A few months ago I cancelled my longtime subscription to US Weekly (try to restrain the snarky comments!). Aside from the fact that I know less than half of the "celebrities" that grace the pages, the decision was made when my 8-year-old daughter started to take an active interest in my Sunday morning "guilty pleasure" reading. A quick flip through the pages with a critical eye was all I needed to end my subscription. Among my biggest concern was the potential message my daughter would take away about body image.
We live in a visual world - television, social media, smart phones, selfies. It scares me to think about all the subliminal messages that kids are receiving about body image, weight, and overall self-esteem. In my attempt to plant the self-esteem seed early, I've stocked my children's bookshelves with books that teach kids about positive body image and share lessons about individuality and self-esteem. Here are a few.
Kids Books that Promote Self-Esteem & Individuality
I'm Gonna Like Me - Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem, by Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell. Both my kids love this book which is told from two points of view - a little girl and boy. I like the message that it's okay to be you -- whether you do things differently, are having a good day, and even when you make mistakes.
The Skin You Live In, by Michael Tyler. This simple rhyming book with vivid pictures shares an important message about acceptance, self-esteem, and diversity. One of my favorite pages reads, "It's whatever you do skin, be happy it's you skin. You can't live without it -- I'm glad it's me too skin!"
I Like Myself, by Karen Beaumont. Similar to "I'm Gonna Like Me," this playful book focuses on a sassy girl who knows what's important in the world and having beaver breath is no big deal.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, by Patty Lovell. Even though we don't have this one yet, I couldn't resist adding it to the list after reading the description: "Molly Lou Melon is short and clumsy, has buck teeth, and has a voice that sounds like a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor. She doesn't mind. Her grandmother has always told her to walk proud, smile big, and sing loud, and she takes that advice to heart."
Children's Books that Help Kids Feel Good about Their Bodies
Brontorina, by James Howe. Brontorina is a dinosaur with a unusual dream of becoming a ballerina. With a little help from an open-minded teacher, children learn an important lesson about not letting your shape or size prevent you from following a dream.
The Boy Who Grew Flowers, by Jen Wojtowicz. We got this for my son as a gift and it keeps on delivering. This is a story about a boy, Rink, who lives on the wrong side of town, has an unusual family, and has a quirky habit of sprouting flowers during the full moon. He is mostly ignored at school until a new girl arrives who takes an interest in him and his unique qualities.
Beautiful Girl: Celebrating the Wonders of Your Body, by Christiane Northrup. This one is on my "to get" list based on this excerpt alone: "Think of your body like a magical garden - always growing and changing, full of color and life. And just as a garden has much to explore and discover, your body is filled with wonderful secrets that you will learn in time." Written by a doctor who has taught women about health and wellness, this book guides young girls to discover that their bodies are just perfect the way they are.
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. We got this book for my daughter for Christmas and she's already ready it at least three times. August is a 10-year-old boy getting ready to start a new school. On top of the normal worries, he has a facial difference that makes him stand out even more. Told from different character's perspectives, the story reveals how a community struggles with acceptance and compassion.
The Second Life of Abigail Walker, by Frances O'Roark Dowell. Also on my "to get" list...Abby weighs a bit more than the popular girls and is often teased about it. Because she is happy with her body and chooses to speak out against the "mean" girls, she befriends Anders (a boy whose dad is struggling with PTSD) and eventually learns an important lesson about hope and helping others.