Five Ways to Turn Young Sports Fans into Readers

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written by Fred Bowen

It’s not “just a game.”  

Sports are important to kids.  Millions of elementary schoolers play on soccer, basketball, baseball and other teams.  In 2019, 57% of high school students played on at least one school or community sports team.  

In addition, people have been interested in athletics for thousands of years.  Sports have drama, interesting personalities and excitement.  In my opinion, sports are as important as any of the arts.  

So the first thing you have to do to help turn young sports fans into readers is to give kids’ interest in sports the respect it deserves.

Sports sections

There is something magical about watching a game and then reading an article on that same game and seeing the action turned into words.  That magic trick happens every day in the sports section of a newspaper.  Subscribe to a newspaper so your young fan can start reading the sports section.

Don’t worry if a young reader seems only interested in the statistics and box scores.  I once heard author Bruce Brooks (The Moves Make the Man) say that “reading” the box scores is an act of imagination.  The reader is turning those dry numbers into vivid images.

Sports columnists

Since April 2000, I have written a weekly kids’ sports column for the Washington Post.   Over the years I have tackled such issues as whether college athletes should be paid, the history of segregation in professional sports and why are women’s sports not as popular as men’s sports.

Sports columnists are often among the best and most entertaining writers in the newspaper or in online outlets.  Their opinion columns can introduce young readers to a host of interesting discussion topics.  Or just the fun arguments of who is the best quarterback in the NFL or the best player in the NBA.

Sports books

I am proud of my Fred Bowen Sport Story series.  It is 24 books on baseball, basketball, football and soccer that combine sports fiction, sports history and always have a chapter of sports history in the back.  They are perfect for kids ages 7-12 (I also have three nonfiction sports books for kids).

Mine are not the only sports books for kids.  Writers such as Mike Lupica, John Feinstein, Tim Green and Kwame Alexander all have terrific sports books.  If you think these books are just “kids stuff,” I dare you to find a book for kids or adults as fine as Kadir Nelson’s wonderful history of the Negro leagues called We Are The Ship.

A Rich Culture

Reading sports books is not a dead end for kids.  There are lots of fine sports books, written by top writers, for adults too.  Here are just a few:

  • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (rowing)
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (mountain climbing)
  • Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger (high school football)
  • King of the World by David Remnick (boxing)
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis (baseball)
  • My Losing Season by Pat Conroy (basketball)
  • Wait ‘Til Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin (baseball)
  • The Match by Mark Frost (golf)

By encouraging a young sports fan to read the sports section, columnists and sports books you are introducing them to a world of fascinating stories, characters and issues.  It is a rich culture that can sustain a lifetime of interest.

About Fred Bowen

FRED BOWEN is the author of Peachtree’s popular Fred Bowen Sports Story Series for middle-grade readers. A lifelong sports fanatic, he has coached youth league baseball, basketball, and soccer. His kids’ sports column “The Score” appears each week in the KidsPost section of the Washington Post. Bowen lives in Maryland. Visit his website at www.fredbowen.com and follow him on Twitter.

5 Ways to Turn Young Sports Fans into Readers

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