I love books. I love words. I believe in the power of information. Information liberates us from oppression. One of the most effective ways that oppressive dictators throughout history have successfully oppressed their people has been through restricting information. Whether through banning or burning books, eliminating a free press, or preventing individuals (most often: females) from accessing education.
On a micro level, abusers do this to victims of domestic violence, progressively limiting contact with outside sources of information and controlling the messages received. When information is limited, it becomes easier to believe the negative, toxic, and oppressive narratives forced onto vulnerable individuals. And it becomes easier to disconnect from one’s own source of internal wisdom and evidence.
The body is the greatest source of healing and best source of evidence, but when individuals are conditioned to distrust their body and mute the messages their body is trying to communicate, individuals begin to perceive their body as the enemy. The body is not the enemy. YOUR body is not the enemy. YOUR CHILD’S body is not the enemy.
Teaching our children to listen to their body and to see it as a partner is one the greatest gifts we can offer them. As a Mom of 3 young girls, I hope my daughters will each grow up to know the power and sacredness of all their bodies have to offer. Below are some of my (and of my daughters) favorite children’s books for teaching body affirming, body trusting, and body boundary-ing lessons, using a broad definition for inclusion. I've organized the list into the following categories, but some belong in more than one category and some categories were difficult to capture in a name: Size/Shape Inspiration, Celebrating Unique Differences, Consent & Body Boundaries, Puberty, Intuitive Eating, Mindfulness/Body Awareness for Kids, Dealing with Big & Angry Feelings, Coping with Disappointment/Failure, Grief/Separation, I’m Here For a Reason, Stories of Rad Girls/Women, Families Look Different, Resting My Body, Random Adds.
Since these books are just pulled from my own personal collection, this list is not all-inclusive and there are some major gaps. Three gaps in my personal collection are books that speak more directly to Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming body issues, books that highlight stories of Individuals with Disabilities, and books that speak directly about issues of race, racism, and resistance, but you can find some great suggestions at those hyperlinks. My family happens to live walking distance from a library so we do a lot of book borrowing of those 3 categories. Helps my wallet’s desire to OWN ALL THE BOOKS (a little...I still buy a lot of books, eek!) We also use the Overdrive app to borrow free e-books and audiobooks on our tablets; an easy, fun way to introduce new books, especially on car rides! You can find more resources at A Mighty Girl, which does a great job of compiling more extensive, comprehensive lists of books and resources, including their list of 25 Body Image Positive Books for Mighty Girls. Finally, I asked some other Health at Every Size, Body Loving colleagues for their favorites--you can find them below.
Title: Amanda's Big Dream
Author: Judith Matz
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That you can follow your dreams in any body. That it's wrong to limit someone because of their weight. That it's okay to talk to others about your feelings.
Author: James Howe
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That if a space is not big enough for a body, we should change the space (or find a new one!) to accommodate the body; not change the body. That everyone should do what they love. That ALL bodies deserve respect and deserve to be included. That every body can find the ways it wants to move (or stay still).
Title: Elephants Cannot Dance!
Author: Mo Willems
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That bodies of all shapes, sizes, and abilities have something to offer the world. That there is no *right* or *wrong* way to move our bodies. To be curious and open to learning about our own body's desired way to move.
Title: Giraffes Can't Dance!
Author: Giles Andreae
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That everyone should do what they love. That bodies of all shapes, sizes, and abilities can find movement that fits their bodies. That there is no *right* or *wrong* way to dance. To not let others limit our accessing joy in our bodies.
Title: Shapesville Authors: Andy Mills & Becky Osborn What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That bodies come in all shapes and sizes. That there is value to all shapes and sizes. That ALL bodies deserve respect and affirmation.
CELEBRATING UNIQUE DIFFERENCES
Title: Buford The Little Bighorn
Author: Bill Peet
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That our unique qualities are often our strengths. That it's okay to be different. That we can overcome obstacles in our way. That we can find others who will support and celebrate us, even if that means going outside our immediate families.
Title: The Dot
Author: Peter Reynolds
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That we all have creativity within us. That it can be fun to experiment, be curious, and try something new. That we all have something important to offer the world.
Title: Harry The Dirty Dog (Harry el Perrito Sucio)
Author: Gene Zion
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That our physical appearance does not change who we are at our core, even if others may not recognize us. (okay....and that it's okay to take a bath...ha!)
Title: How Fletcher Was Hatched
Author: Wende & Harry Devlin
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That we don't have to change who we are to be loved. That it's okay to be ourselves. That comparing ourselves to others gets in the way of experiencing joy in ourselves.
Title: The Missing Piece
Author: Shel Silverstein
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That satisfaction lies in rejecting the idea that there is a magic bullet that will make us happy. That we can connect with others and still be our own individual selves.
Title: The Missing Piece Meets The Big "O"
Author: Shel Silverstein
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That healthy relationships don't complete us but let us grow and become more fully ourselves. That sometimes what we are searching for is already within ourselves.
Title: Spaghetti in a Hotdog Bun
Author: Maria Dismondy
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That it's okay to be different. That bullying or body shaming is never okay. That we can learn ways to advocate for ourselves and reach out for help. That we can still choose to be kind to others (as opposed to bullying).
Title: You're Different & That's Super
Author: Carson Kressley
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That it's okay to be different. That our unique differences are often are strengths. That we can find ways to channel our challenges into meaningful experiences.
Title: The Zabbit
Author: Jim Walkow
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That it is okay to be different. That our unique qualities are often our strengths. To always be kind, especially to ourselves and others.
CONSENT & BODY BOUNDARIES
Title: It's My Body
Author: Lory Freeman
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That their body is their own. That it's okay to say No to unwanted touch. How to say No when others touch us without consent.
Title: Let's Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent, & Respect
Author: Jayneen Sanders
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That their body belongs to no one else but themselves. Why consent is important. That it is okay to say NO to unwanted touch or when someone comes into your body boundary. How to access a safety network. How to respect others' bodies and that their own bodies deserve respect.
Title: My Body Is Private
Author: Linda Girard
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That it's okay to say No to unwanted touch (even from family members). How to navigate situations that feel uncomfortable.
Title: Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls
Author: Sonya Renee Taylor
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That it's okay to talk about bodies, puberty, sex, consent, menstruation, and desire.
Title: Carla's Sandwich
Author: Debbie Herman
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That it is okay to have fun with food. That we all have different tastes, likes, and dislikes. That it can be fun to be curious and experiment with new foods and tastes. That it is wrong to judge other's food choices, likes, or dislikes.
Title: Peeny Butter Fudge
Author: Toni Morrison & Slade Morrison
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That food can be fun and filled with loving associations. That food can bring people together. That food is often an important part of individual family memories, histories, and culture.
Title: What Does My Tummy Say?
Author: Maryann Jacobsen
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That we can trust what our bodies, intuition, and hungers are telling us. That it is okay to trust our appetite and ignore others' diet chatter and rules about eating.
MINDFULNESS/BODY AWARENESS FOR KIDS
Title: Breathe Like a Bear
Author: Kira Willey
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That you can use your body as a tool. That it's okay to slow down and be still. That it's fun to explore and be curious with your body. Lots of ways to be mindful, calm, and focused, using our body.
Title: I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness
Author: Susan Verde
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That even when the world feels chaotic, we can find peace within our bodies and experiences. A guided imagery they can use to experience mindfulness.
Title: Listening to My Body
Author: Gabi Garcia
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That their body is their greatest source of information, evidence, and wisdom. Ways to identify their bodily responses, sensations and feelings. Ways to calm themselves, focus, and express what they need.
DEALING WITH BIG & ANGRY FEELINGS
Title: Sometimes I Like to Fight, But I Don't Do It Much Anymore
Author: Lawrence E. Shapiro
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That anger can be a healthy emotion when it doesn't hurt others or oneself. That it is okay to talk about your feelings. That there are those out there who want to help. That there are ways to express our feelings in lots of different ways.
Title: What Are You So Grumpy About?
Author: Tom Lichtenheld
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That sometimes it is lots of little things that add up to make us feel bad. That it is okay to have big feelings AND we can sometimes uses kind and gentle humor to help us feel better.
COPING WITH DISAPPOINTMENT & FAILURE
Title: The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
Author: Mark Pett & Gary Rubinstein
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That it's okay to make mistakes. That we can grow and learn from our failures. That kind humor about (and with) ourselves can be restorative and connecting.
Title: Pete the Cat & His Four Groovy Buttons
Author: James Dean & Eric Litwin
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That life doesn't always go as expected but that we can keep choosing joy, even amidst disappointment or loss.
Title: The Invisible String
Author: Patrice Karst
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That even when we are apart, we are always connected. That when we're missing loved ones (whether through death, divorce, or physical separation), we can use our mind and body to feel close to the ones we miss.
Title: The Fall of Freddy The Leaf
Author: Leo Buscalgia
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That death is a normal part of life. That there is beautiful meaning in death. That it is okay to talk about and reflect on death and loss.
Title: No Smile Cookies Today
Author: Kathy Kennedy Tapp
Extra Note: This book is specific to helping children cope with pregnancy loss experienced by their parents.
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That it is okay to talk about death, grief, and loss. That it's also okay to go and play and not think or talk about death, grief, and loss. That their mothers's pregnancy loss is never their fault.
Title: When Dinosaurs Die
Author: Laurie Krasny Brown & Marc Brown
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That it's okay to talk about death, grief, and loss. That there are no bad feelings. Ways to understand death better and ways to cope with feelings about death.
I'M HERE FOR A REASON
Title: God Gave Us You
Author: Lisa Tawn Bergren
Extra Note: As the title implies, this has a religious (though general, non-denominational) frame, which may not speak to some families.
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That they are wanted, loved, embraced, and cherished. That they are here for a reason.
Title: You're Here For a Reason
Author: Nancy Tillman
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That they are here for a reason and purpose. That the world would be incomplete without them. That their unique characteristics and strengths offer something important to the world and those around them.
STORIES OF RAD GIRLS/WOMEN
Title: Ada Twist, Scientist
Author: Andrea Beaty
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That science and figuring out how things work is fun. That it is okay to ask questions and curiosity is powerful. That girls can do more than just focus on appearance.
Title: The Daring Book for Girls
Author: Miriam Peskowitz
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That girls can do anything boys can do. That there are SO many different things to learn and do (e.g., camping, making paper, bird-watching, chemistry, learning about female heroines, etc).
Title: I Dissent
Author: Debbie Levy
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That disagreeing does not make you disagreeable. That girls can aspire to be in the top positions in our government. That you can use your voice to help others and to enact social change.
Title: Rad Women, Worldwide
Author: Kate Schatz
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That girls and women from around the world have had great impact on our world. That they can aspire to be more than *just* a princess.
Title: Rosie Revere, Engineer
Author: Andrea Beaty
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That it is fun to build new things and come up with solutions to problems. That there is inspiration all around us. That failure is an important part of discovery and creation. That girls can be engineers!!
FAMILIES LOOK DIFFFERENT
Title: The Daddy Book & The Mommy Book
Author: Todd Parr
Extra Note: Todd Parr has a series of books that celebrate differences, multiculturalism, and emotional development.
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That Mommies and Daddies come in many different forms. That Mommies and Daddies are special in their own unique ways.
Title: The Water Princess
Author: Susan Verde
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That it's important to have empathy for and awareness of how others in the world live. That we have privileges (like clean water) that it is important to be aware of. That we should work toward a day when all have access to clean water.
Title: The Turquoise Boy
Author: Terri Cohlene
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That it's important to have empathy for and awareness of how others in the world live. That we as people need each other. That family (given or chosen family) is important. That when we use our creative minds, we can find ways to make the lives of others easier.
RACE, RACISM, & RESISTANCE: BLACK VOICES
Title: Hidden Figures
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That there are important Black women in our American history. That science and statistics can be fun and cool. That persistence and a good work ethic are valuable traits.
Title: Natalie's Hair Was Wild
Author: Laura Freeman
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That big, curly hair is beautiful. That Black hair is beautiful. That curly hair needs to be cared for and that it is OKAY to get your hair cut.
Title: I Am Harriet Tubman
Author: Brad Meltzer
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That there are important Black women in our American history. That ALL bodies deserve freedom. That we should all care and help our fellow human beings. That fighting for social justice and freedom is important.
Title: Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
Author: Vashti Harrison
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That there are MANY important Black women in our American history. That Black female bodies are important and valuable bodies.
Title: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
Author: Phillip Hoose
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That there are important Black women in our American history. That fighting for social justice and freedom is important. That ALL bodies deserve equal rights. That bodies can do brave, scary things.
Title: Underground Railroad (American Girl: Real Stories From My Time)
Author: Bonnie Bader
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That there are MANY important Black women and men in our American history. That ALL bodies deserve equal rights. That inequality is wrong. That bodies can do brave, scary things.
Title: Who Was Rosa Parks?
Author: Yona Zeldis McDonough
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That there are MANY important Black women in our American history. That ALL bodies deserve equal rights. That inequality is wrong. That bodies can do brave, scary things.
RESTING MY BODY
Titles of Audiobooks: The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep &
The Little Elephant Who Wants To Fall Asleep
Author: Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin
Titles of Audiobooks: Mermaids and Fairy Dust &
Bedtime Meditations for Kids
Author: Christiane Kerr
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That we can use our mind and our body to help us calm down and rest. That sleep is important to our wellness. That sleep is a way of connecting to our body. That it is okay to put our worries away when it's time for bed.
Title: C Walks Upstairs By Herself
Author: Maria Paredes
Extra Note: This is an example of a Social Story. A social story is a tool for helping children learn new skills, social cues, confidence, perspective, or appropriate behavior in various environmental situations. They were created to help children with Autism but are now used with a wide range of children for a wide range of issues. Click on the hyperlink above to read step-by-step instructions for creating one. Good social stories are short and individualized to the reader, and include self-coping or self-regulatory statements and models for appropriate behavior. If you'd like the text for this social story, shoot me an email and I'll send you the script!
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: For this specific social story, that it's safe to walk upstairs, even if it feels scary sometimes. For social stories in general, that we can be brave and learn new things, even when we're afraid.
Title: The Girl Who Got Out of Bed
Author: Betsy Childs
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That we can use our mind to help us calm down and rest. That sleep is important to our wellness.
Title: Hope For the Flowers
Author: Trina Paulus
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That following the crowd sometimes takes us away from our purpose. That it's okay to go down your own path. That there is hope in the darkness.
Title: The Story of the Little Mole who went in Search of Whodunit
Author: Werner Holzwarth & Wolf Erlbruch
Extra Note: This is a good one for kids who may be experiencing encopresis secondary to stool-holding.
What I Hope My Kids Will Learn: That bodily functions are normal. That bodies work in lots of different ways. That it's okay to have some kind humor with and about our bodily functions. That everybody poops!!!
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM OTHER HAES
BODY LOVING PROFESSIONALS
Anna Metz Lutz, MPH, RD, CEDRD
Yoko by Rosemary Wells
Free to Be You and Me by Marlo Thomas
Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth
Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Grace Wong, Rd, MSc, CEDRD
Amanda's Big Dream by Judith Matz
Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin
I Love You All the Same by Dnna Keith
When Miles Got Mad by Abbie Schiller & Sam Kurtzman-Counter
Megan Hadley, RD
God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies
by Justin S. Holcomb and Lindsey A. Holcomb
Paige Smathers, RDN, CD
Malala's Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton
Jenna Hollenstein, MS, RD, CDN
Visiting Feelings by Lauren Rubenstein
Quick Like a Cricket by Audrey Wood
Stacey Rosenfeld, CGP, CEDS
The Family Book & any of Todd Parr’s books!
Melanie Triche, MS, EdS, NBCT
Your Body Is Awesome by Sigrun Danielsdottir
Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen
How To Be Comfortable in Your Own Feathers by Julia Cook
Katherine Zavodni, MPH, RDN
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Amanda’s Big Dream by Judith Matz
Any of the Rebel Girls books