brown

Age recommendation: 10 and up 

Lead by University of Washington coach Al Ulbrickson, a nine-member team of young men caused a major upset at the 1936 Olympics. First, they defeated the heavily favored East Coast teams. Then, they went up against Germany’s rowing team and shocked everyone by bringing home a gold medal. An adaption of the adult bestseller, it includes previously unpublished photos.

Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation)

By Laura Hillenbrand

Age recommendation: 14 and up

This fascinating story of Olympic track star Louis Zamperini shares how he rose from petty thief to track star as a teen. As you may already know from the movie directed by Angelina Jolie, Zamperini competed in the 1936 Olympics. It was four years later, however, that Zamperini’s strength and determination were put to to the ultimate test. 

After being drafted, Zamperini’s plane was shot down. He spent 47 days lost at sea before being captured and held as a prisoner of war. This thrilling tale of survival and determination is an accessible page turner that will show even the most begrudging teen that history doesn't have to be boring.

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