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Improve Reading with Baseball

Since our latest 2Book Topeka theme is centered around baseball, I thought I would share some tips for boosting reading skills with baseball related materials. Readers at all levels can read and talk about baseball with our community!

Listen and read

Listening to a book can help readers get through a book they otherwise couldn't if they were reading it with their eyes. I know I've had better luck listening to some books than reading them - books with a lot of foreign words for example. One of our 2Book Topeka titles, Shoeless Joe, is available as an audiobook download from both Overdrive and Hoopla.

Pro tip: Both of these services allow the listener to control the speed of the playback. So it it's going too fast  for the reader, you can slow it down.

Pro tip: Read the book and listen to it at the same time! This strategy helps the reader concentrate on the text better, improve comprehension and fluency, and read above their current reading level. It's also great for second language learners to hear how the words are said as they read them.

Another baseball book I recommend is Calico Joe by John Grisham. Calico Joe is a short (198 pages) novel that follows the divergent paths of a rookie hitter for the Chicago Cubs and a hard-hitting Mets pitcher. It's perfect for people who love baseball. This book is not only available as an audio download, it's also available as a Playaway audiobook. Playaway audiobooks are small portable players with a recording of a single book. You can control your playback speed with Palaways and they're a good low tech option. Calico Joe also available in large print, which makes reading easier on the eyes and brain.

Try a graphic novel

Graphic novels are a wonderful for people who enjoy the visual aspect of pictures and graphics blended with the text. These stories can help with reading comprehension since they provide visual clues to the text. Graphic novels can be an enjoyable and fun read for anyone!

One baseball related graphic novel I recommend is "21": The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago. As you can guess, it tells the story of baseball player Roberto Clemente, starting with his childhood in Puerto Rico. I like this read because it's about someone of a different background. The book also includes some Spanish (along with the English translation) so it's great for language learners.

Oversized books

Literacy students - especially long time baseball lovers - could be inspired by the pictures in a book like Sports Illustrated's The Baseball book. This book has lots of gorgeous photos that cover the history of Major League Baseball from the 1920s and on. Many parts of the book are pictures and captions – not much reading required. More importantly, the book may inspire readers to share their own stories and memories of baseball.  This could lead to an opportunity for them to practice writing down some of their own stories - perhaps with the help of a teacher or tutor. Student created stories can help readers practice reading skills using their own words. Anyone can be a writer as well as a reader.

Use magazines for reading practice

When I have a short amount of time to read something - such as in a waiting room - I often turn to a magazine. The articles or stories are short, they don't usually require much concentration, and the pictures and headlines really draw me in. Magazines can be great tools for practicing reading skills and there is a magazine for just about any interest.

For baseball lovers we have magazines like Sports Illustrated.  For younger or less confident readers we also have Sports Illustrated for Kids.

Pro tip: Our online Overdrive and Flipster magazines can also be used anytime, anywhere on a tablet or phone.

Short stories or poetry collections 

The short stories and poems in a book like Baseball Crazy (written at a grades 4-8 reading level) provide excellent material for reading practice. Collections like this tend to have a wide variety of content, so the student will probably like at least some of the stories. A short story they like may spark interest in other works by that author or other books or poetry about baseball. One of my favorite selections from Baseball Crazy is a free verse poem called "Smile Like Jeter" by Maria Tesla. This heartwarming poem includes memories of watching Derek Jeter and the bond between a parent and a child. Other authors such as Jerry Spinneli and John Ritter contribute stories that will be a hit with any baseball loving student. These short stories would be great selections for family read aloud time - a practice that is good to continue even as children get older.

Happy reading everyone!

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