Nine Books to Teach Kids About Body Positivity

This guest post was written by Audrey Vinkenes, a First Book Marketing and Communications Intern. She is currently a grad student at the University of Helsinki in Helsinki, Finland.

It’s never too early to encourage children to feel positive about their bodies! According to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s National Poll on Children’s Health, almost two-thirds of kids between the ages of eight and 18 report feeling insecure about their bodies in some way. Many parents and educators are looking for ways to help young people around them feel more body positive. Books are an excellent way for kids to feel accepted, and to help them understand and celebrate children who may look different than them. Here are nine of our favorite books teaching kids to love themselves as they are.

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collage of book covers about body positivity

Our Reading List

Starfish by Lisa Fipps

image of the book cover for Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Recommended for ages 10-18

Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules—like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space—her swimming pool—where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life—by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

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The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves

An image of The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves

Recommended for ages 14-18

David Espinoza is tired of being messed with. When a video of him getting knocked down by a bully’s slap goes viral at the end of junior year, David vows to use the summer to bulk up—what he thinks it takes to become a man—and wow everyone when school starts back up in the fall.

David starts to spend all his time at a nearby gym that’s full of bodybuilders. Frustrated with his slow progress at first, his life eventually becomes all about his muscle gains. As it says on the gym wall: That which does not kill me makes me stronger.

As David falls into the dark side of the bodybuilding world, pursuing his ideal body at all costs, he’ll have to grapple with the fact that it could actually cost him everything.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Right?

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Faith #2: Greater Heights by Julie Murphy

An image of Faith Great Heights by Julie Murphy

Recommended for ages 13-18

From Julie Murphy, bestselling author of Dumplin’, comes the exciting conclusion in the two-book origin story of fan-favorite comic character Faith—a fierce, plus-size superhero.

Faith Herbert can finally admit that she’s not a regular teen. Thankfully, her two best friends, Matt and Ches, are now in on her superhero secret. But after the chaos of her first semester, Faith just wants to end her senior year on a normal note—enjoying all the hallmarks of graduating high school—like prom! And, possibly, getting to attend college in the fall.

A new teacher has taken over journalism class, and Faith is only occasionally reminded of the empty spot left by Colleen Bristow, the quiet nerd-turned-supervillain. That is, until Faith hears from Peter that other psiots have been going missing, and he suspects that her old classmate is somehow involved. Faith decides the only way to get to the bottom of it is to find Colleen—before enemies can get to her first.

As her search starts to collide with the memorable senior year she’s been hoping for, Faith learns that you gotta have faith…that sometimes fate will point you in the right direction.

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Disability Visibility: 17 First-Person Stories for Today edited by Alice Wong

An image of disability visibility by Alice Wong

Recommended for ages 12-18

The seventeen eye-opening essays in Disability Visibility, all written by disabled people, offer keen insight into the complex and rich disability experience, examining life’s ableism and inequality, its challenges and losses, and celebrating its wisdom, passion, and joy.

The accounts in this collection ask readers to think about disabled people, not as individuals who need to be “fixed” but as members of a community with its own history, culture, and movements. They offer diverse perspectives that speak to past, present, and future generations. It is essential reading for all.

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Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone

An image of dresscoded by Carrie Firestone

Recommended for ages 10-18

Molly Frost is FED UP…

Because Olivia was yelled at for wearing a tank top.

Because Liza got dress coded and Molly didn’t, even though they were wearing the exact same outfit.

Because when Jessica was pulled over by the principal and missed a math quiz, her teacher gave her an F.

Because it’s impossible to find shorts that are longer than her fingertips.

Because girls’ bodies are not a distraction.

Because middle school is hard enough.

And so Molly starts a podcast where girls can tell their stories, and before long, her small rebellion swells into a revolution. Because now the girls are standing up for what’s right, and they’re not backing down.

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Be Your Own Best Friend FOREVER! by Gary Robinson

An image of be your own best friend forever by gary robinson

Recommended for ages 9-12

Be Your Own Best Friend FOREVER! is packed with inspiring tips for any girl who doubts herself or is the subject of exclusion or body shaming. Jayla, the confident young person sharing her advice, takes pride in being Black, Native American, Asian American and Latina. She steers readers away from negative self-talk with proven strategies: If kids are mean to you, make new friends. If a TV program tells you to change how you look, change the channel! Replace negative talk with positive talk the Jayla way, by replacing the voice of self-doubt and self-hate with the voice of self-love and light. With engaging illustrations and Jayla’s great facial expressions, the reader will come to realize that once she believes in herself, she will always have a best friend!

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Stella’s Stellar Hair by Yesenia Moises

An image of Stella's Stella Hair by Yesenia Moises

Recommended for ages 4-8

It’s the day of the Big Star Little Gala, and Stella’s hair just isn’t acting right! What’s a girl to do?

Simple! Just hop on her hoverboard, visit each of her fabulous aunties across the solar system, and find the perfect hairdo along the way.

Stella’s Stellar Hair celebrates the joy of self-empowerment, shows off our solar system, and beautifully illustrates a variety of hairstyles from the African diaspora. Backmatter provides more information about each style and each planet.

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Wheelchair Rugby Rush by Jake Maddox

An image of Jake Maddox's book Wheelchair Rugby Rush

Recommended for ages 8-11

When Robinson learns about wheelchair rugby during Super Sports Saturday, he can’t wait to try it. But then his family moves to Alabama to help take care of his grandma after she gets hurt. But Robinson’s in luck—his dad tells him about an organization called the Shore that has a wheelchair rugby team. Robinson’s in for quite a rush as he learns a new sport—and some important lessons about life. Find out in this exciting, easy-to-read chapter book by Jake Maddox!

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Yes! No! A First Conversation About Consent by Megan Madison

An image of Yes! No! A First Conversation about consent by Megan Madison

Recommended for ages 2-5

Developed by experts in the fields of early childhood and activism against injustice, this topic-driven board book offers clear, concrete language and imagery to introduce the concept of CONSENT. This book serves to normalize and celebrate the experience of asking for and being asked for permission to do something involving one’s body. It centers on respect for bodily autonomy, and reviews the many ways that one can say or indicate “NO”.

While young children are avid observers and questioners of their world, adults often shut down or postpone conversations on complicated topics because it’s hard to know where to begin. Research shows that talking about issues like race, gender, and our bodies from the age of two not only helps children understand what they see, but also increases self-awareness, self-esteem, and allows them to recognize and confront things that are unfair, like discrimination and prejudice.

These books offer a supportive approach that considers both the child and the adult. Illustrative art accompanies the simple and interactive text, and the backmatter offers additional resources and ideas for extending this discussion.

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