The minds of children are very impressionable, which is why it is so important to consistently provide them with books about why it's important to love one's self. The books on this list are 30 of the best children's books themed around self-esteem, personal value, and staying true to oneself. Each book was carefully chosen for its overall message, most importantly, but also its storyline, illustrations, and general popularity amongst both children and parents.
This classic picture book is about a girl names Grace, whose favorite pastime is writing her own stories to act out for her family and friends. When her school holds auditions for Peter Pan, the talented Grace is heartbroken to hear that she can't be Peter because she's a girl — and black. It's Grace's grandmother who teaches her that if she has enough confidence and determination, she can be whatever her heart desires.
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
When Nate sees a ballet, he finds himself so inspired that he signs up for dance class. But when his friends, including his brother, begin to make fun of his newfound passion, Nate loses both his confidence and his desire to do what he loves. But with the support of his mother and a new friend, Nate realizes that it's important to follow one's dream, even if it is unexpected or different.
Calvin Can't Fly
Calvin may be a bird, but he can't fly. Rather, he is much happier reading books! When the time for migration rolls around, Calvin finds he must depend upon his siblings to help him along the way. Though Calvin feels some shame in having to depend on others, the whole family realizes the importance of differences when Calvin's love of books and learning ends up saving the day.
Chrysanthemum, by beloved children's author Kevin Henkes, tells the story of a little mouse with a name inspired by the beauty of nature. Chrysanthemum loves her name — until she goes to school and is teased. When children try to smell her like they would a flower, Chrysanthemum begins to believe that she would be better off with a name that is more "normal." Fortunately, Chrysanthemum is reminded by a caring teacher of how special it can be to be different.
The Crown on Your Head
Nancy Tillman is well-known for her lovely stories about the love parents have for their children, and The Crown on Your Head is no different. In this story, parents of all kinds tell their children that they are born with a crown on their heads — that is, a special something that makes us unique and never leaves us.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The first of two beloved Amy Krouse Rosenthal books to make our list of the best children's book about self-esteem, Exclamation Point is the story of — you guessed it — an exclamation point, who desperately wants to be something other than himself. But the more he tries to change, the more he realizes that he is important and necessary.
Flight School features a young penguin who wants nothing more than to learn to fly — even though he lacks the streamlined shape of a flying bird. Through sheer determination, a healthy dose of confidence, and with the help of some very good friends, the penguin is able to make his dream of soaring like an eagle a reality.
Giraffes Can't Dance
In this best-selling picture book by Giles Andreae, tall and awkward Gerald the giraffe wants nothing more than to join in on the annual dance party. But when the other animals make fun of Gerald's clumsiness, he becomes self-conscious. It's only when Gerald embraces his differences that he truly learns that "we all can dance . . . when we find the music that we love."
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
The desire for perfection can be debilitating for children, but Mark Pett's The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes can show young readers that no one is truly perfect — and that's okay. The book tells the story of nine-year old Beatrice Bottomwell, who must decide how to act when she makes a very big mistake in a very public way.
Good Little Wolf
Rolf is a good little wolf, but when the Big Bad Wolf convinces him that he must do mean things to others in order to prove he's a real wolf, Rolf doesn't know what to do. After some big mistakes, Rolf realizes that it's better to be nice — even if that means sometimes going against the crowd or being perceived as different.
I Like Me!
Perfect for any young reader, Nancy Carlson's classic book I Like Me! features a peppy pig who is full of confidence! She rejoices over all the things we have to feel good about, from the way we look, to our individual talents, to the way we can pick ourselves up again after making a mistake.
I Like Myself
Karen Beaumont's I Like Myself is a humorous book about a girl who is just bursting with self acceptance and confidence. Through funny, colorful pictures, young readers are sure to take to heart in this book about liking yourself for who you are.
I Want Your Moo: A Story for Children About Self-Esteem
Marcella Baker Weiner
From her brown features to her "gobble gobble," there is nothing Toodles the turkey likes about herself. When Toodles goes on a journey around the farm to search for new characteristics and features — things she believes will bring her happiness — she comes to realize that everything about her is exactly the way it's supposed to be. I Want Your Moo is a fun, sometimes even silly, book that teaches young readers about self-acceptance.
I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem
Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell
This #1 bestseller features inspiring text and fun pictures to show kids that it's okay to like yourself. The book features both a boy and a girl narrator, who take turns telling the reader why they like themselves, and how being confident in yourself leads to happiness.
This charming children's book about self-esteem and friendship features a girl who is very proud of her friend Evelyn. Though she describes all of the things that make Evelyn amazing, it quickly becomes apparent that the girl does not feel as if she herself is quite as amazing or worthy. But one thing Evelyn is especially good at is being a good friend, and she helps the girl to realize just how wonderful she really is.
It's Okay to Be Different
Todd Parr is one of children's most beloved authors, and It's Okay to Be Different is one of his masterpieces. Portraying typical Parr-style illustrations, this fun book highlights all the ways in which it's not only okay, but awesome to be unique.
When a teacher discovers the students in her special education class refer to themselves as "the Junkyard," she takes the children to a real junkyard, where she shows them that it happens to be an excellent place to find hidden treasures. Besides the wonderful storyline and beautiful illustrations, parents and children will appreciate the fact that Junkyard Wonders is based on the actual experiences of its bestselling author, Patricia Polacco.
Leo the Late Bloomer
Robert Kraus's Leo the Late Bloomer tells the story of a young lovable tiger, who doesn't seem to quite fit in with the other tigers his age. Though Leo loses confidence each time he's left behind, it's his mother who reminds him that not every tiger is the same, and that it's okay to take a little longer to gain one's tigerness.
Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match / Marisol McDonald no combina
Marisol McDonald is both Peruvian and Scottish — a fact that her friend Ollie tells her makes her "mismatched." When Ollie challenges her to be more normal, Marisol realizes just how special all of her mismatched features really are, and finds she is happiest just being herself. This delightful book, which features lots of vibrant illustrations, is written in both English and Spanish.
Nerdy Birdy isn't quite like the other birds. While Cardinal, Robin, and Eagle like all the things considered "cool," Nerdy Birdy is just fine reading books and playing video games. Though he is happy when he makes a group of like-minded friends, his character is tested when a new bird shows up and is need of some acceptance.
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink
Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink is a must-read for any young girl, who is sure to take delight in the colorful illustrations of girls partaking in everything from farming, to dancing, to fighting even sorcerers. Through fun rhymes, this book reveals the important lesson that not all girls need look and act the same to be a princess — and that's okay.
Not Your Typical Dragon
Crispin isn't quite like the other dragons. Instead of fire, Crispin breathes things like whipped cream and bubbles. When he meets a knight called St. George, who is also trying to live up to a certain set of standards, the two become friends. Together, they realize that it's okay to be different.
Some sneetches have a star on their tummy, while others do not. When the Sneetches with stars begin to believe they are superior, those without stars become jealous. Young readers are sure to love the funny names and traditional Seussian illustrations, but more importantly they will learn the valuable lessons of tolerance and self-worth.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Amy Krouse Rosenthal's beloved picture book features the sad Spoon, who is upset because he doesn't feel nearly as amazing or useful as the other cutlery. But when Spoon hears that others are jealous of his abilities, he comes to realize that it's the differences that make each utensil unique and important.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
Through witty storytelling and delightful illustrations, Patty Lovell's Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon tells the story of Molly Lou, who moves away from the home she's always known only to be bullied for her height and not-so-perfect teeth. Happily, Molly Lou is able to find joy in her new home after receiving some helpful advice from a friend.
The Story of Ferdinand
Munro Leaf's The Story of Ferdinand has been teaching children the important lesson of staying true to oneself since it was first published in 1936. The book tells the story of Ferdinand, a peaceful and lovable bull, whose favorite pastime is sitting under his favorite tree. But when he is stung by a bee on the day that five men come to the farm to choose the "biggest, fastest, roughest bull" for the bullfighting ring, Ferdinand is stuck between staying true to his pacifist nature and living up to others' expectations.
Unstoppable Me: 10 Ways to Soar Through Life
Dr. Wayne Dyer
Bestselling author Dr. Wayne Dyer introduces 10 different principles, from stress management to creativity, to help kids realize the importance of self-confidence and positive thinking. Each principle is colorfully illustrated and provides young readers with age-appropriate positive affirmations for which Dyer is so well known.
There's a good reason Wonder has remained a New York Times best seller for years — it's a great book about self-esteem! Wonder tells the story of August, a boy born with a facial deformity. When August attends school for the first time in 5th grade, he must deal with peers who are less than understanding in order to find acceptance and self-worth.
You Are Special
Max Lucado's award-winning book You Are Special tells the story of the Wemmicks, Pinocchio-like wooden dolls who segregate themselves based on markings of dots and stars. When Punchinello is labeled with gray dots, he begins to believe he is worthless. Fortunately, he meets a friend who is able to teach him what actually defines a person.
This delightful book uses counting and math puns to teach young readers (and their parents) the importance of self-value, self-worth, and even acceptance of different body types. The way Zero sees it, she isn't like the other numbers. They count and have value, whereas she is devoid of value and is empty inside. Though she tries to stretch herself into a one, Zero finally realizes she is unable to be anything but herself.