Our Favorite Children's Books with Sports Themes, Life Lessons

A sheep who likes to gloat about his soccer skills causes trouble for the team.
A sheep who likes to gloat about his soccer skills causes trouble for the team.

As kids begin to dip their feet in the waters of youth sports, parents can utilize children's books to teach sports -- and life -- lessons that kids use every day. Young children can easily understand the situations put forth, especially when those stories are paired with beautiful illustrations. And older kids may identify with the more complicated social and emotional struggles of book characters.

Whether you're looking to make nighttime reading more fun or to just add sports-related books to your child's library, check out these Team Mom favorite. Added bonus? Well-known athletes author several of them.

For preschoolers through third grade:

Shawn Sheep the Soccer Star by Erin Mirabella.
Shawn the sheep has serious soccer skills. The problem is that Shawn knows it...and he likes to talk about it. A lot. So Shawn has to learn a big lesson about being a team player and sportsmanship. This cute story is paired with adorable illustrations. The author, Erin Mirabella, is a world champion in track and competed in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

Dream Big, Little Pig by Kristi Yamaguchi.
A sweet little pig named Poppy wants to be a graceful figure skater. Can she make her dream come true? Olympic Gold medalist, Kristi Yamguchi, is the perfect author for this tale that teaches kids about effort and determination.

Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan.
Did you know Michael Jordan wanted to quit playing basketball when he was a kid? He thought he was too short and would never grow taller. But his parents teach him an important life skill -- perseverance -- and the rest is history. (Michael Jordan's mom, Deloris, and sister, Roslyn, share this story.)

Z is for Zamboni by Matt Napier.
If your family follows hockey, Z is for Zamboni is required reading. It's an alphabet book and each "letter" tells an important story or fact about the game, its history, and the stories of legendary hockey players.

If you have older kids in middle and high school, add these books to their reading lists:

Heat by Mike Lupica.
Heat is a dramatic, heart-tugging story about a young boy with a cannon arm, a complicated family situation and innocent, young love. It's a wonderful read, even for adults, and reminds kids that help can sometimes comes when we least expect it. And author Mike Lupica -- one of my perosnal favorites -- is a long-time and well-known sports writer and has written many more young adult books about sports (mostly about basketball, baseball and football.)

Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headly.
Here's a snowboarding story about a young girl who wants to go pro without her the support of her parents. She struggles through an injury, the angst of teen love, changing friendships, and life and death. And yes, she comes away stronger.

Any books you'd add?