Today is Read Across America Day, a national initiative started by the National Education Association to get kids reading and make reading an enjoyable part of their everyday life. Despite the fact that the Let’s Go Read series has focused on books aimed at adults, I am passionate about reading for everyone.
As a parent myself, I have a special interest in sharing my passion with my children, so enlisted my daughter to help me find some excellent baseball books to read for Read Across America Day. Just in preschool, my daughter has a limited attention span for books without Disney Princesses, but she was excited to visit our local library and find some new baseball books and share her opinion about a couple books already on our shelves.
(Author’s note: If you’re a parent interested in sparking a love of reading in your child, I highly recommend How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo.)
We read about a dozen baseball books in our search, but not all of them got my daughter’s stamp of approval. Below are our favorites, listed roughly by reading level, with comments from both of us.
Pete the Cat Play Ball! by James Dean
This one has been on our shelf for a long time. It’s a simple book with bold-colored pictures, making it good for wee little ones and beginning readers as well. In the story, Pete and his friends play ball and Pete learns about the different outcomes, good and bad, in a baseball game and also how to be a good sport. My daughter has come back to this one several times over the years, so it’s safe to say this is a good one.
Goodnight Baseball by Michael Dahl
With fun, vibrant pictures and a good rhyme scheme, this book connects with young readers. More than that, following a young boy’s trip to a baseball game, it’s pretty comprehensive about the experience of going to a game. Goodnight Baseball was my daughter’s favorite, and she requested follow-up readings of this one more than any other book we picked out.
H is for Home Run by Brad Herzog
We’re at the beginning of learning to read independently in our house, identifying letters and the sounds they make, which made H is for Home Run a great learning tool. Featuring big bold letters A to Z, my daughter could help me read this one out loud. It also had a nice rhyme to it and featured extra information in the margins for more advanced readers that want to learn more about what each letter represents.
I Got It by David Wiesner
This book has a total of six words, only three of them unique; they’re the same words that make up the title. But despite the lack of words, this isn’t a baby book. With it’s beautiful illustration, the book tells a story of a young boy playing a pick-up game of baseball and the fears that accompany that experience. Will he catch the ball? Without any words, your kid (or you!) have to use your imagination to fill in the story.
Baseball Is… by Louise Borden
Baseball Is… is a book about what baseball is, of course, but it’s a lot more. Closer to poetry than a story, the book felt almost like jazz to me. The who, what, where, and when of baseball are all covered in this book, but the why doesn’t even need to be addressed. With engaging pictures that piqued my daughter’s interest, this was a fun book to go through.
Anybody’s Game by Heather Lang
Besides Goodnight Baseball, this was definitely my daughter’s favorite and was requested multiple times. The story of Kathryn Johnston, the first girl to play Little League, Anybody’s Game is a good, well-written story of overcoming arbitrary societal rules. After we finished it the first time, my daughter asked if she could play Little League baseball now like Kathryn. So, I think the story still matters, as well.
The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin
Sometimes children’s books are the best way to learn something new, even for adults. The William Hoy Story was that for me, relaying the biography of a man who lacked the ability to hear or speak but changed the game nonetheless and sending me running for his SABR Bio. But it wasn’t just me that this book had an impact on: after we finished reading my daughter ran up to my wife with her hand in the shape of the sign for “I love you.”
After those titles, the books got a little lengthy for my daughter. Books by Audrey Vernick, like She Loved Baseball, The Funniest Man in Baseball, and The Kid from Diamond Street, had appealing illustrations that drew us in, but the amount of text was just a bit too much for my daughter’s preschool attention span. Likewise, We Are The Ship by Kadir Nelson has incredible illustration and a very important story, that of the Negro Leagues, but was very text heavy and not one my daughter wanted to approach.
Although my personal knowledge of baseball books for older kids is currently minimal, I do know that “Matt Christopher” is still pumping out sports titles for elementary age readers. Likewise, the Ballpark Mysteries series seems like a great set of books for young baseball fans to dig into.
In my neck of the woods, no Cleveland Indians-specific books were lining the shelves of our library, but I’m sure Ohio libraries have some options sharing the history of our favorite team. But no matter where you are, I recommend taking the children in your life to the library and looking for books to read together. Whether for Read Across America Day or not, you can support the NEA’s mission, to “motivate kids to read, bring the joys of reading to students of all ages, and make all children feel valued and welcome.”