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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Baseball and its lessons

April 26, 2010

The first pitch of the season has been thrown and the professional baseball season is in full swing. So it is for kids who play Tee ball, softball, and baseball at school, a recreation or community center, or in their own neighborhood.

Playing a team sport has huge benefits for children — I saw it when my son started playing Tee ball in first grade. He had lots of fun but also learned a great deal by playing with other kids, listening to his coach, and figuring out some of his limitations as well as his strengths.

A recent book by Fred Bowen (who also writes a sports column for the Kids Post) reminded me that beyond playing the sport, reading about a sport and some of its early heroes can be exciting — and an endless source of topics to engage children and get them thinking about lots of issues.

How would you respond if asked if you'd go for the sure thing or do something that was more difficult — but clearly a more honorable course? That very question is posed in Bowen's book, No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .400 Season (Dutton).

Ted Williams confronted the question to stay with his .400 batting average and sit out the final games of the 1941 season or risk it and play them. Tension builds as the events of the season unfold. Will Williams take the easy way? Can he maintain his batting average and finish out the season?

Beyond leading to fine discussion, this is an appealing book that seamlessly includes background information (e.g., what is a batting average and how is it determined? Why is a .400 so unusual? Why is this Williams' last season?). The accompanying illustrations include actual photographs of Williams adding yet another dimension.

I hope my son will continue play team sports — he tells me that he's thinking about going out for baseball next year. And I hope we will continue to read and talk and think about some of the sports figures — past and present.


How old were your students, Michelle? Did they talk about what they would have done in Williams' situation? And what a great gift idea for your father! He must be a baseball fan!

Interestingly, Fred Bowen just spoke to my students on Mon! Such a nice guy! I bought two copies of the Ted Williams book, which he signed-one for my class and one for my Dad for Father's Day!

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"Wear the old coat and buy the new book." — Austin Phelps