Inside: We rounded up the best books about swimming and swimming lessons. These books will get your kids swimming in no time.
If you are like most parents, summer is the time of the year when you plan a trip to the beach and enroll your kids in swimming lessons. Depending on your children’s personalities, your efforts can be met with “Yay!” or “No way!”
I have two kids who took to water like fish and two who refused to put their faces in the water for years. But all of them enjoy reading books about swimming and swimming lessons. Here are our favorites.
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Cork and Fuzz: The Swimming Lesson by Dori Chaconas
No matter how many times we read Cork and Fuzz books, my three older kids (5, 7, and 10) chuckle, giggle and laugh out loud. The toddler doesn’t get the jokes yet, but she laughs anyway to share in the fun. If you are not familiar with this series, you are missing out. Dori Chaconas—a stay-at-home mom of four turned “self-trained” writer—is not only a gifted storyteller but a humorist, too. In one of her articles, she shared that as a kid, she used stories to keep her six siblings from maiming each other. When her story wasn’t engaging enough, her audience would start a war, so she had to figure out plot, pacing, and humor early on. In this particular title, Cork, a muskrat, is teaching his friend possum to swim. It’s not an easy endeavor because swimming is not a possum kind of thing. The ideas of fear, problem-solving, and compromise are explored humorously. You will enjoy it as a family read aloud or as a first chapter book for independent readers.
Tuck in the Pool by Martha Weston
This picture book was written over 20 years ago, but it’s still a classic for helping children handle their fears of swimming. Tuck is a little pig who is taking swimming lessons along with his older sister. Tuck is afraid to put his head under the water for fear of water getting into his eyes and ears, but it all changes when his lucky spider falls to the bottom of the pool. The story keeps the kids guessing, and the ending makes them smile. Share with your kids an impressive fact that Martha Weston, the author/illustrator of this book, is color blind! She found a way to work around her limitation by labeling her paints. My kids enjoy learning about authors of the books we read as much as reading the books themselves. And this author offers a great lesson in being creative in overcoming one’s limitations.
Swimming Lessons by Betsy Jay
The personality of the main character makes this book funny and engaging. When Jane’s mom signs her up for swimming lessons, Jane declares, “If you make me get in the water, bad things will happen.” But bad things don’t happen. Only funny things occur and lots of them. This is a really good book for any kid who is reluctant to take swimming lessons because laughter diffuses negative emotions. And if your kids are good swimmers, they will still enjoy the plot and the girl’s hilarious ramblings. My daughter read this book last year as soon as we returned from the library and came running to me shouting, “Mom! You’ve got to read this book! It’s so funny!” The author has a talent for writing in a little girl’s voice. Bright and colorful pictures are another bonus.
Sergio Makes a Splash by Edel Rodrigues
Sergio is a South American penguin. He loves rain, puddles, iced drinks, and a cold bath but not the ocean. The ocean is scary. The ocean is dark. And what’s worse, Sergio can’t do what all other penguins can do—swim. With the help of floaties, a snorkel, and a life preserver, Sergio takes the plunge into the ocean. Does it go well? Your children will be cheering on Sergio. Rodrigues, a former Time art director, wrote this book after observing little kids in a swimming pool in his backyard. It’s a nice book to talk about courage, perfection, and trying new things. The three color illustrations are genius and inspired my kids to create their own three-color exploration (if your kids get hooked as much as mine did, check out Create Wonderful Art Using Only Three Colors).
There’s a Sea in My Bedroom by Margaret Wild
If your kids love the classic Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, they will love this book, too. Both books explore the magic of a child’s fantasy world and, most importantly, the imagination’s power to take you to a place where the constraints of your present life don’t exist. In There’s a Sea In My Bedroom, David, a little boy, is scared of swimming in the ocean. So he creates an imaginary world where he is free to explore things that scare him in the safety of his own bedroom. And when the time comes to test his fear of the ocean in real life? Oh, he is ready. The book teaches about conquering fear, and the illustrations are adorable.
The Deep by Tim Winton
Alice is a good swimmer. Alice loves the ocean. Then why can’t Alice join her family in the deep? She wants to, but she just can’t do it. She hates to be frightened of anything. So she tries to be brave. But every time she sets out to swim to her family, she turns back. Many children will identify with Alice’s struggle to overcome her fear. I like the fluid illustrations full of colors of the sea, and the message that being brave is all about the right mindset. Definitely read this book if you are going to the sea this summer and your kids have fears about large open bodies of water.
Saturday is Swimming Day by Hyewon Yum
Here is another book about a little girl who is not crazy about her swimming lessons. In fact, every Saturday when the swimming day comes, she gets a stomach ache. This book is great for reluctant swimmers and kids who have a hard time in the swimming pool. The lesson is that with time and patience, things can change, and the trick is to stick with it. The colored pencils and watercolor illustrations are very cute and similar to other books by Hyewon Yum.
Peppa Pig Goes Swimming, based on the TV series
If your kids are Peppa Pig fans, they will definitely enjoy reading about her day in the swimming pool. There is lots of kicking and splashing, but only after mummy and daddy pig manage to persuade her little brother George to get in the water. My friend’s three-year-old wore out this book in just a few months by carrying it around all day and asking her mum to read it again and again. Since my kids are not very familiar with Peppa Pig, they only read it once and were not interested in reading it again.
Swim, Boots, Swim by Phoebe Beinstein
This book is great for Dora the Explorer fans and older siblings who are impatient with their non-swimming younger brothers and sisters. Dora wants to spend the day at the beach, but Boots, the monkey, can’t go because he doesn’t know how to swim. The book follows the typical pattern: Dora asks for help (“What can help us see in bright sun?” Sunglasses), uses some Spanish words (for colors, numbers, and some expressions), asks questions (“Who do we ask for help when we don’t know where to go?”), and even leads the reader through the dune maze. When Dora and a monkey get to the beach, a mermaid gives him a swimming lesson. My kids are not familiar with the show, but they like books with activities, so they enjoyed it anyway.
Making a Splash by Carol E. Reiley
Lately, I have noticed a proliferation of books written specifically to teach kids the growth mindset concept. This is one of those didactic books. It sacrifices literary merit for the message, but if you are teaching your children a growth mindset, then definitely check it out.
Making a Splash is about two siblings who just started swimming lessons. A brother has a fixed mindset. He can get around the swimming pool with a kickboard and refuses to learn to swim without it because hard work will make him look bad. His sister has a more difficult time with a kickboard, but she has a growth mindset, and with hard work and perseverance she learns to swim well without any props. When the family goes snorkeling in the ocean, the brother has to miss out because he didn’t learn how to swim. But since it’s never too late to learn a growth mindset, that’s exactly what he ends up doing.
The last ten pages of the book include the science of the growth mindset, the neuroscience of how we learn, and tips on getting unstuck. My kids walked away on me as soon as I got to the “lesson.” I think the best way to go about it is for parents to familiarize themselves with the main points and discuss them with kids when they are open to listening. For example, during a car ride, a parent can share a story of failure from her own life and ask “What could I have told myself?” instead of “I’m not good at this. I give up.” Then together they can arrive at, “I need to use a different strategy. Mistakes help me learn. I can always improve, so I’ll keep trying.”
Froggy Learns To Swim by Jonathan London
We love all the books in the Froggy series, and this one is no exception. In this book, we discover that Froggy can’t swim. Can he learn? Oh yes, he can, but in the froggy style. Get ready for “bubble, bubble, toot, toot” and lots of laughter. The story offers a great reminder that how we feel about things is not set in stone. At first, Froggy doesn’t like water, but by the end of the book, he doesn’t want to get out of the water. It’s a great book for discussing how we feel at the start of a new adventure doesn’t determine how we will feel about it later on after more experience. My kids can’t get enough of this book.
Do you have a favorite book about swimming and swimming lessons that didn’t make our list? Share in the comments below.