As a person who has spent the last several years working with kids and looking for opportunities to engage them in learning moments, I have suffered the desire to shout from the rooftops from time to time.
Why the shouting now? Why, it's the Olympics! What better than a 16-day celebration of sports, history, pageantry and social studies to break up the "I'm-bored" moments of summer vacation?
The Olympics have it all! Submerge your child in British culture and history in a nod to London, the hosting city of this year's events. Study Greek mythology and symbolism and learn about the ancient Olympic Games. Discover fun facts like this one: In 1904, there was an Olympic event called the "All-Around Dumbbell Contest." It was discontinued, but what an unfortunate thing to be able to say you were the all-around dumbbell gold medal winner!
Create a graph of the medal standings, learn about time zones, study the culture of different countries, and investigate athletes past and present and so very much more. The possibilities are endless and only limited by your creativity. So beat those summer blues with some Olympic fun.
There are lots of books to get you into the Olympic spirit; these are a few of my favorites.
"G is for Gold Medal: An Olympic Alphabet" by Brad Herzog
Alphabet books are a great way to introduce a subject to children. The alphabet books by Brad Herzog offer two levels of information. The first level covers what each letter stands for and gives just enough information. The second level (written in the margin) delves deeper into the subject and offers some interesting facts and great jumping-off points for further study. This book offers a lot of Olympic information that should interest a wide audience.
"Dream Big: Michael Jordan and the Pursuit of Olympic Gold" by Deloris Jordan
Michael Jordan's mom has written some really nice books for young people that tell about Michael's childhood and how he achieved his dreams. This one is no exception, and its release was very well timed to coordinate with this year's Summer Olympics. We learn about disappointments that Michael faces along the way (like being cut in the try-outs for his high school basketball team) and how he eventually reached his goals. The illustrations by Barry Root are fantastic and sure to please young and old Michael Jordan fans alike.
"I Want to Win! A Little Princess Story" by Tony Ross
OK, I admit that this is not an Olympic book and that there is no trophy for trying your hardest, but young children will relate. Little Princess wants to be good at something, so much so that she tries to change the rules so she wins. But no matter what she does, everyone else wins the prize. An encouragement to try your very hardest is a sentiment that I think captures the Olympic spirit.
So, sit back and enjoy all that the Summer Olympics have to offer. Get the kids involved and watch as a family. Cheer on your favorite team. Learn something new. This opportunity won't return until the Winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Curling, anyone?
- Lee Ann Cleary is the children's program director at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling.