Tech & Media
8 Children’s Books That Celebrate Individuality and Help Build Self-Esteem
By Alicia McAuley
Apr 11, 2019
While walking my eldest son down the hall to his kindergarten class one day in December, another student walking by paused and asked, “why does your hair look like that?” The answer is that it was “wacky hair day” at school, and my little guy was sporting a creative ‘do that he’d requested for the occasion. But there was no time to explain. “It’s stupid,” proclaimed the older child, and he continued on his way.
My heart sank. My son had been so proud of his “cool” hair just five minutes earlier, and now, he looked deflated. I took a deep breath. “That wasn’t very nice, was it?” I asked gently. He shook his head. “But, you know what?” I continued, “Who cares what that kid thinks — what do you think?” He looked me in the eyes, and smiled. “I think it’s cool!” he said. Phew. Thank goodness.
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As I watched my son walk confidently into his classroom to show off his “wacky hair” to his friends, I thought back to his first week of junior kindergarten. His teacher read the class a book called I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont, and had each student identify something that they liked about themselves. For him, it was his curly hair.
Navigating kindergarten can be tough on a little one’s self-esteem. Not only are they subject to brutal honesty from their peers, but they’re also learning a pile of challenging new skills, which can sometimes cause their confidence to falter. On days when my little guy needs a boost, we still reach for I Like Myself!, and over time, we’ve added a few more confidence-building books to our home library as well. Here are a few of our favourite finds.
It’s Okay to Be Different (Written and illustrated by Todd Parr)
This sweet book by Todd Parr lets kids know that the things they might feel sensitive or self-conscious about — whether it’s talking about their feelings or wanting to eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub — are OK. With simple affirmations, Parr reminds little ones that they are special and important, just the way they are. Recommended for ages 0 to 5.
The Lion Inside (Written by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Jim Field)
When a quiet little mouse decides that he needs to learn to roar, he sets out on a journey to get some help from the fiercest creature in the land: a lion! But the results aren’t exactly what he expected. With delightful illustrations by Jim Field, Rachel Bright’s story about finding your voice is sure to resonate with little ones who struggle with shyness. Recommended for ages 3 to 5.
What’s My Superpower? (Written by Aviaq Johnston, Illustrated by Tim Mack)
Set in Nunavut, Aviaq Johnston’s story introduces us to a girl named Nalvana and her super-powered friends. Nalvana’s friends can swing super high and run super fast, and while she is quick to cheer them on, she struggles to find a super power of her own. But Nalvana soon learns that not all super powers are so easy to see, and that sometimes what makes a person special lies within. Recommended for ages 3 to 5.
Where Oliver Fits (Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson)
Oliver is a little puzzle piece that wants to be a part of something exciting, but no mater how hard he tries, he doesn’t quite fit in anywhere. Oliver decides to change himself in order to be accepted by the other puzzle pieces, but quickly discovers that fitting in isn’t fun if you don’t get to be yourself. Paired with gorgeous, colourful illustrations, Cale Atkinson’s story of self-acceptance reminds little ones that being yourself is the most exciting thing of all. Recommended for ages 3 to 7.
I Like Myself! (Written by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow)
The book that started it all! Karen Beaumont’s ode to self-acceptance is a fun read-aloud story, complete with silly rhymes that are guaranteed to give your kiddo the giggles. The vibrant, whimsical illustrations by David Catrow will be a big hit, too. Recommended for ages 4 to 7.
I Am Enough (Written by Grace Byers, Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo)
With affirmations about shining like the sun and standing strong like a mountain, Grace Byers teaches little ones about the power of believing in yourself, trying your best and building a life of love with those around you. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.
I’m Gonna Like Me (Written by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell)
Subtitled “Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem,” this book by Jamie Lee Curtis is all about celebrating yourself, just the way you are. In addition to listing all the ways that the two main characters like themselves, the story offers gentle encouragement about being brave, trying new things and staying positive when things don’t go as planned. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon (Written by Patty Lovell, Illustrated by David Catrow)
Patty Lovell’s story about a happy little girl with buck teeth and a voice like a bullfrog celebrates the power of a positive attitude. Molly Lou Melon may be the shortest girl in first grade, but what she lacks in size, she makes up for in confidence. Thanks to wise life advice from her grandmother, Molly Lou Melon is so confident in herself that even mean words from a boy at her new school can’t bring her down. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.
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