Fostering a healthy relationship with food and body in our children can seem increasingly difficult in our society. Children, especially young girls, are feeling dissatisfied with their bodies at younger and younger ages. Sadly, the average age girls are experiencing feeling of body shame is 9-10 years old, with 50% American girls reporting they are “unhappy with their bodies” by age 13. Media depictions of how girls should appear seem to be the biggest driver in body dissatisfaction among girls.
Fortunately, there are many ways to promote self-esteem and body acceptance in our children. One of the most influential ways to improve our children’s self-image is through positive messages in books. Exposing children to books and conversation that help introduce bodies of all sizes, shapes, and colors, can have profound effects on their future self-esteem.
Here are twelve body positive books for children at different ages.
I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont – This imaginative book is filled with fun illustrations, creative rhymes, and encouraging messages about loving yourself–inside and out. Stinky breath? Purple polka dotted lips? So what! Nothing is better than being me.
I Love All of Me by Lorie Ann Grover– Find all the joyus ways the sweet babies in this book love themselves. This book is excellent in showing diverse races/ethnicities. And who doesn’t need to hear, “I love my tummy bump.”
Brontorina by James Howe – Brontorina the dinosaur fearlessly follows her dream to be a star ballerina. This book makes it possible for the reader to identify and empathize with Brontorina regardless of their own size, shape, or gender.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers – Beautifully written and illustrated, this book by activist Grace Byers emphasizes girls of different skin tones and body sizes. The underlying message highlights contentment and belief in yourself.
Your Body Is Awesome – by Sigrun Danielsdottir – The theme of body appreciation is portrayed in this book through unique illustrations and educational body messages. Diversity. The book ends with “A Message for Adults,” calling attention to the link between body dissatisfaction, lower self-esteem, and increased mental health problems.
Bodies are Cool by Tyler Feder – “All bodies are good bodies” is a prominent message throughout this book. Portrayed are people of all skin tones, shapes, ages, and hair types. Inclusivity is promoted through details like scars, insulin pumps, wheelchairs, and hearing aids.
What Does Your Tummy Say by Maryann Jacobsen – Empowers children to trust their appetite, listen to their intuitions, and eat in a mindful manner. This can promote meaningful conversations between parents and children about healthy ways to regulate food.
The Ugly Truth (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5) by Jeff Kinney– This hugely popular graphic novel series fills the need for self-esteem boosting books just for boys. The hero Greg deals with insecurities, puberty, and bullying, while learning that being yourself is just fine.
Middle School through teen years
Love Your Body: Your Body Can Do Amazing Things by Jessica Sanders – This empowering book illustrates the importance of self-love and self-care to girls approaching puberty age. It focuses on appreciating all bodies regardless of any “flaws.
Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls by Sonya Renee Taylor – acclaimed social justice activist Sonya Renee Taylor wrote this guide to puberty which encourages girls through excitement and empowerment. All types of bodies and skin tones are represented and celebrated in this book.
A Smart Girl’s Guide: Body Image – part of the Smart Girl’s Guide series from American Girl, this book has activities, crafts, and the overarching message that all bodies deserve love and respect.
My Body’s Superpower by Maryann Jacobsen – written by a family nutrition expert, this educational guide easily explains the how and why of body changes during puberty. Understanding puberty through this lens can help prevent disordered eating and mental health problems surrounding this time of significant body changes.
Author: Andrea Cox, RDN, LD