Children become self-aware and develop their sense of self-esteem in the very early stages of life, and that's why teaching kids about body positivity from a young age is so important. Health class, play groups, and other educational programs only go so far. It's up to parents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, and other adults in a child's life to guide them on a path to a happy, healthy life. Talking with kids about such important and sometimes abstract ideas can be difficult, especially for the younger ones, but for centuries, we've been able to rely on the help of books to help spread positive messages to children, big and small.
Over the last year, there has been an outcry for more diversity in children's books, and that includes a demand for books that promote bodies in all different colors, shapes, and sizes. While there are many LGBTQ-positive books on the market, with plenty of room for more, there aren't as many stories for kids about that focus on body positivity. The books that are available, however, share messages of acceptance, beauty, and self love. They celebrate the very different bodies that make up the world around children, including their own.
For the bodies that are big, small, fat, skinny, dark skinned, light skinned, and everything in between, here are 11 body positive children's books that every child needs to read:
Brontorina by James Howe
Not everyone has a body built for her dreams, but that doesn't mean that she has to let those dreams go. Everyone tells Brontorina that she's too big for ballet class, but she doesn't let her size stop her from dancing her heart out. This larger-than-life dino will inspire kids of every size to chase their dreams and follow their passions, no matter what.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
Thanks to her grandmother's words of encouragement, Molly has never worried about being short, clumsy, or having a deep voice. That is until she goes to a new school where the kids pick on her for her differences. Children reading about Molly's transition will be inspired by her ability to stand tall, no matter what the other kids say.
What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan
Forget about fitting in: in What I Like About Me, the best thing about children is what makes them stand out in. It celebrates glasses, braces, freckles, and more. Every child can find something special about themselves in the pages of this bright and bold picture book.
Little Miss Jessica Goes to School by Jessica Smith
Based on the true life of author Jessica Smith, Little Miss Jessica isn't your average hero. Sure, she's smart, funny, and charming, but Jessica only has one hand. Little Miss Jessica Goes to School is an inspirational book that celebrates the differences, not the deficiencies, that different children and different bodies have. Be on the look out for more body positive books in the same series from Smith.
Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore and LeUyen Pham
Girls and boys are self-conscious about a lot of different parts of their bodies, from their weights to their heights to their skin colors. For kids with freckles, Freckleface Strawberry will be not only relatable, but it will teach kids to love their so-called blemishes instead of just accepting them.
Shapesville by Andy Mills
Using cute rhymes and bright colors, Shapesville uses different shapes quite literally to express and praise the different types of bodies there are in the world. Charming and great fun to read out loud, this book is perfect for the younger crowd just learning about diversity and acceptance.
The Whale Who Wanted To Be Small by Gill McBarnet
Kanani is much bigger than her other sea creature friends, and she just wishes that she could fit in better with them. That is until she sees her grandfather, another large and magestic humpback whale. The Whale Who Wanted To Be Small shows kids that they aren't alone out there, no matter how different they may feel.
I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont
The little girl in Karen Beaumont's I Like Myself shows kids how to do just that — like themselves! It doesn't matter if you have messy hair or bad breath, the important thing is that as long as you love youself, others can love you, too.
Amanda's Big Dream by Judith Matz
It's not always kids who make other kids feel badly; sometimes, adults say mean things, too. When Amanda's skating coach makes a negative comment about her weight, Amanda loses her confidence and starts to let go of her dream. Young reader's will relate to Amanda's struggles, and find courage in her choices.
Smile! by Raina Telgemeier
They may only be temporary, but braces can make even the most confident kids feel self-conscious. Raina Telgemeier captures all that insecurity perfectly in her coming-of-age story about a young girl's dental dilemmas. Funny and uplifting, Smile! will make kids do just that.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Despite his facial deformity and with the help of his friends, teachers, and classmates, Auggie is a happy, one-of-a-kind kid and an amazing friend to boot. Wonder has been spreading the simple but important message — "Choose Kind — by helping kids accept their differences and the differences of those around them. Is there a more body-positive book out there?
Image: David D/flickr