A whiff of roasted peanuts and hot-buttered popcorn, a sunlight drenched field, the crack of a bat, and a roaring crowd. There’s nothing kids like better than a trip to the ball park.

The best way to connect kids to reading is to build on their passions and interests. If you have kids who love baseball–or as I do, have kids who like to go to the ballpark to eat hot dogs, ogle the players, eat fried dough, start the wave, eat hot pretzels, cheer, and eat some more–use that interest to get them reading.

Use baseball to lure your kids into reading the newspaper. Scan the headlines on the front page of the sports section to find a baseball article you will both enjoy reading. Point out the articles featuring baseball and help them start a newspaper photo and clipping file on their favorite teams and players. Show them the baseball statistics page. If they do not know already, show them how to track their favorite team’s standing in the American and National Leagues, and explain the abbreviations in the Box Scores column.

Don’t forget to show them your community paper, too. Small local papers will have articles on the high school’s baseball and softball teams. Some of them even cover pre-high school community sports games and events. Almost every newspaper now has a Web site, so you can surf the Web together for more sports stories.

The next best thing to playing or watching baseball is to read a great baseball story. How can you make it fun?

  • Pick a great book.
  • Pick a cozy and/or fun place to read. The glider on the front porch, a blanket under a shade tree, or cool sheets on top of the bed; these are all acceptable locations.
  • Be willing to make a fool out of yourself when you read. Make faces. Use different voices. Kids love it when their parents act silly. It allows them to feel superior; a momentary delusion, of course.
  • Have your kids provide vocal sound effects for the background atmosphere: cheering, booing, munching, cracks of bats, whirring ball noises, etc.
  • Provide lots of hot buttered popcorn, and if you happen to have some fried dough in the house, all the better!

Great Baseball Books to Read with Kids

Ask your local librarian to help you find these terrific baseball books and to suggest other books which may interest you and your family.

For the whole family: the most famous baseball story/poem of all time in two editions:

Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888 (Caldecott Honor Book, 2001) by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, illustrated by Christopher Bing.

Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888 by Ernest Thayer, illustrated by C.F. Payne.

Picture Books for Kids, Ages 4 – 9

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki, illustrated by Dom Lee

Bats at the Ballgame, written and illustrated by Brian Lies (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2010)

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team, written by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno

Dirt on Their Skirts: The Story of the Young Women Who Won the World Championship by Doreen Rappaport and Lyndall Callan, illustrated by Earl B. Lewis

Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings, written by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Terry Widener

Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made It from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues, written and illustrated by Matt Tavares (Candlewick, 2015)

Home Run: The Story of Babe Ruth by Mike Wimmer, illustrated by Robert Burleigh

Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man by David A. Adler, illustrated by Terry Widener

Mudball, written and illustrated by Matt Tavares

Players in Pigtails by Shana Corey, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon

Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story by Emily Anrold McCully

Roasted Peanuts, written and illustrated by Tim Egan

Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates, written by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Raul Colon

Teammates by Peter Golenbock, illustrated by Paul Bacon

Zachary’s Ball, written and illustrated by Matt Tavares

Books for Kids, Ages 9 – 12

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane

Hey Batta Batta Swing!: The Wild Old Days of Baseball, written by Sally Cook and James Charlton, illustrated by Ross MacDonald

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord.A Pitch in Time by Robert A. Lytle

Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park

Satchel Paige by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James Ransome

Some Kind of Pride by Maria Testa

A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson by Michelle Y. Green, with an introduction by Mamie Johnson

Summerland by Michael Chabon

Throwing Smoke by Bruce Brooks

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Books for Kids, Ages 12 – 18

Baseball in April and Other Stories by Gary Soto

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick (Scholastic, 2012)

Farm Team by Will Weaver

Heart of a Champion by Carl Deuker (Little, Brown, 2007)

Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball by Scott Simon

The New Yorker Book of Baseball Cartoons edited by Robert Mankoff and Michael Crawford

Painting the Black by Carl Deuker

Screaming at the Ump by Audrey Vernick (Clarion, 2014)

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge

© 2015 The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance