Olympics - how to win the gold medal for book love

Published on: 03 August 2016 Author: Kate Hancock

Whether the Rio Olympics have you trying out a new sport or enjoying the action from your sofa, mum and children's book expert Kate Hancock explains how the great summer spectacle can inspire the whole family to read.

Emily Rowland sport illustration

On your marks, get set, go!

The Olympics and other major sporting events are a great way to enthuse the children in your life to get out and try a new sport or activity. They can also be a good way to talk about getting the most out of competing and playing as part of a team.

But the challenge element of a big sporting event like the Olympics can also work really well with inspiring your children to read - especially over the long summer holidays.

Summer reading fun

Here are a few ideas on how to use that Olympic-fever to encourage the children in your life to read:

  • Find a reading challenge: Many local libraries run reading challenges and competitions in the summer holidays with fun activities, book hunts, prizes and stickers, so do check what's on in your local area and urge your children to join in.
  • Create your own challenges: If your children don't fancy getting involved with a library challenge or you can't find something suitable, then it's simple enough to create your own. See how many sporty books, comics and magazines you can find and read, and award some gold, silver and bronze medals (or any kind of prize). You could even hold your own medal ceremony!
  • Go on a word hunt: Encouraging children to enjoy reading doesn't have to be just about books - try looking out for Olympic- and sport-themed words when you are out and about this summer. You could even combine it with Pokémon hunting! And whoever spots the most words wins the gold...

Sporty book inspiration

Olympics sport books

For younger children, the Olympics can be a perfect introduction to individual and team games and competition. However, learning to play fairly and be a good winner (or loser) can sometimes be a tricky lesson.

Here are some of my favourite sport- and competition-themed picture books:

  • Pom Pom the Champion (Sophy Henn): A brilliant book about charismatic panda Pom Pom, who discovers one day that he rather enjoys being the winner in every situation. Fantastic illustrations and a lovely message that sometimes winning isn't the most important thing - and having fun with your friends is what counts.
  • Grrrrr! (Rob Biddulph): A big favourite in our house, this fabulous book about Champion bear Fred and his rival Boris is great fun with stunning artwork. A funny and lovely story that sees competitive Fred realise the importance of good friends, while Boris learns a lesson about cheating.
  • I'm The Best! (Lucy Cousins): Boastful Dog loves his friends but also thinks that he is the best at everything, which makes his pals a little sad. Eventually, they show him that they all have different talents, and are each best at something. A fun and touching story.
  • The Yoga Ogre (Peter Bently & Simon Rickerty): A funny story about overweight ogre Ogden who enthusiastically decides to take up a sport but has difficulty finding one that works for ogres. Laugh out loud and a nice book to help children realise that sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find the right activity for you.
  • Paddington Goes for Gold (Michael Bond & R.W Alley): Hilarious book that sees everyone's favourite bear from darkest Peru attend a family sports event with the Brown family. Will Paddington ever win gold?

And after all that fun, don't forget to give yourself a medal (or glass of wine) for surviving another summer holiday...


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