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One of the great things about having this blog is the constant search and discovery of cool reading resources that somehow involve the sports world. A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a book called Tackle Reading by author and urban literacy specialist Kathryn Starke.
Officially described, Tackle Reading is a resource that will motivate children, support parents, and inspire teachers and fellow educators to love literacy. This book contains stories written by NFL players, celebrities, and authors who are passionate about reading education. It also includes pieces, lesson plans, activities, and guidance provided by literacy leaders, educators, and organizations dedicated to improve literacy instruction for all children.
There are SO many things to really like about this! First, we can all agree that literacy instruction is perhaps the most important plate on the education dinner table. Reading=life. In an era of distracted kids, teaching kids to read AND to love the act of reading itself is essential. They do not exist in isolation. Starke clearly values both, which is why I value her work. The fact that she recognizes that sports is a great vehicle to promote literacy warms my heart to no end, and supports my philosophy!
May I digress slightly? The problem I have with sports(sports figures) and reading thus far is that there needs to be a more constant connection. While having a professional athlete pop into a classroom and read a cute book to kindergartners is fantastic, what really needs to happen is a more consistent dialogue between athletes and young readers. At the middle and high school level, where the stars can no longer come in for a quick reading of Curious George and head out, athlete collaboration hits the wall. Instead, you get some loose reward incentive program from the local pro team that gives stickers or free nosebleed tickets to a Wednesday night game in exchange for whatever each kid wants to fib about in their reading log. How is this personalized? Where's the real connection? Wouldn't it be great if these teenagers could see how their sports stars modeled reading in their everyday life? How cool to see athletes tweeting out what they were reading? Maybe some book clubs? Yes, GENUINE collaboration. Teenagers won't buy into anything without it.
Anyways, I urge you to check out Tackle Reading and Kathryn Starke. I haven't seen too many things out there that try to forge a real, sustainable partnership in this area, but this has promise. Kathryn is smart, she "gets it" when it comes to reading philosophy, and she incorporates sports! Winner! Order her book for your library and get it out to your teachers and parents. If you are a parent, there is great value in Starke's material to promote independent reading at home.
Look, I'm a runner not a fighter. When I was asked by VOYA Magazine to create a list of good sports books for fighting/combat sports, I felt a little unqualified at first. I mean, how many librarians are versed in MMA fighting, boxing, or wresting? Sports involving beating people into submission are not exactly the hot topic of conversation at library conventions. And contrary to popular belief, I have never gotten into the ring with another librarian to settle a score over a conflicting Dewey classification. (But judging from looks of things at these gatherings, I might actually stand a good chance of winning)
I'll be damned, however, if I was going to get sand kicked in my face! So, I fought back with a list of sports combat books that I think is terrific and that I am sure will knock anyone out in your library!
Here is a copy of my story that appeared in the October issue of VOYA Magazine. Take a read and consider some of these selections. I have found that there is a huge appetite for these titles.
Click on the article image for the story and full list of books!!
In the November issue, Runner's World rolled out a retro running theme for their 50th anniversary that provided a fun little blast into the past for me! One specific article that caught my eye was "Front Row of the Revolution," by Tish Hamilton, which does a fantastic job tracing the rise of women in running. As a runner for some 30 years, it is interesting to put into context just how important women have become to running--and I guess running to women--over that time. In coaching both girls and boys distance running at the high school level for 25 years, I have witnessed not only the dramatic rise in participation of girls in the sport, but the quality of female runners and the PR's being set in races are nothing short of incredible. There truly is a revolution!
In light if this, I thought I would highlight some books on women and running. In looking through my collection, however, I was shocked to find that about 90% of my running books involved male runners! While I am sure that the female runners in my school could identify with male running characters and would read those books, there was very little I had to represent their specific side of the sport. To make matters worse, as I set out to find books for female runners, there was a clear lack of material to satisfy this need. Not only was I neglecting female runners, but authors were as well.
Luckily, a few strong options are pressing their way to the front. Amby Burfoot does a nice job tracing the history of women runners in his book First Ladies of Running. I can assure you that when I ask my male runners about great distance runners throughout history, they can rattle off Pre, Shorter, Rodgers, Salazar, etc. with ease! When I ask my girls team to talk about influential female runners, I get crickets. The book does a nice job of highlighting female pioneers of running, and would be a wise addition to any library.
Other books highlight more inspirational stories of female runners. Some are professional athletes, most are ladies looking for outlets to better themselves. Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley, and Mile Markers by Kristin Armstrong provide fantastic examples and motivation for females looking to running for empowerment. There are also some excellent titles about running and family. My Year of Running Dangerously talks about the author's challenge of keeping up in running with his 18 year old daughter (I can relate!) and the Run like a Mother books by by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea are entertaining looks at the correlation between running and being a better parent.
Finally, I wanted to include a very relevant book I just purchased for my library called Fit Not Healthy by Vanessa Alford. As a story about how a woman's obsession to be the best runner caused unhealthy habits, it is very applicable to a growing segment of competitive female runners that I see who are pushing themselves beyond what is healthy to maintain a competitive edge.
Here is one wish I have for future running books. I have been able to stock up on many great running titles about male high school and college cross country team experiences. I would love there to be some of these same inspirational stories involving female teams. I know they are out there!
we need to be sure our libraries represent these athletes in the same way they represent any other sport.
Some days you're lucky enough to meet a sports star! This past Monday was proclaimed Becca Murray Day in the Germantown School District. Murray was a 2008 Germantown High School grad who went on to become a member of the 2016 gold medal US Paralympic Basketball Team in Rio. We were fortunate enough to have her speak at each school and show off her gold medal. I can't begin to tell you how fantastic it was seeing all the big jocks of the school crowding around Murray for a chance to meet her and see the medal! Confined to a wheelchair due to spina bifida, Murray refused to make excuses and instead forged on competing in sports. As a wheelchair basketball player at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, she was an NCAA champion, and eventually won a gold medal in Rio. What an absolutely amazing girl!
Afterwards, when asked by a student if I had any books in the library on wheelchair basketball players or the Paralympics, I realized I had none. This was embarrassing. What's worse is the more I dove into researching some books to get, I was struck by the utter lack of material on paralympians. Two things need to happen here. First, we need to be sure our libraries represent these athletes in the same way they represent any other sport. Second, we need more quality books about inspiring paralympic athletes like Becca Murray who work as hard and accomplish as great of feats as the stars. Below are some titles that may provide a nice start for your collection.