These Girl Athletes Rule | Read Woke

Sports-themed titles to empower all young readers.

After I genrefied my library, I realized there weren’t many sports-focused novels, and certainly not many featuring female protagonists. We recently had our first female wrestler at Meadowcreek High School, and she we went on to place in the state wrestling competition. I told her that the world needs to hear her story. So many young girls love sports, but we don’t see enough of them in the literature. These titles throw the book at that imbalance.

Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams. Lesa Cline-Ransome. illus. by James E. Ransome. S. & S. 2018. PreS–Gr 3.
If you ever wondered how Venus and Serena became the legends they are, read this dual picture-book biography of the sisters. It recounts how people laughed when the girls’ father took them out to practice tennis, how they threw footballs to improve their serves, how they had to dodge bullets during training on the Compton, CA, courts, and more, to become the competitive athletes they are today.



This young woman is Meadowcreek High School's first female wrestler.

Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves. Kate T. Parker. Workman. 2017. Gr 3–6.
A photographic celebration of girls defying preconceived notions about what it is to be beautiful. Parker traveled the world capturing bold images of girls and shares their stories. Grace, age 13, says, “Being a girl has no limits. Gender doesn’t matter. I can do just about anything.” Use these photos to challenge a culture that demeans strong women; these girls are fierce and brave. 


Auma’s Long Run. Eucabeth Odhiambo. Carolrhoda. 2017. Gr 3–6.
Auma was born with a talent: the gift of speed. That, along with her good grades, earns her a scholarship at a provincial high school. The people in her village in Kenya are dying of HIV/AIDS, and Auma hopes her talent will help her fulfill her dreams, which include becoming a doctor to help find a cure for the disease. Will she give up those dreams to stay home to care for her family and community? Find out if Auma reaches the finish line. 


Proud: Living My American Dream. Ibtihaj Muhammad. Little, Brown. 2018. Gr 6 Up.
“I wanted to chronicle my quest to challenge society’s limited perceptions of what a Muslim woman, a black woman, or an athlete can be.” These words from fencer and Olympic medalist Muhammad capture the essence of her memoir. This young readers’ edition, including play-by-play recounting of her matches, is a must-have for sports enthusiasts. Muhammad shares her journey, including childhood experiences, bouts with islamophobia, and more. 


Gravity. Sarah Deming. Make Me a World. Nov. 2019. Gr 9 Up.
“I’m Gravity Delgado. I want to learn to box.” These words forever change the life of a young Dominican Jewish girl in Brooklyn, NY. Gravity channels her frustration into boxing. She dreams of going to the Olympics but must first fight her battles at home. Balancing her responsibilities taking care of her little brother, working with a demanding trainer, navigating a crush, and dealing with a mom who is less than perfect, Gravity must discover which battles are worth the fight—and when to throw in the towel. 


Throw Like a Girl. Sarah Henning. Little, Brown. Jan. 2020. Gr 9 Up.
Liv Rodinsky is a talented athlete who loses her private school scholarship after punching another student. At her new public school, she wants to try out for softball—but must first prove herself by competing on the football team so the coach can see she’s a team player. Liv is a kick-butt bad girl who isn’t just sitting in the bleachers or cheering from the sidelines. Former sports journalist Henning spirals the insult “throw like a girl” into a new meaning. 


Cicely Lewis (Twitter: @cicelythegreat) welcomes your ­reading suggestions.

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