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Teach Sportsmanship with Books

Prompt discussions about winning and losing with these books for kids.


Updated November 15, 2012

It's important to teach sportsmanship in the moment, during and after games and events. And we need to role model sportsmanlike behavior for our kids too. But it's important to keep talking about winning and losing at other times too. These thought-provoking books can prompt some great discussions (bonus: many will appeal to reluctant readers too).

Bat's Big Game

Bat's Big Game
Albert Whitman & Company
In this picture book, Margaret Read McDonald retells an Aesop fable about a ball game between the birds and the animals. Bat first joins one team, then the other, in an effort to stay on the winning side. The winning goal is all about team spirit. Ages 4-8.
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Good Sports: Rhymes About Running, Jumping, Throwing, and More

Good Sports poems by Jack Prelutsky
Knopf Books for Young Readers
A top-notch poet, Jack Prelutsky, teams up with an equally accomplished and beloved artist, Chris Raschka, in this collection. The short poems cover a dozen different sports and celebrate what makes sports fun—win or lose. Ages 6-12.


Olympig! by Victoria Jamieson
Penguin Group USA
Victoria Jamieson's picture book stars Boomer the pig, who has been training for the Animal Olympics. Unfortunately, even hard work doesn't guarantee success. But Boomer still has the time of his life at the Summer Games, and can't wait until the Winter ones roll around! Ages 5-8.
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Tumble Bunnies

Tumble Bunnies by Kathryn Lasky
Candlewick Press
Team sports make Clyde nervous, and so does his school's Sports Spectacular. His friend Rosemary helps him try tumbling, but when the big day comes, it's she who needs help. Clyde's solution showcases true sportsmanship. This picture book by Kathryn Lasky features the same bunnies found in her titles Science Fair Bunnies, Lunch Bunnies, and Show and Tell Bunnies. Ages 5-8.
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You're a Good Sport, Miss Malarkey

You're a Good Sport, Miss Malarkey by Judy Finchler
In this Miss Malarkey title, by Judy Finchler, Miss M. coaches a soccer team. She soon learns that it's the parents of the players that need a lesson in sportsmanship, and she sets them straight. Ages 5-8.
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The Ball Hogs

Ball Hogs by Rich Wallace
Random House Children's Books
This is the first title in a soccer series called Kickers. In it, new player Ben learns how to deal with a ball hog (he has to start by realizing he's a bit of a ball hog himself). Other titles in this series for new readers by Rich Wallace include Fake Out, Benched, and Game-Day Jitters. Ages 6-9.
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It's a Good Game, Dear Dragon

It's a Good Game Dear Dragon by Margaret Hillert
Norwood House Press
Dragon suits up to play soccer with his best buddy in this book for beginning readers. It emphasizes the importance of sportsmanship while reinforcing early reading skills (such as sight word recognition). This book is also available in a bilingual Spanish-English edition. Ages 5-8.
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Ready, Set, Snow

Ready Set Snow by Abby Klein
Scholastic, Inc.
What happens when Freddy (of the well-known Ready Freddy series by Abby Klein) competes in his school's mini Winter Olympics? He has to learn how to win a snowshoe race—fast. This is an early chapter book for kids ages 5-8.
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Willy the Scrub

Lerner Publishing Group
Willy comes from a family of athletes, but he's not sporty at all—or at least he doesn't feel like he is. He wants to be, so he can fit in with other kids in his school. This chapter book describes his quest to find a sport that's right for him. Ages 7-11.
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Touchdown Trouble

Touchdown Trouble by Fred Bowen
Peachtree Publishers
In this Fred Bowen Sports Story title, a young football team faces an ethical dilemma when they realize a game-winning touchdown was scored illegally. The story also contains lots of play-by-play action. Ages 7-12.
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Bravo, Mia

Bravo Mia by Laurence Yep
American Girl
In this follow-up to Mia (the companion book to an American Girl doll), figure skater Mia faces a family crisis that challenges her ability to compete in an important event. Ages 8-12.

Long Shot

Long Shot by Mike Lupica
Penguin Group USA
Author (and prominent sportswriter) Mike Lupica takes on the topic of teamwork on and off the basketball court in this chapter book, part of Lupica's Comeback Kids series. Ages 8-12.
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