Dyson loves pink, sparkly things. Sometimes he wears dresses. Sometimes he wears jeans. He likes to wear his princess tiara, even when climbing trees. He's a Princess Boy.
It was only a few years ago that a search for “body positive children's books” would have brought up a disappointing and limited amount of options.
But it is officially 2016, and our world has progressed! HURRAH! The measly list is no more!
The human brain is so easily conditioned. Without a word being spoken, the simple elimination of everything except for the “perfect body” in any form of media is enough to instill belief in our young ones that unless they have that desired body, they do not deserve to be seen.
One way to counter this is to fill our children’s line of vision with as many diverse bodies as possible through literature. Bring all sizes, shapes, ages, sexes, genders, abilities, and races into your home and normalize the incredible diversity in our world. Give your child a world in which they AND others belong and deserve to be seen!
Here are 20 diverse children's books for your home that will do just that:
1. Your Body is Awesome: Body Respect for Children: "By learning about all the wonderful things bodies can do, and how each body is different and unique, children will be inspired to take good care of their bodies throughout their lives. Promoting respect for body diversity among children will also encourage kindness and help prevent bullying."
2. It's Okay To Be Different: "It's Okay to Be Different cleverly delivers the important messages of acceptance, understanding, and confidence in an accessible, child-friendly format featuring Todd Parr's trademark bold, bright colors and silly scenes."
3. I Am Jazz: "From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl's brain in a boy's body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn't feel like herself in boys' clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way."
4. Amanda's Big Dream: "We can show kids that there are more respectful ways to view bodies, that they can follow their dreams in whatever body they have, and that self-care is nourishing in and of itself, not something to be undertaken for weight control. This is a 'feel-good' kind of book, with great messages about body respect, eating well, honoring emotions." — Linda Bacon, founder of Health At Every Size
5. Little Miss Jessica Goes to School: "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." — Bustle
6. Brontorina: “Brontorina has a dream. She wants to dance. But Brontorina is [...] too large to fit in Madame Lucille’s dance studio. Brontorina does not have the right shoes, and everyone knows you can’t dance without the proper footwear. Still, Brontorina knows, deep in her heart, that she is meant to be a ballerina.” (Spoiler: the dance teacher is awesome and moves the class outside!)
7. Meet ClaraBelle Blue: "Meet ClaraBelle Blue [...] introduces you to a snazzy little preschooler with major moxy — and a hot pink wheelchair! In Meet ClaraBelle Blue, you see ClaraBelle face the naysayers in her class, and show them all the things she CAN do, and how LIKE THEM she really is, regardless of her challenges." (Bonus: This book was written by the very fabulous Adiba Nelson!)
8. Big Hair, Don't Care: "Lola has really really REALLY big hair, much bigger than the other kids at her school, but that doesn't stop her from telling anyone who will listen just how much she LOVES her hair! It´s not always easy being a kid. Designed to boost self-esteem and build confidence, this beautifully illustrated picture book is aimed at boys and girls who may need a reminder from time to time that it's okay to look different from the other kids at their school."
9. Daddy, There's A Noise Outside: "This engaging story begins when two children are awakened by noises in the middle of the night outside the window of their inner-city neighborhood. Both their Dad and Mom spend the next morning explaining to them what was taking place in their community."
10. Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon (coloring book): "Re-creating nursery rhymes and fairy tales, this radical activity book takes anecdotes from the lives of real kids and mixes them with classic tales to create true-to-life characters, situations, and resolutions. Featuring massive beasts who enjoy dainty, pretty jewelry and princesses who build rocket ships, this fun-for-all-ages coloring book celebrates those who do not fit into disempowering gender categorizations, from sensitive boys to tough girls."
11. Girls Are Not Chicks (coloring book): "A subversive and playful for for children, and adults, to examine how pervasive gender stereotypes are in every aspect of life. This book helps to deconstruct the homogeneity of gender expression in children's media by showing diverse pictures that reinforce positive gender roles for girls."
12. Jacob's New Dress: "Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can’t wear 'girl' clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants? This heartwarming story speaks to the unique challenges faced by boys who don’t identify with traditional gender roles."
13. SuperNatural (coloring book): "SuperNatural is a fun fresh coloring book for colorers of all ages. Featured inside are 17 inspiring superheroes with gloriously curly natural hair. The SuperNaturals have teamed up to solve the world's problems. The only thing they're missing is a bit of color and style."
14. Sex is a Funny Word: "A comic book for kids that includes children and families of all makeups, orientations, and gender identities, Sex Is a Funny Word is an essential resource about bodies, gender, and sexuality for children ages 8 to 10 as well as their parents and caregivers. Much more than the 'facts of life' or 'the birds and the bees.'"
15. My Princess Boy: "Dyson loves pink, sparkly things. Sometimes he wears dresses. Sometimes he wears jeans. He likes to wear his princess tiara, even when climbing trees. He's a Princess Boy. Inspired by the author's son, and by her own initial struggles to understand, this is a heart-warming book about unconditional love and one remarkable family."
16. Stephanie's Ponytail: "None of the kids in her class wear a ponytail, so Stephanie decides she must have one. The loud, unanimous comment from her classmates is: 'Ugly, ugly, very ugly.' Steadfast, when all the girls have copied her ponytail, she resolves to try a new style. With true Munsch flair, each of Stephanie’s ponytails is more outrageous than the last, while the cast of copycats grows and grows."
17. Gender Now (coloring book): "Gender is something relevant to all of us because we all express gender. You may or may not be transgender. You may or may not know a transgender child. The truth is that doesn't matter. We are all on this planet together. Gender Now is meant to provide reflection and support unity by showing multiple genders standing together. It is a specific opportunity to create balance and awareness by including gender expressions that are under-represented in our current culture."
18. Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match: "Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. And don’t even think of asking her to choose one or the other activity at recess — she'll just be a soccer playing pirate princess, thank you very much. Unfortunately, they don’t always make sense to everyone else. Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol — can't she just be one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that’s just fine with her."
19. El Deafo: "Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful — and very awkward — hearing aid."
20. I Like Myself!: “High on energy and imagination, this ode to self-esteem encourages kids to appreciate everything about themselves--inside and out. Messy hair? Beaver breath? So what! Here's a little girl who knows what really matters.”
Are there any other titles you would add to this list? Leave them in the comments below!