A Little Healthy Competition

by Claire Abraham

Books to Share

  • Bicycle Race by Donald Crews.
  • Froggy Plays Soccer by Jonathan London.
  • Old Turtle’s Soccer Team by Leonard Kessler.
  • Stella and Roy by Ashley Wolff.

Books to Show or Booktalk

  • The Cut-ups Carry On by James Marshall.
  • Little Granny Quarterback by Bill Martin, Jr.
  • Loudmouth George and the Great Race by Nancy Carlson.
  • Winners Never Quit! by Mia Hamm.

Bulletin Board

Reading is a Ball

Create the caption, “Reading is a Ball,” and place it at the center of your bulletin board. Cut out recognizable shapes of different kinds of sports balls, such as baseballs, soccer balls, footballs, basketballs, golf balls, etc., and attach them to your bulletin board around the caption. Display books, such as the ones listed above or other toddler/preschool books that feature a ball on the cover, on a ledge or shelf below or near the bulletin board.


I Am a Famous Athlete

(Adapted by Claire Abraham from “I Am a Fine Musician,” a traditional song. If you are not familiar with the tune, a sound file is available on-line from Mudcat Café at www.mudcat.org/midi/midibrowse.cfm?start_letter=I.)

I am a famous athlete. I practice every day.

And, if you come to cheer me on, then you will see me play.

Basketball, basketball, I love to play basketball! (Pantomime dribbling, shooting, and scoring)

I am a famous athlete. I practice every day.

And, if you come to cheer me on, then you will see me play.

Baseball, baseball, I love to play baseball! (Pantomime stepping up to the plate, swinging the bat, and running in place.)

I am a famous athlete. I practice every day.

And, if you come to cheer me on, then you will see me play.

Football, football, I love to play football! (Tuck pretend ball under your arm, lower head, and run from side to side as if dodging a lineman.)

(Repeat, substituting additional sports.)

Let Everyone Clap Hands


Let everyone clap hands like me. (Clap hands)

Let everyone clap hands like me. (Clap hands)

Come on, and join into the game.

You’ll find it’s always the same.

Let everyone jump up like me. (Jump up)

Let everyone jump up like me. (Jump up)

Come on, and join into the game.

You’ll find it’s always the same.

(Repeat with any other body motions, such as: stomp feet, shake your head, etc.)

Audio Recordings

  • “Late Last Night” on Late Last Night by Joe Scruggs.
  • “Playing Right Field” on Peter, Paul and Mommy, Too by Peter, Paul and Mary.
  • “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on Can a Jumbo Jet Sing the Alphabet? by Hap Palmer.

Flannel Boards

“The Ball” from Flannelboard Stories for Infants and Toddlers by Ann and Mary Carlson.

Puppet Shows

The Tortoise and the Hare

(Adapted by Claire Abraham.)


  • Tortoise
  • Hare
  • Two other animal puppets to play a Vendor and an Announcer


  • A starting line and finish line
  • Cardboard Veggieburger
  • A small booth where a vendor is selling Veggieburgers
  • Tree


ANNOUNCER: This is the story of the Tortoise. (Tortoise plods on stage right) …and the Hare. (Hare hops on stage left)

HARE: Hi! I’m the Hare! I can run really, really fast! I run just like this. Hophophophophophophophop! I always get where I’m going before anybody else does!

TORTOISE: Hi! I’m the tortoise. I can walk. I walk like this. Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Slow and steady. I always get where I’m going, sooner or later.

HARE: Ha! I can run so much faster than you can, you poky old tortoise!

TORTOISE: That may be true, Hare, but that’s okay. I get where I need to be and that’s enough for me.

HARE: I bet I could beat you in a race. I bet I could beat you jumping on one foot. I bet I could beat you with my eyes closed. Here! I’ll prove it! Hophophophophop (Hare covers his eyes, runs into the tree)

TORTOISE: Oops! I bet that hurt. Are you okay?

HARE: Oh, I’m just the best, couldn’t be better.

TORTOISE: Tell you what, Hare. Meet me here tomorrow and we’ll have a race, you and I. We’ll just see which one of us gets where we’re going first.

HARE: Heeheeheeheeheehee! You’re on! Silly old tortoise! Thinks he can outrace a hare!

(Tortoise and Hare exit. Lights go down and up to signify a day’s passage. The starting line is raised on center stage.)

(Tortoise enters first. He walks to the starting line while saying his next line.)

TORTOISE: Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Well, I’m here. I’m all warmed up and I’m ready to go. I wonder where that hare is?

(Announcer enters.)

ANNOUNCER: Hello, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the Great Race! We have two worthy racers today! Everybody give a big hand, first of all, to the Tortoise!

(Encourage children to clap and cheer for the tortoise. Tortoise takes a bow.)

ANNOUNCER: And now, everybody give a big hand to… wait. Where’s the hare?

(Hare rushes onstage breathlessly.)

HARE: Hophophophophophophop! I’m here, I’m here. I was just signing autographs for all my wonderful fans out there!

ANNOUNCER: All right, you are here now. Now, everybody, give a big round of applause for our second racer, the Hare!

(Children applaud. Hare bows left and right and blows kisses.)

ANNOUNCER: All right, gentleman, let’s get started!

(Tortoise steps ploddingly to the starting line. Hare begins to stretch his arms high in the air.)

ANNOUNCER: OK! On your mark, get set… um, what are you doing?

HARE: I’m just warming up. You’ve always got to warm up before you exercise, kids, remember that! And ONE and two and ONE and two, and….

ANNOUNCER: But it’s time to start.

HARE: That’s okay. You can carry on without me.

ANNOUNCER: All right, then. On your mark! Get set! GO!

TORTOISE: (begins to race) Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod.

ANNOUNCER: Go! Go! Go! Go!

HARE: (continues to stretch his arms, do deep bends, jog in place, etc.) And ONE and two and ONE and two…

(Announcer continues to cheer “Go! Go! Go! Go!”as the Tortoise plods off stage right.)

HARE: Okay, he’s out of sight now. I guess I’d better get started!

ANNOUNCER: Yes, that might make for a better race.

HARE: On my mark! Get set! Go! Hophophophophophophop! (hops off stage right.)

(Announcer and starting line disappear. Stage is empty for a moment. Tortoise enters stage left.)

TORTOISE: Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Hi, kids, how am I doing? Plod. Plod. I don’t see that hare.

HARE: (hops breathlessly on behind the tortoise) Hophophophophophop! Here I am! Now you see me! Now you don’t! (hops offstage ahead of Tortoise)

(Tortoise plods off stage right.)

(Stage is empty. A small veggieburger stand and vendor appear center stage. Hare hops on stage left.)

HARE: Hophophophophop! Silly old tortoise! I left him eating my dust! Heh, heh, eating… hey, my stomach is growling. I forgot to eat breakfast.

VENDOR: Veggieburgers! Veggieburgers for sale!

HARE: I’ll take a veggieburger! Oh, and can I have some carrot fries to go with that? Oh, yeah, and I’ll wash it down with a nice, thick broccoli and carrot shake!

(Vendor hands him the Veggieburger.)

HARE: Oh, yeah, I looooove veggieburgers! (begins to eat hungrily)

TORTOISE: (enters stage left) Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Hi, Hare. Having a snack?

HARE: Yeah, I’m starving. Don’t wait for me. I’ll catch up.

TORTOISE: OK, Hare. Whatever you want. Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. (exits stage right)

HARE: Burp! Oh, EXCUSE me! Well, he’s out of sight again. Maybe I should get going. (throws trash away) OK, off I go! Hophophophophophophophop (exit stage right)

(Vendor’s station is removed. Tortoise enters stage left. He appears to be slightly tired.)

TORTOISE: Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Puff, puff. (breathes heavily) Keep on going, keep on going, slow and steady, slow and steady….

(Hare enters stage left.)

HARE: Hophophophophophop! Hi, Tortoise! I told you I’d catch up! Here I come…(passes Tortoise) and there I go! Hophophophophop. (exits stage right)

TORTOISE: Plod, plod, plod, plod, slow and steady, slow and steady. Almost there, almost there…. (exits stage right)

(Stage is empty. At far stage right, bring up the Announcer and the finish line. Hare enters stage left.)

HARE: Ha! I can see the finish line from here! And, that poky tortoise is nowhere in sight! I knew it! I’ll tell you what, though. That big meal made me kinda sleepy. I think I’ll just lie down here and take a really short nap. Just forty winks. No, not even forty. Twenty winks. Well, ten winks. I’ve got plenty of time. Tortoise will never catch up with me. (Hare lies down on the stage and begins to snore loudly. After a moment, Tortoise enters stage left.)

TORTOISE: Sweet dreams, you silly hare. Plod. Plod. Plod. Plod. Slow and steady, slow and steady….

(Tortoise passes Hare and continues slowly towards the finish line muttering “slow and steady.”)

ANNOUNCER: And as they enter the home stretch, it’s Tortoise out in front! Tortoise is making his way to the finish line! It looks like Tortoise might just win! Everybody cheer for the Tortoise!

(Children cheer. Tortoise continues to plod. Sound of children’s cheers awakes Hare.)

HARE: Huh? Wha-? Who? Hey, you all woke me up. I was having such a good dream, too. Now, I wonder where that Tortoise… OH, NO!

(Hare jumps to his feet and begins to hop just as Tortoise crosses the finish line.)

TORTOISE: Oh, yes.

ANNOUNCER: And the winner is the Tortoise!

(Children cheer. Hare hops dejectedly across the finish line.)

ANNOUNCER: And the Hare comes in second place.

TORTOISE: Because slow and steady wins the race.


“Which Side Won?” from Stories to Play With: Kids' Tales Told with Puppets, Paper, Toys and Imagination by Hiroko Fujita.


Sports Collage


  • Magazines and newspapers
  • Scissors
  • Construction paper
  • Glue sticks


In advance, cut out photos of athletes engaged in a wide assortment of sports from magazines and newspapers. Let the children create collages by gluing the pictures onto construction paper with glue sticks.

Games and Activities

Hot Potato

Seat the children in a circle. Bring out a beanbag or a soft ball to pass. Play music while each child passes the beanbag or ball to the left. When the music stops, the child holding the beanbag or ball becomes “it” and goes inside the circle. Repeat. When the music stops for the second time, the child holding the beanbag becomes “it” and takes the place of the child in the circle.

Beanbag Toss

Form a line on the floor using masking tape. Have the children stand in a line behind it. Let each child take a turn throwing a beanbag into a bucket or trash can that is about three feet on the other side of the line. Give each child a sticker after each attempt.

Guest Speakers

Invite a local sports figure or mascot to visit. Some athletes will read stories to the children. Many local sports teams have a uniformed mascot that will make appearances and sign autographs, often for free.


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

“K.J.’s Sports Story” or “Follow that Baseball” on Sports Tales and Tunes. (30 minutes)

Professional Resources

  • Children’s Jukebox: A Subject Guide to Musical Recordings and Programming Ideas for Songsters Ages One to Twelve by Rob Reid.
  • Flannelboard Stories for Infants and Toddlers by Ann and Mary Carlson.
  • Stories to Play With: Kids' Tales Told with Puppets, Paper, Toys and Imagination by Hiroko Fujita.
  • The Mudcat Cafe www.mudcat.org

    A searchable and browsable database of traditional folk music that includes MIDI files.


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