February 2014


Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman

By: Kathleen Krull

Wilma Rudolph’s story is truly inspirational. Born in Clarksville, Tennessee in 1940 weighing only 4.5 pounds, Wilma faces an uphill battle from her very first moment on this earth. She survives premature birth, measles, mumps, chicken pox, and double pneumonia. At age four, polio paralyzes her left leg, and everyone says that Wilma will never walk again.

Wilma refuses to believe it. Not only will she walk again, she vows, she’ll run. It takes years. It takes hard work. But at last she does run—across the basketball court, around the track, and eventually, all the way to the Olympic Games.


  1. Wilma Rudolph made incredible strides for African Americans and women when she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during the 1960 Olympic Games. You can use Wilma’s life to explore history. What was going on during her lifetime? Why was it so special that she won 3 gold medals as an African American female?

    You and your family can watch the 2014 Olympic Winter Games on TV, beginning on February 7, to look for ways that the Olympics have changed since Wilma’s participation. Discuss with your family the special contributions Wilma made to the Games.

  2. You and your family can learn a lot by reading Wilma Unlimited, because it is a non-fiction book, a book about a real-life event, place, or person. When you read non-fiction, you can practice important reading skills, with the bonus of learning something new and factual. This month is African American History month, and you can visit your local library to check out non-fiction books about other civil-rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr, Frederick Douglas, Ida Wells, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. DuBois.

  3. Wilma was able to overcome her physical disability to become an incredible athlete through hard work and determination. Have you ever heard the phrase, "if you put your mind to it, you can do anything?" What does that mean? Discuss with your family goals that you might be able to accomplish through hard work and concentration.

  4. Wilma Unlimited is a biography, because it is a written account of a person’s life. Choose someone that you admire—a relative, neighbor, celebrity or historical figure, and write a short biography of their life. You can write about where they are from, how they grew up, and their goals and accomplishments. I’d love to read your biography, and you can email it to me or share it on my facebook page!