In honor of international women's day, I posted a stat this week on my twitter account about nonfiction sports titles and females. Consider this: In my high school library, only 9 percent of nonfiction sports titles are checked out to females. Also consider: Of the nonfiction sports titles I have, only 8 percent feature females as the main subject. How pathetic.
Why is this happening, and is anyone at fault? Like anything else, the answer is complicated. No, librarians are not ignoring girls when it comes to sports--nor are girls ignoring sports when it comes to books. I have a strong hunch that content, or lack of content, is driving this statistic. I could really talk at length about this, but I will leave it here with a simple point: We need more nonfiction books that focus on some of the great female athletes we have seen throughout history and those who are paving the way for female sports today.
With that thought, I want to highlight a new book that has most of the qualities that will win over new young females interested in reading about sports. If you remember Simone Biles, the stunning US gymnast who stole our hearts during the 2016 Rio games with that infectious smile and flawless talent, you'll want to consider her new book, Courage to Soar. With help from award winning author, Michelle Burford, Biles crafts her inspiring life story with the simplicity and grace of one of her fabulous floor routines!
Biles is s strong female role model who has succeeded in her sport. Her book, however, is not a resume of accomplishments nor does it attempt to exist as a self serving "look what I have done" expose that some athletes fall into with biographies. Courage to Soar is more of a manual on how to achieve dreams and life goals. For Biles, sport is the prop, life is the goal. It's the way things should be. Biles shows an amazing maturity for her youthful age, and tumbles through the numerous life lessons she has learned along the way to stardom.
Put out through a christian values press in Vondervan Publishing, Biles makes no bones about her faith playing a huge part in her life. Good for her. It goes nicely along with the current trend of athletes who are not afraid to credit God as the originator of all success. While some of these displays tend to be showy, Biles faith comes across as genuine and sincere.
I read a review about Courage To Soar that concluded it was a great title for young gymnasts. No--it's a good title for ANYONE. You don't need to be a gymnast to get something from this story. If you only see the sport itself, you are missing the bigger picture. Perhaps this is part of the bigger problem. Girls are being told that they can only engage and enjoy a book if it fits their bill. Really? Does one have to be a meth user to appreciate the struggles that a narrator elaborates on in a memoir about drug addiction?
Let's steer all females to a book like Courage To Soar. Couage, faith, values, and life balance are lessons for everyone, not just athletes...and not just guys. Let's allow more female athletes like Biles to work their magic on school aged kids by putting these books on our shelves.