Gold Medal Books for Your Young Olympian

Reading recommendations from our own Dr. Alice Mar

One of the things my family is most looking forward to this month is watching the Summer Olympics. I’ve always loved watching the Olympics. One way to make the experience even richer for your kids is to read books together about the Olympics!

Nada The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray tells the story of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci who made history in 1976 at age 14 when she was the first gymnast to ever get a perfect 10 at the Olympics. She went on to get six MORE perfect 10’s during those games and win three gold medals. Also check out Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles by Rachelle Burk if you have a gymnastics enthusiast.

How to Train with a T. rex and Win 8 Golds Medals by Michael Phelps (the Olympian) looks at just what it takes to be the absolute best at your sport. Basically, it takes a lot of work. A lot. And eating a lot of calories (10,000 a day)!

Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull tells the story of Wilma Rudolph who overcame polio as a child to win three gold medals in track and field. Krull is a master of juvenile non-fiction and she teams up for this book with an award-winning illustrator, David Diaz. It makes for a beautiful and inspiring book. For more inspiration for future running stars try Unbeatable Betty by Allison Crotzer Kimmel which tells the story of the first woman to win a gold medal in track and field. To continue learning more about inspiring women Olympians take a look at She Persisted in Sports by Chelsea Clinton.

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo highlights the story of Olympic diver Sammy Lee who in 1948 became the first Asian-American man to win a gold medal for Team USA. He went on to have a career in medicine as an ENT. He did all this after experiencing discrimination and racism when growing up in California. He tells a story from his childhood about how he could only use the local pool one day a week on “international day” before it was drained and refilled with “clean” water.

The Wildest Race Ever by Meghan McCarthy is a funny non-fiction book about the first Olympic marathon held in the US in 1904 in St. Louis.

G is for Gold Medal by Brad Herzog covers all sorts of trivia and details about the Olympics including history, famous athletes, particular sports, and locations of past Games. On Your Mark, Get Set! Gold by Scott Allen is another great guide to the Games packed with fun facts and trivia.

You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Greek Athlete by Michael Ford is one of the fantastic “You Wouldn’t Want to…” series of books that make history more appealing to elementary-aged readers. The narrator addresses the reader as if he is a young boy who wants to be in the ancient Olympics. As with the other books in the series the author highlights the funny, the gross, and the sometimes dark side of history to interest a particular kind of kid (both my boys were that kind of kid and LOVED all the books in this series).

Hour of the Olympics by Mary Pope Osborne is book 16 in the very popular Magic Treehouse series. These books are a great first-chapter book for kids just starting to read on their own. In this one, Annie and Jack go back to Ancient Greece at the time of the Olympics. Also, be sure to check out the companion non-fiction Fact-Tracker book Ancient Greece and the Olympics also by Mary Pope Osborne.

Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics is an amazing true story about a rowing team from the University of Washington. The book highlights one rower, in particular, Joe Rantz, who overcame great personal struggles at the time of the Great Depression. The longer adult version is fantastic and would be a great read for teens. This young reader’s version is also very good and geared more toward younger teens.

Rush for the Gold: Mystery at the Olympics by John Feinstein combines two things a lot of teens like: mysteries and sports. This is one of a series of sports-themed mysteries by famed sportswriter Feinstein. This particular book centers on a swimmer during the London Olympics in 2012.