Olympic Readers

By Jeanette Larson

Books to Share

  • Elympics: Poems by X. J. Kennedy.
  • The First Olympic Games by Jean Richards.
  • The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky.
  • Run With Me, Nike! by Cassandra Case.
  • Tales of Ancient Greece by Enid Blyton.
  • You Wouldn't Want to Be a Greek Athlete: Races You'd Rather Not Run by Michael Ford.

Books to Show or Booktalk

  • Chronicle of the Olympics by the Staff of DK Publishing.
  • Hour of the Olympics by Mary Pope Osborne.
  • The Illustrated Book of Myths: Tales and Legends of the World by Neil Philip.
  • Let the Games Begin! by Maya Ajmera.
  • Olympia: Warrior Athletes of Ancient Greece by David Kennett.

Bulletin Board

Olympic Readers

Replicate the Olympic rings, red, green, black, blue, and yellow circles, out of construction paper and place them on the bulletin board. Cut out gold, silver, and bronze medals using metallic craft paper, available from craft supply stores or on-line from S and S Worldwide and the medal pattern. Write book titles on the medals and put them on the bulletin board. Alternatively, let the kids put their names on medals and attach them to the bulletin board to celebrate their participation in the Texas Reading Club.


Purchase posters from Demco that encourage kids to “Join the Winner’s Circle…Read!” or from Upstart that proclaim, “Go for the Gold.”


Serve Greek food. If someone in your community is from Greece, ask for help. Otherwise, serve grapes, olives, and figs as easy snacks, along with some pita bread and hummus.


Demco sells bronze, silver, and gold reading medallions and blue and red ribbons that could be given as keepsakes or incentives to program participants. They also offer sports related stickers, and bookmarks.


Oh, I Wish I Were an Olympian

(Adapted by Jeanette Larson. Sing to “The Oscar Mayer Song.”)

Oh, I wish I were an Olympic swimmer.

I really love to swim and to dive.

And if I were an Olympic swimmer,

Everyone would cheer hurray for me!

Oh, I wish I were an Olympic runner.

I love to run and jump all day long.

And if I were an Olympic runner,

Everyone would cheer hurray for me!

(Substitute additional sports.)

Audio Recordings

  • Aesop for All Ages by Anne Nachtrieb Zesiger.
  • “Go the Distance” by Michael Bolton on Disney’s Hercules: An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack by Various Artists.


Tell several of Aesop’s fables. Start with “The Boy and the Nettles” to encourage kids to put everything they can into their activities. Most of Aesop’s fables are easily available on-line at Aesop’s Fables Online Collection and in books, such as Aesop’s Fables by Aesop, with illustrations by Jerry Pinkney.

The Boy and the Nettles

(Aesop fable. Adapted by Jeanette Larson.)

Playing in the woods, a boy pricked his finger on a nettle bush. He ran home and told his Mother. "Although I only touched the bush gently, it hurts me very much.” “That was just why it stung you," said his Mother. "The next time you touch a nettle bush, grasp it boldly, and it will be soft as silk to your hand, and not in the least hurt you."

Whatever you do, do with all your might.


Light the Torch


  • Red construction paper
  • Red, yellow, and orange tissue paper cut into 4” X 5” pieces
  • Sports-themed stickers (optional)
  • Markers or colored pencils
  • Scotch tape
  • Glue sticks
  • Scissors


In advance, cut tissue paper into 4” X 5” pieces. Give each child a piece of red construction paper, sports-themed stickers, and markers or colored-pencils. Show them how to wrap the paper into a cone. Before taping the cone, let the kids decorate their torches with the stickers and markers. When they finish, let them tape the paper into a cone. Give each child three or four pieces of tissue paper and let them cut one end into ragged “flames.” To complete the torches, the children glue the straight edges of the tissue paper to the inside of the cone.

torch example

Olympic Wreaths


  • White paper plates, uncoated large
  • Construction paper (green, yellow, black, blue, red)
  • Leaf patterns
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks


Distribute a paper plate to each child. Using care, have each child punch a hole in the middle of the paper plate and cut out the center, leaving a ring. Give each child a copy of the leaf pattern. For younger children or a simpler craft, cut leaves in advance using a die-cut machine. Let the kids cut out enough leaves from construction paper to cover the paper plate ring, glue them around the ring, and let the glue dry. Each child now has an Olympic wreath. At the ancient games, a wreath was placed on the head of each Olympic winner.

Olympic wreath

Games and Activities

Indoor Olympics

Greek Olympics were simpler than the modern games. Competitions included foot races, throwing contests, and similar events. Decide on appropriate indoor activities for your library based on space and available staff or volunteers. Then purchase or borrow Nerf balls, foam disks, and other soft equipment, such as beanbags, basketballs, and hacky sacks, for the events. Check out the Hasbro® Nerf web site at www.hasbro.com/nerf for products and information on where to purchase the items if they are not available in local stores.

Set up space for each game to be played and let the kids compete in the Library Indoor Olympics. Indoor games might include throwing a Nerf basketball through a hoop or into a trash can, trying to roll a Frisbee disk through goal posts that have been set up at a distance, or competing in hacky sack relays where each team must guide the hacky sack through a relay course. Other indoor events might include jumping rope, jacks, or marble competitions.


Challenge the children to participate in a read-a-thon. Depending on your space and time constraints, this could either be an attempt to have more than a preset number of kids all reading at the same time or a challenge to reach a certain number of pages read over a period of time.

Guest Speakers

Braided hair and headbands were popularized in Ancient Greece. Invite a hairdresser to demonstrate various techniques for braiding hair.


If you have public performance rights, show these videos and DVDs, or segments of them, to the children. Otherwise, display them for home use.

  • Gods and Heroes of Greece and Rome. (42 minutes)
  • Hercules. (92 minutes)


Athens 2004.

Web Sites

Ancient Olympics
Prepared for the Perseus Project Digital Library, this site compares ancient and modern Olympic sports, provides information about ancient Olympic athletes, and has a tour of site of Olympia as it looks today.

The Real Story of the Ancient Olympic Games
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology explores the athletes, the politics, and the games of ancient Greece.

Professional Resources

Aesop’s Fables by Aesop.

Aesop’s Fables Online Collection
Every fable by Aesop and many by other authors are provided in electronic text.

Purchase posters and other decorations from this library supplier.

Hasbro Nerf Products
A catalog of Nerf products is provided along with information on where to purchase the items.

S and S Worldwide
Every craft supply imaginable can be purchased on-line.

This library supplier sells posters and banners that encourage readers to “Go For the Gold.”


Texas Reading Club 2006 Programming Manual / Reading: The Sport of Champions!

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 14, 2011