Family life is a fully-body endeavor and experience. There’s little you do that doesn’t utilize some part of your physical self, and yet that same self so often receives negative feedback—from external messages and internal criticism. With all the pressures and hurdles parents face, it can be tough to help children achieve their own positive self images.
Written by pediatricians and people who are in larger bodies, disabled bodies, and bodies otherwise “deviant” from popular standards, these books help young ones take an open approach to acceptance.
by Rebecca Alexander
This isn’t a bunch of platitudes commonly heard in the “love yourself” movement: “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” or “What you look like doesn’t matter.” Author Rebecca Alexander understands comments like these are no match against social media pressures to achieve the latest marker of a “beautiful” body. The goal of this book is to help kids move internalized negative feelings outward—calling out industries that profit off insecurities. “Here’s the real truth: nothing about you needs to be fixed.” Another truth to soak in: bodies are amazing and do really cool things every single day.
Reading/comprehension level: Uses plain language and not too much text, accessible for younger readers
by Tyler Feder
Representation matters. That’s where Bodies Are Cool comes in. If your kid is not seeing their body shown in the public eye as “the way to be,” pick up this book. There’s no one way to be—there are “round bodies, muscled bodies, curvy curves and straight bodies, jiggly-wiggly fat bodies.” No matter what description applies, be it shape, color, or texture, Feder reminds readers: “Bodies are cool!” Alongside the cheerful text are colorful images of people enjoying everyday life at a dance class, picnic, the beach, and a party.
Reading/comprehension level: Suitable for preschoolers, uplifting for all ages
by Nabela Noor; illustrated by Nabi H. Ali
It’s Zubi’s first day of school! She was really happy, that is until she heard her mother complaining about being “too big” while looking in the mirror, her sister going on a diet to look good for a dance, and her classmates being critical of each other’s bodies. These comments make her wonder if there’s something wrong with her own body and how she looks. Zubi’s fears of being sad and getting made fun of bubble over until her family realizes what they’ve been doing wrong. The family comes together around a new definition for beauty: embracing who you are and helping others do the same.
Reading/comprehension level: Simple language for picture book readers, sprinkled with some Bangla language vocabulary and Bangladeshi cultural references
by Justine Green; illustrated by Ana Luisa Silva
Young Justine never noticed there was something different about herself, until others pointed it out—she’s missing an ear. The townspeople cried out: “‘You are missing a piece of you!’ ‘You must feel sad or lonely…’” After some convincing, Justine is able to stand up for herself and teach others a lesson about accepting vs. trying to “fix.” Author Justine Green, Ed.D. writes from experience, she was born with two conditions that affected one ear’s inner and outer growth. She used her disability as motivation and found passion in teaching readers that everyone’s imperfections are what make them perfect.
Reading/comprehension level: Easy; Silva’s expressive illustrations also help little ones gauge the characters’ emotions.
by Julie Murphy
Waylon Russell Brewer is a fat, gay teen, and proud of it—but these things don’t make his high school experience much easier. “There are times when I feel like I can’t be me. I can’t simply exist. I have to offer something in exchange. Something that absolves me of being fat and gay and even worse—both of those things at once.” When his audition tape for his favorite TV drag show, Fiercest of Them All, accidentally gets shared with his peers, Waylon leans on support from his sister and her girlfriend to make the most of the situation, and show that sometimes, “you just have to take it upon yourself to cut your own pattern.”
Reading/comprehension level: Recommended for ages 13 to 17
by Dr. Melisa Holmes, Dr. Trish Hutchison, and Dr. Kathryn Lowe
This American Academy of Pediatrics publication, coming in April 2022, embraces an inclusive, gender-affirming approach to puberty education. Pediatricians/authors Trish Hutchinson, Melissa Holmes, and Kathryn Lowe offer adolescents and parents a fact-based, age-appropriate, and body-positive guide to physical, social, and emotional changes ahead. Topics include fluctuations in confidence and anxiety, hygiene practices, chest binders for trans and gender nonconforming kids, and why it’s important for all kids to learn about menstruation.
Reading/comprehension level: Best suited for kids ages nine to 13 or grade levels four through eight, and their parents
Parents, here are some for you, too!
- Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison
- The Eating Instinct by Virginia Sole-Smith
- Hunger by Roxane Gay
- Unashamed: Musings of a Fat, Black Muslim by Leah Vernon
- You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar
- Sick Enough: A Guide to the Medical Complications of Eating Disorders by Jennifer Gaudiani
Read more about teaching body acceptance, plus expert tips for eating and movement, here.