The best picture books to help children develop good sportsmanship

Claire Annette Noland Author Of Evie's Field Day: More Than One Way to Win
By Claire Annette Noland

The Books I Picked & Why

Janine and the Field Day Finish

By Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Book cover of Janine and the Field Day Finish

Why this book?

Janine is good at lots of things like singing, spelling, and cheering.  But she’s not good at sports and is bullied and teased by her competitive classmate, Abbie. Janine runs the race and doesn’t mind being in last place. She’s just glad to participate.  When Abbie falls, Janine is the one who stops, helps her up, and together they cross the finish line.

Janine is the best kind of competitor – kind and encouraging as she urges everyone to do their best. Children with different abilities are included in all the activities making this book an inclusive celebration of sportsmanship.

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Lucia Lacorte, Poor Sport

By Christianne Jones, Marisa Morea

Book cover of Lucia Lacorte, Poor Sport

Why this book?

Llama Lucia may be the self-appointed founder and president of the Get Gaming Club but she is a terrible sport. She pouts when she loses and gloats when she wins. Before long, her friends won’t play with her. Her grandfather will play but it turns out he’s a worse sport than Lucia who begins to realize how her bad behavior upsets her friends.

This child-friendly book is perfect to begin discussions on cheating, fairness, and how to be good at both winning and losing.

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Jackie Wins Them All

By Fabian E. Ferguson, Alisa Aryutova

Book cover of Jackie Wins Them All

Why this book?

Talented Jackie seems to be good at everything from tennis to chess. She expects to win the race and is shocked when another girl passes her. Jackie isn’t used to losing and the hurt it causes. After acknowledging her disappointment, Jackie reaches out and congratulates her competitor.

This upbeat story features athletes of color who exemplify good sportsmanship and remind readers that “things won’t always work out – you can’t win them all. Work hard, give your best, and do all you can do.” It shows children how to graciously accept defeat.

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Winners Never Quit!

By Mia Hamm, Carol Thompson

Book cover of Winners Never Quit!

Why this book?

Written by soccer superstar, Mia Hamm, this book shows her as a young girl and how she learned to deal with disappointment while learning the sport with her brothers and sisters. She loved being praised when she did well but she became angry and quit when she missed goals. There was a consequence – when she returned to play, she wasn’t welcomed back because “winners never quit.”

There is so much to love about this book as it shows a phenomenal athlete as a girl and the origins of her love of soccer. Also, difficult emotions that children experience are explored (without being preachy) as the young Mia learns a valuable lesson. The illustrations are adorable!

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I Really Want to Win

By Simon Philip, Lucia Gaggiotti

Book cover of I Really Want to Win

Why this book?

On School Sports Day, an exuberant girl is already planning her celebration because she knows she is going to win. When she loses several competitions to another girl, she is anything but gracious as she makes excuses and decides sports aren’t her thing. She wants trophies and ribbons so she competes in a spelling bee and dance contest and loses – to the same competitor! Our narrator is mad but when she sees her nemesis lose and happily congratulate the winner, she begins to understand that winning isn’t everything.

Filled with humor and whimsy, this is a book where children can easily identify good and bad sportsmanship as they come to realize that doing their best is what really matters. It also shows that everyone has special talents – they just need to practice to get better.

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