Easy Sport Books for Struggling Readers: Athlete Facts and Sports Fiction
Reluctant and struggling readers can not be motivated to read because the topics are not interesting to them. Active boys and girls are more likely to read about their hobbies and interests even if reading is not their strongest subject. To meet the reading needs of this audience of readers, children's authors and their publishers are bringing these stories to library shelves and classrooms. Just like there are books on every subject for all types of readers, this list focuses on the easy sports books that are not intimidating to struggling readers.
Sports Books for the Young
Young struggling readers will often read about their favorite characters. If characters such as Froggy, Brother Bear, or Arthur like soccer or baseball just like the young reader, they are likely to branch out to other characters with similar interests if books are at the same level. It may take the parent to incorporate these new characters and series as part of the read-aloud to introduce their child to new books. Reading the books with the child makes it less threatening and they may find it is easier than they thought.
For those who live and breathe their sport, they already know the vocabulary and basics, so they may want to read books more devoted to the sport than to the character. The Dewey Decimal system for non-fiction books will match a reader to their sport and open up a whole section of books that interest them. Soccer players will find My Soccer Book by Gail Gibbons and Score!: You Can Play Soccer by Nick Fauchald in 796.334 while baseball players may find a new home in the library a shelf down at 796.357.
High Interest Sport Biographies
Toddlers are aware of environmental print, that is signs and words around them that they easily recognize. Examples including restaurant logos like McDonald's are part of the early reader's repertoire. The same is true for the child who follows their family's favorite sporting team. Jerseys are the environmental print for the sports enthusiast. Not only do they learn to recognize animal names like Sharks, Bears, and Orioles, but also player names like Jones, Martinez, and Sutter.
Once they learn about their favorite teams and players, they will seek out more information about them. Current players make it into the newspapers and sports periodicals, so reading the sports section with your child will show how readers find information on a regular basis that has nothing to do with school. In some articles, readers learn more about how a professional player got to their current career, while other articles report on their special interests and community involvement.
Biography books do the same. These children's books are written for a younger audience and their readability. Rising sport stars have their books published quickly to meet the demand for their stories. They may be identified as high-interest, but a review of the content will determine its readability. If the reader is truly motivated to read about their favorite player, they will do their best to read and comprehend, using their background knowledge on the topics or asking questions about words or concepts. Children's biographies often include glossaries that are not provided in adult biographies.
Understanding the Codes
- AR = Accelerated Reader
- SC = Scholastic Counts
- RL = Reading Level (based on grade equivalent)
- Lexile = The Lexile text measure system is a one of the ways that children’s books determine readability and difficulty for the individual. Readers can match their Lexile reader measure with the text measure.
- IL = Interest Level (based on age equivalent)
When it comes to the different ages and levels of readers, children may not read at their grade level. A first grader may be a strong reader and can read chapter books, but it doesn’t mean that they have the maturity to read books intended for middle schoolers. At the same time, a middle school student wants to read about children who can relate to their issues and interests, but a struggling reader in eighth grade may be discouraged that they can only read books written about third graders. The search for the right book should consider both the reading level and the interest level. For example, a seventh grader with an independent reader level of 4.0, or fourth grade, will look for a book with a RL around 4.0 and an IL between 4-8 (fourth to eighth grade). If they are looking at books that are measured with the Lexile system, they will consider books around 590-600. If they like hockey, then Backup Goalie by Bob Temple of the Impact Jake Maddox series is a good match.
An interest in sports can connect a child to reading. Young readers are motivated by characters and familiar text, but as they age, characters and plots become more complex. They grow out of their childhood characters and need guidance to find their next favorite story. When parents do not know which books are available, they or their child can get book advice from the librarians (school or public) or teachers and reading specialists.
Some authors are known for writing sports fiction. Matt Christopher is known for writing sports fiction for young readers but also wrote books for middle school interests. His website allows visitors to search for books by sport as well as series. Some stories are realistic fiction while others are fantasy. Mike Lupica is another author who has found success writing about baseball. Robert Skead rediscovered his love for writing and found his niche with sports fiction. Dan Gutman combines the fantasy of time travel with baseball players in history in his Baseball Card Adventure series.
Struggling readers will be motivated to read if they are interested in the topic or author. They will stay motivated if they are able to read the text or want to use their skills to enjoy a book that truly interests them. Audiobooks are another way to read when the reader follows along with the CD as well as the book. It may take much trial and error finding the right book, author, subject, or reading level. In the end, however, it means that the struggling reader will find pleasure in books at their ability and interest level.
Search for Sports Books for Your Struggling Reader
Search engines make it possible to pinpoint books of interests in the areas of sports. The more specific the keyword, the more likely that the book will match the reader's interest. Keywords can include the name of a sport or organization (snowboarding, NBA,) or a group or event (World Cup, Olympics, extreme sports).
A parent or student can find the books they want by using a variety of resources. The local library is likely to have an online book catalog for their collection as well as other libraries in their inter-library loan system. When the reader has read their fill of the available books, they can request books from other libraries as well. A full display of book information may include reading level, Lexile text number, interest level, and availability.
Other search engines specifically for children's books:
- Scholastic Book Wizard or Age-by-Age Book Find
- Book Adventure.com: This site is a free reading motivator that allows registered users to take quiz questions on the books of their choice. The "Quiz-o-Matic" lets readers find books according to their interests or grade level and take quizzes on them for prizes.
- AR Book Find: This resource by Renaissance Learning was made to help students find books and quizzes for Accelerated Reader in schools. Parents and students can search according to title, author, interest, topics, reading level, and/or interest level. Even if your child's school does not participate in AR, the website is free and informative.
Reading Outside the Sports Box
When a reluctant or struggling reader finds a reading series they like that has one or more books on the subjects, they are more likely to look for other books outside of that subject or genre. My son read Slam Dunk Shoes because it was a book about basketball that was at a comfortable reading level but at his middle school interest level. On the back cover it listed other books in the Jake Maddox sports series. Football was his next sport of interest, which led to On the Line. The public library had 23 books in their system which kept him occupied for days. Once he got his fill of sports, we found other books by the same publishing company that featured historical fiction. Naturally he moved on to Civil War battles and the adventures of the Pony Express riders.
The hunt for sports books that interest the reluctant or struggling reader takes effort and resources, but the books are being written and published to meet the demand. Whether they read about the same sport or books by the same sports author, they are reading for enjoyment and learning the benefits of the written word.