By Courtney Runn
Whether you and your family root for your college team or love to watch your favorite NFL players, you’ll all be a fan of these football picture books! These sweet reads capture the magic of a fall day in the stadium: the excitement in the stands, the heartbreaking losses, the underdog victories, the athletic feats, and the inspiring stories of the players themselves.
Aspiring football players and all sports fans—kids and adults alike—will enjoy learning about legendary players and the importance of teamwork, perseverance, and chasing your dreams. Kick off story time with these 10 inspiring reads, and then let us know your favorite titles.
Celebrated author and illustrator Don Tate’s latest picture-book biography introduces young readers to football star Ernie Barnes. As a young boy, Ernie didn’t care about sports like the other neighborhood boys and found comfort in art instead. He later went on to become a football star after reluctantly joining his school’s team. But he never gave up his passion for art and became known as an artist and an athlete. Tate says he hopes young readers are encouraged by Ernie to follow their own dreams and be true to who they are.
To learn more about Ernie Barnes, try Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, an award-winning picture book by Sandra Neil Wallace.
Experience the excitement of game day through the eyes of a young fan. Whether your child has never been to a football game or your family has season tickets, they will feel like they’re in the stands singing with the band, rooting for the team, sipping on hot chocolate, and celebrating a big win! This rhyming picture book will lull your little one to sleep with dreams of scoring their own winning touchdown.
A powerful story that encourages young readers to combat discrimination, Follow Chester introduces readers to Chester, a football player at Harvard University in 1947. When the team was scheduled to play the University of Virginia, Jim Crow rules forbid Chester from playing, but his team rallied around him. Chester became the first black college football player to play a game below the Mason-Dixon line and went on to become a tenured professor at Harvard Medical School.
Twins Tiki and Ronde Barber are not only famous football players, but prolific children’s book authors. Their first picture book, By My Brother’s Side, takes readers back to their childhood, when Tiki faced a debilitating injury that threatened his sports dreams. Tiki’s long summer of watching his brother play from the sidelines will inspire young readers to take obstacles in stride and cheer on their teammates.
Miss Mary Reporting introduces children to a legendary reporter and role model for breaking barriers in sports. From playing quarterback with the neighbor boys to attending football games with her dad, Mary Garber always loved sports, but there didn’t seem to be a place for her in them. When newspapers were low on reporters during World War II, she finally got a chance at her dream job: writing about sports. Inspired by Jackie Robinson’s courage on the baseball field, Garber went on to a 58-year career in sportswriting, paving a path for more women to follow and bringing more equality to sports journalism by covering black athletes.
From the Alphabet Legends series, Football Legends Alphabet introduces young readers to iconic players throughout history, from Anthony Muñoz to Gary Zimmerman, with playful illustrations. Practicing the alphabet just got a lot more fun!
Read more: If the little fans in your life enjoy these football picture books, try reading our other lists of sports books, too.
What are your favorite sports reads for kids?
Courtney Runn is a writer based in Austin who cheers on the Texas Longhorns. Hook ‘em!