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


Written by: Kathleen Krull • Illustrated by: David Diaz

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations

From the sickliest child in Clarksville, Tennessee to Fastest Woman in the World, Wilma Unlimited is an inspiration for any child, exemplifying the ideals of hard work and determination. Before you learn more about her road to fame, look over the illustrations in the book and discuss what you and your child see and what you think will happen in this story.     

Make Observation.

What do you notice on the cover?

What is she doing?

Make Predictions.

Why do you think she is called Wilma Unlimited?

Historical Figure

Let your child know that Wilma Rudolph was a real person who lived from 1940 to 1994. She was an American athlete who competed in two Olympic games and was considered the Fastest Woman in the World in the 1960s, nicknamed "The Tornado".

As You Read

Time and time again, Wilma demonstrates her resilience and strength. Help your child appreciate this by sprinkling in comments like, "Wow, she's really tough" and "That must have been difficult for her but she never stopped trying." 


Vocabulary Building

Address words that your child may not be familiar with and help him/her discover their meanings. Encourage him/her to use illustrations and the context of the sentence a word is in to figure out. Examples of new words in this story include:


Make Connections

Help your child connect what is happening in the story to the real world and his/her own life.

When Wilma begins trying to walk again, ask, "Are there things you can do now that were hard for you at first? How did you improve?"

If you'd like, you can also address the prejudice that Wilma and her family faced. When Wilma can only go to one doctor because he is the only one that treats black patients, say, "When Wilma was young, white and black people were not treated equally and black people couldn't go certain places. Is that fair? How do you think that made them feel?"

After Reading

Let your child know that s/he can be Unlimited too if s/he just works hard and never gives up on what s/he wants to do. Talk with your child about what would have happened if Wilma hadn't persevered as she did. 

Talk About Never Giving Up.

What do you love to do?

How can you be like Wilma Unlimited?


Imagine a Different Reality.

What if Wilma had given up? What would have happened?

Do you think she would have gone to the Olympics or been named the Fastest Woman in the World? Why not?

Activity: Family Relay Race

Inspired by: PBS Kids

Supplies: a stopwatch, a baton,and something to mark your course (can use soda bottles)

                                              Wilma Rudolph crossing the finish line at a track meet in 1961. 

                                             Wilma Rudolph crossing the finish line at a track meet in 1961. 

Get active and have fun doing a relay race with your child, family and friends. Create teams of as many people as you want (don't forget cool team names) and get started!

1. Place your markers at the beginning and end of your course, making it as long or as short as you want. 

2. Have someone say "GO" and then have the first members of each team run to the end of the course and back holding the baton.

3. When one member comes back, have him/her hand off the baton to the next member of the team.

4. Repeat this process until the last member of a team has run the course back and forth. Whichever team gets all its members back across the start line first wins!


If you want to get silly with your relay race, you can try the Crab Walk Relay or any of the ones listed on this page from Zoom on PBS Kids.

STEM Extension

Have your child record his/her own speed on the course. Encourage your child to use your course frequently and record his/her time. Make a chart that has the date and your child's best speed for that day and keep track of how much s/he improves over time. Encourage your child to use simple mathematics to determine how much faster or slower s/he was than the last time.        

See For Yourself!

Watch Wilma Rudolph take the gold at the 1960 Olympic games! Tell your child that the games take place in a different country each time and that this game took place in Rome, Italy, so the commentator is speaking in Italian. As you watch, ask your child comment on what s/he sees and hears.