Some of the very best athletes in the world are women. However, despite their skill and dedication, many women have had to overcome bias and bigotry to receive the same opportunities as male athletes.
The women in these books have overcome sexism, racism, physical disability, and religious discrimination to become leaders in their field. Despite many challenges, they became record-breakers and world-changers. Both girls and boys will find these stories inspiring, and will learn an important lesson about the power of perseverance and determination.
13 Children’s Books About Women in Sports
Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky
This excellent anthology takes a closer look at 50 female athletes who made huge contributions to their sport and to the world. Readers will learn more about well-known athletes like Wilma Rudolph and lesser known women like Keiko Fukada and Toni Stone. It’s a fantastic book about women in sports!
This book is great for teens and tweens to read on their own, but can also be a read-aloud for elementary-aged kids.
Sisters: Venus & Serena Williams by Jeanette Winter
What does it take to become a champion? For Venus and Serena Williams, it took hard work and the willingness to keep going in the face of adversity. It took early morning practices and pressing on through hard times and health issues. And it took leaning on each other, even when they were competing against each other.
This beautiful picture book teaches an important lesson about perseverance and grit. I highly recommend reading it with kids ages 3 and up, particularly if you have siblings who love to compete.
Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray
Nadia Comaneci is probably best know for scoring seven perfect tens in the 1976 Summer Olympics. But before the perfect tens, she was known as an impatient girl who couldn’t sit still. This story shows how Nadia was able to take what others considered weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
I recommend sharing this book with children ages 6 and up.
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull
When Wilma Rudolph was a young child, she had polio. She was told she would never walk on her own, but she was determined to regain her mobility. She not only walked again, she ran…all the way to three Olympic gold medals. Her story is a powerful tale of recovery and strength.
This amazing and inspiring biography is excellent for reading with kids ages 4 and up.
America’s Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle by David A. Adler
At the age of 17, Trudy Ederle made history by winning three gold medals in the 1924 Olympic Games. However, she’s best known for breaking a world record by swimming across the English Channel in 14 hours. Her love of swimming and her desire to be the best kept her going when achieving her goals became challenging.
This amazing story of accomplishment is accompanied by beautiful illustrations. I recommend reading it with kids ages 4 and up.
Mamie on the Mound: A Woman in Baseball’s Negro Leagues by Leah Henderson
Mamie Johnson had always dreamed of playing baseball, but the women’s league that was active in her time was a segregated one. Still Mamie’s talent could not be denied. In 1953, she joined the Indianapolis Clowns, a men’s team in the Negro Leagues. Mamie was the first female pitcher to play on a men’s professional baseball team, and she paved the way for many women after her.
This picture book is fantastic for sharing with kids ages 6 and up.
I love this book! It follows the story of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, following both their separate careers and their historic rivalry. Though the often battled on the court, off the court they became the best of friends. Not only does this book show how hard work can lead to great success, it shows how two people with very different backgrounds can become friends, even in the midst of competition.
This book is perfect for readers ages 7 and up.
You Should Meet: Roberta Gibb by Laurie Calkhoven
When Roberta Gibb applied to run in the Boston Marathon, she was told she couldn’t because women were not physically able to run marathons. Roberta decided that she would disguise herself and run anyway! Gibb became the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon, and she showed the world that women are just as capable as men.
This level 3 early reader is broken into chapters and would also work well as a read-aloud spread over a few days.
Players In Pigtails by Shana Corey
Though this book is a work of fiction, it teaches readers about the era of women’s professional baseball teams in the 1940s. Kate Casey was a girl who had a hard time doing the things people thought girls were supposed to do. However, she loved baseball, and the All American Girls Professional Baseball League gave her a chance to pursue her passion. This book taught me that the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was actually written by a girl who loved baseball!
I recommend reading this book with kids ages 5 and up.
I hadn’t heard of Mary Garber before reading this book, but now I am fascinated by her! From the time she was a child, Mary loved sports. She made a career out of sports journalism at a time when women weren’t even allowed in the press box, and she broke barriers by covering African-American sports teams that others ignored. You have to check out this inspiring story of a sports journalism pioneer. It’s a truly necessary book about women in sports and the different roles we can play.
This awesome book is a fantastic choice for kids ages 6 and up.
Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammed
Ibtihaj Muhammed was used to being the only Muslim in her New Jersey school, and the only Muslim competing at fencing tournaments. She faced much discrimination, but she didn’t let that keep her from pursuing the sport she loved. Ibtihaj went on to be the first Muslim American woman to win a medal at the Olympics, and she made an impact by also being the first American woman to compete in a hijab.
Kids in grades 3-6 will enjoy this young readers’ version of Ibtihaj Muhammed’s memoir.
Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield’s First Ride by Joel Gill
Bessie Stringfield always wanted to ride her bike with the boys, but they always told her she wasn’t fast enough to ride with them. Their teasing and rejection only motivated her to pursue her love of speed and riding fast. Bessie went on to become the first woman to ride across the United States alone on a motorcycle. She traveled through places that were unsafe for black people at the time, not letting anyone’s opinions stop her.
I loved learning about Bessie Stringfield, and I think your kids will, too! This book is one of the most unique books about women in sports that I’ve found. Share it with little ones ages 3 and up.
I am Billie Jean King by Brad Meltzer
When Billie Jean King was a girl, she dreamed of playing professional baseball. But when she went to a baseball game, she noticed something upsetting — all of the players were men! There weren’t any men on the team. To young Billie Jean, that just didn’t seem fair. Billie Jean went on to be an amazing professional tennis player, but she never stopped thinking about and advocating for fairness in sports for all people.
I really loved this story of an advocate and champion, and I recommend it for children ages 3 and up.
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