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Water Cooler: Learn about the Olympics with family storytime

UPDATED: Tue., July 27, 2021

Tomoru Honda, of Japan, poses Wednesday with the silver medal after winning the men’s 200-meter butterfly final at the Summer Olympics  (Associated Press)
Tomoru Honda, of Japan, poses Wednesday with the silver medal after winning the men’s 200-meter butterfly final at the Summer Olympics (Associated Press)

Do your kids want to learn more about the Olympic Games? Here are some great family reads featuring the history of the Olympics as well as stories about some of its remarkable athletes.

“What Are the Summer Olympics? (What Was?),” written by Gail Herman, illustrated by Stephen Marchesi – The Olympics began in ancient Greece and athletes would come from far and wide to represent their homeland at the Games. Although that tradition faded overtime, it would be revived in the late 1800s with more than 200 athletes competing. Now the Olympics attract thousands of athletes with fans from around the world to cheer them on.

“Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman,” written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by David Diaz – The true story of Wilma Rudolph, a Black female athlete who overcame childhood polio and went on to win three gold medals. Polio had paralyzed Rudolph’s leg and she grew up being told that she would never walk again. In spite of her diagnosis, Rudolph trained her hardest and became the first American woman to earn three gold medals in a single Olympiad.

“Olympig!” by Victoria Jamieson – Boomer the Pig has trained a long time to be able to compete in the Animal Olympics. He loses his first race and tries to stay positive, but after he loses several other events, Boomer starts to feel frustrated. That can’t stop this Olympig though. Boomer keeps his head up and still has a lot of fun even if he doesn’t win.

“G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet,” written by Brad Herzog and illustrated by Doug Bowles – Practice the English alphabet while learning how the Olympics have influenced culture and history. Learn the meaning of the Olympics’ five interlocking rings, cheer on history-making athletes, discover how the “world’s laziest high jumper” took the gold medal and more.

“Hour of the Olympics,” written by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrated by Sal Murdocca – Jack and Annie are whisked off by the Magic Tree House to ancient Greece, just in time to catch the Olympic Games. Unfortunately for Annie, girls aren’t allowed to participate in the Games, so she tells Jack to go ahead without her. But Annie won’t give up that easily – she just might have something up her sleeve.

“Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still,” written by Karlin Gray and illustrated by Christine Davenier – You wouldn’t believe it by Nadia Comaneci’s historic seven perfect gymnastic scores at the 1976 Olympics, but she wasn’t always so “perfect” in the past. Her childhood in her small town was full of a few troubles, but she would go on to make history and make Romania proud with her athletic achievements.

“Who Was Jesse Owens?” written by James Buckley Jr. and illustrated by Gregory Copeland – At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens made history by winning four gold medals. But his history begins long before this moment in the spotlight, back to rural Alabama where he grew up under oppressive Jim Crow laws and held several jobs to help his family make ends meet. His gold medals became an impressive testament to how it is possible to defy the odds against you.

“Long-Armed Ludy and the First Women’s Olympics,” written by Jean L.S. Patrick and illustrated by Adam Gustavson – Lucile “Ludy” Godbold was 6 feet tall and her long arms made her excellent at the shot put. She qualified in the first Women’s Olympics in 1922, but didn’t have enough money to go until her classmates and her school helped her raise money to travel to Paris where she would go on to win a gold medal.

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