Sunday, June 14, 2015

Soccer books for kids: high interest nonfiction (ages 7-12)

As the Women's World Cup gets underway in Canada, I want to share three soccer books that can hook young readers. Soccer continues to be a hugely popular sport among kids around the world. These three books can capitalize on young reader's interest, and provide them with a chance to read nonfiction about the sport they love. I'll share them in order of complexity, starting with the easiest reading level.
Play Soccer Like a Pro
by Christopher Forest
Sports Illustrated for Kids / Capstone, 2010
preview through Google Books
Your local library
ages 7-10
With chapters such as "How to Dribble" and "How to Beat a Defender", this book will appeal to kids with a keen interest in playing the game. Clear headings and subheadings make it easy to read, with vibrant photographs illustrating the point.
"Stay in contact with the ball. As long as you have the ball, make sure you control it between your feet at all times. Defenders will have a hard time stealing the ball if you keep it under control."
While this may not be new advice for young players, this book can be an excellent model for students in their own writing. Unfortunately, all of the photographs just feature professional male players. It is disappointing that professional women were not included as well.
Everything Soccer
by Blake Hoena with Omar Gonzalez
National Geographic Kids, 2014
Your local library
ages 9-12
High-impact photos will draw kids immediately to this book, and they will like reading the plentiful short facts on topics ranging from stats and championships, to diagrams of a soccer pitch and basic formations. The writing is clear and the use of headings and subheadings is excellent. However, the text is better for older readers, with more complex vocabulary and smaller font size. This text is an excellent example of elaborating to fully describe the role of a defender.
"Defenders (also called fullbacks) are the basis for any winning team. They are the muscle that helps protect the goalie... Defenders also need to excel at tackling, or intercepting the ball. Sometimes, a defender called a sweeper stays by the goal to provide an extra line of defense."
Best of all, Everything Soccer uses examples from women's and men's professional teams from around the world -- as well as kids in action. In the spread below, the referee is a woman holding up a red card, the professionals are from Brazil and North Korea. My only complaint is that there are no captions identifying players or teams.
(click to enlarge)
This will be a book that kids will enjoy reading, returning to it again and again. The short chunks makes it easy to dip into. My only concern is that kids will spend more time looking at the pictures than reading the paragraphs.
U.S. Women's Team: Soccer Champions!
by Illugi Jökulsson
Abbeville Kids, 2015
Your local library
ages 9-12
I am stunned how few books there are about women's soccer, especially considering how well the United States national team has played in the Olympics. The US women's national soccer team has won the Olympics in 2004, 2008 and 2012--garnering lots of press in the process. This book, originally published in Iceland, is a good choice for kids interested in reading more in-depth about the American team.

Written with a classic sports journalism style, this follows the ups and downs of the US women's national team from 1991 to the present. It follows a clear sequence, noting the difference between World Cup games and the Olympics. The writing is more complex, but clear structure and text features help readers.
"Vast tensions surrounded the 1999 World Cup final between the United States and China. Both teams played cautiously and failed to create proper opportunities for scoring. After 90 minutes, the game went into extra time, and fans of the U.S. team were justifiably anxious."
The games' final scores and opponents are clearly shown on each page, and captions identify each player and their stats. I love how this takes in-depth sports writing and focuses on women who excel in the world arena. This would be a great read-aloud for kids in 3rd and 4th grade, or perfect for 5th and 6th graders.

The review copy of Everything Soccer was kindly sent by the publisher, National Geographic Kids. The other books came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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