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Presenting the Tailgate Book Club

Make the most of pre-game time and halftime by reading and talking about these great books.

Are you enjoying the football and basketball seasons?

Kids across the country sure are! You can be an ALL-STAR parent without missing even one of the season’s big games! And we don’t just mean you’ll be playing and watching and cheering, but you’ll be reading the best books about sports out there.

PatchReads and ReadKiddoRead want to get you and your kids talking about some great sports books with the Tailgate Book Club. Follow these steps to make the most of pre-game time, halftime, and all the days in between.

Step 1: Pick a book each week based on the ReadKiddoRead Tailgate Book Club List, and have all your friends and their kids read it before game day.

Step 2: Gather everyone together for the game. During half-time, put the TV on mute and dive into your Tailgate Book Club by filling in the blanks on our get-talking sheets. You can find these at ReadKiddoRead.com. Print copies for everyone! (You can also print out trading cards for each book. Print enough so that everyone who has read the book can have one. They’ll want to collect them all.)

Here's a recommended list of books to get you started!

Great Picture Books - For ages 2-6

"Spot Loves Sports by Eric Hill" (ages 1-4)

The youngest kids in the family can participate in your halftime book club. Spot, an enduring favorite character of kids who crawl and toddle, goes to the park to race, play soccer, and have an altogether thirsty-making and fun-filled day in his latest board-book adventure.

"Tyrannosaurus Dad" by Liz Rosenberg; illustrated by Matthew Myers (ages 4-6)

Tobias’s dad, like so many dads, is always busy, always working. (Unlike most dads though, Tobias’s father happens to be a Tyrannosaurus.) Tobias tries everything he can think of to get his father to come to his school’s Field Day. Dad finally shows up and steps in as the umpire in a baseball dispute. Now who’s going to argue with a dinosaur?

Great Beginner Reads - For ages 6-9

"Teammates" by Peter Golenbock; illustrated by Paul Bacon (ages 6-9)

It took a kind of courage that few of today’s kids can imagine for Jackie Robinson to step onto the baseball field as a Brooklyn Dodger in 1947. It also took courage for one of his teammates, Pee Wee Reese, to step up, put his arm around Robinson and talk – right there, in front of the crowd. This event is captured in the simple words, drawings and old photos of this picture book.

"You Never Heard of Willie Mays?" by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Terry Widener (ages 7-9)

Not only does this non-fiction picture book tell all about Willie Mays and his astonishing baseball career, it’s as much fun to read as watching a game. As a boy, Willie idolized Joe DiMaggio; as a teen, he copied Joe’s style, and as a young man he brought that style and his talent to the New York Giants, which had just been integrated. With play-by-play descriptions and action-filled illustrations, this biography gives new independent readers lots to contribute to sports book talk at halftime. 

And check out:

"You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!" by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Andrew Carriho (ages 7-10)

"There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived" by Matt Tavares (ages 7-11)

We know that baseball is more than a game. It is the stuff of legend. This biography focuses on Ted’s childhood and his early dedication to practice, practice, practice. And it paid off in his record-breaking career. He is a sports hero we can continue to admire, and with this engaging picture book, a new generation will know his story and profit from his example.

And check out:

"Henry Aaron's Dream" by Matt Tavares (ages 7-10)

Great Pageturners - for ages 9-12

"Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki"; illustrated by Dom Lee (ages 8 and up)

Shorty and his father build a baseball field and create teams while they are in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. The games do more than help pass the time; they lift spirits and self-respect and offer reasons for hope.

"Hey Batta Batta Swing!: The Wild Old Days of Baseball by James Charlton and Sally Cook," Illustrated by Ross MacDonald (ages 8 and up)

What was the game of baseball like when it began more than a century ago? Back then, you could get a runner out by soaking him. Soaking? It was “a very early rule that allowed a runner who was off base to be put out by hitting him with a ball.” Ouch. This entertaining array of baseball facts will surprise even the biggest baseball fans. 

"Hope Solo: My Story" by Hope Solo  (for ages 8 and up)

She’s a soccer sensation; the starting goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s national soccer team and an Olympic gold medalist. And with this book, adapted from her adult "Memoir of Hope," she will be an inspiration for young athletes.

"The Underdogs" by Mike Lupica (ages 8-12)

From the title and vivid cover, readers may guess that this is a book about a determined team of middle school football players struggling to beat odds stacked high against them. Of course, they’re right, but there’s a lot more to this story. It is also about their hometown facing a serious recession when the local sneaker factory closes under the pressure of bigger companies. How Will Tyler, captain of the Bulldogs, helps his team, his out-of-work father, and the whole town makes for a novel that is a touchdown!

And check out:                                                                                    

"Game Changers" by Mike Lupica (ages 8-12)

Great Advanced Reads - For ages 12 and up

"True Legend" by Mike Lupica (ages 11-14)

Fifteen-year-old high school basketball star Drew Robinson faces a tough decision: should he take an opportunity to switch schools and play for a ritzy private school (where he’s sure to get all sorts of special treatment)? Drew makes the switch and begins to enjoy his new status, but soon his game begins to suffer. Told with the clear voice and honesty of sportswriter Mike Lupica, this novel has plenty of sports choices along with a hard-earned lesson.

"The Final Four" by Paul Volponi (ages 12 up)

Teens get right inside a game in the semifinal round of the NCAA men’s basketball championship, as they get to know two players on each of the competing teams: The Michigan Spartans and the Troy Trojans. Newspaper articles, interviews, journals, and flashbacks interspersed with game action, reveal Michael, Malcolm, Roko and Crispin’s backstories, motivations and aspirations and show how their different backgrounds and their individual problems shape them. The characters are real, multi-faceted, and set on winning.

And check out:                                                                              

"Crossing Lines" by Paul Volponi (ages 12 up)

"The Moves Make the Man" by Bruce Brooks (ages 12 and up)

The basketball story—with game scenes wonderfully described— is wrapped around a story of friendship and coming of age. Jerome Foxworthy’s got the moves – on the court and off. And he’s cool, despite some tough breaks. – he’s sure of that. Still, for some reason he doesn’t quite understand, he’s decided to teach Bix Rivers, a mentally-challenged kid at school, how to play the basketball. Maybe it will help Bix cope with all the troubles he’s got. Basketball has always been good for what ails Jerome.

"Game Changer "by Margaret Peterson Haddix (ages 12 up)

In a novel that combines sports story, mystery, and fantasy, KT, a softball star, blacks out during a game and wakes up in a different world. In KT’s new reality only academic success is admired – not athletic or other talents. As she struggles to understand this world, KT questions everything, especially the values in the life she led, where kids had to define themselves by predetermined categories: good student? jock? gamer? The lines were clear – and now KT sees, limiting. There is much to think about and talk about in this involving take on sports.

"The Contender" by Robert Lipsyte (ages 13 and up)

This long-lived classic young adult novel, about a 17-year-old high-school dropout from Harlem, is as powerful today as it was when it was first published. Alfred Brooks’s dead-end job, the gang of kids who are after him, and his friend’s spiral down the road of drug addiction leaves him in need of hope. He finds it at a gym where he discovers not just his talent for boxing, but also lessons about hard work and determination.

Every fan loves to know stats and talk about them. These books will get you started.

  • "NFL Record and Fact Book 2012" by Editors at the NFL
  • "Great Baseball Feats, Facts and Firsts" by David Nemec, et. al.
  • "Sports Illustrated Almanac 2012" by Editors of Sports Illustrated
  • "NHL Official Guide and Record Book 2012" by the National Hockey League

What children's books do you think would pair well with your sports watching. Share your favorites in the comments.

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