♥ Books that Encourage Children to Be Themselves! ♥

Rachael, from Literacy with the Littles, is here to share some of her favorite books that encourage children to be comfortable with their true selves. Rachael is a first grade teacher who is now enjoying some time at home with her twin daughters and her son. These are books she would recommend both for parents and for primary teachers. Thanks, Rachael!




BOOKS That ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO BE THEMSELVES

From Rachael: My oldest starts Kindergarten this year. I am so excited for him to learn, grow, and make new friends. He has the sweetest heart and I want more than anything for him to stay true to himself and not change who he is because of others around him. I don’t want him to change based on what his classmates think is “cool.” So that is the inspiration behind why I chose to share some of my absolute favorite books that encourage children to be themselves. So that we, as teachers and parents, can use these stories to show children that they are special, exactly as they are.



1. “A BAD CASE OF THE STRIPES” WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED BY: DAVID SHANNON

I read this to my class EVERY year, and for good reason. This book always leads to wonderful discussions about the importance of being yourself. Here is a little snip-it about this must have book. Camila Cream loved lima beans. But she didn’t want to eat them because the other kids didn’t seem to like them. She was very concerned about what everyone else thought of her. On the first day of school she breaks out in a case of the stripes and throughout the book they seem to just get worse. By the end she learns that being herself might just be the cure that she was looking for.


2. “ELMER” WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED BY DAVID MCKEE

Elmer is an elephant, but not an ordinary elephant. Elmer is a patchwork of rainbow colors, but he longs to be a normal elephant color. But when he gets the chance to look ordinary, he finds out it may not be all that it was cracked up to be. So with the help of his friends along the way, he learns to love being exactly the way he is.

After reading this story to my class, I loved to discuss how Elmer felt and what he learned. After our discussion it was so much fun to let the students create their own elephants that represented them. I loved the variety of patterns, colors, and designs the kids chose. You can extend on the craft by having them write about what makes them each unique and special.


  


3. “STEPHANIE’S PONYTAIL” WRITTEN BY: ROBERT MUNSCH ILLUSTRATED BY: MICHAEL MARTCHENKO
This book teaches a few messages. To be true to yourself, and not to do something just because others are doing it. Stephanie tries throughout the story to be unique by having her mom do a different style of ponytail each day. When she goes to school the other kids tease her, but she states with confidence that “she likes it!”  But the next day, they all copy her style. Stephanie tries to tell them to stop copying her, but it doesn't work. By the end she finds a way to show them all that it is pretty silly to just do something that another is doing without thinking about it. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it is sure to bring a few laughs.

                                                      


4. “THE STORY OF FERDINAND” WRITTEN BY: MUNRO LEAF ILLUSTRATED BY: ROBERT LAWSON

Every time I have read this book to a class, they have been still, silent, and completely captivated by the story. Ferdinand is a bull, but he is different from the other bulls in Madrid. He doesn’t want to fight. He just wants to sit and smell the flowers. The story gets intense when Ferdinand gets stung by a bee and the bull fighters choose him to go against the Matador. Will he fight? Or will he remain true to himself?


5. “THELMA THE UNICORN” WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED BY: AARON BLABEY

This book is the perfect way to reach the hearts of all of the little unicorn lovers in your class. Thelma was not a unicorn. But after a little mishap with paint and glitter, others start to believe that she is. At first she loved the attention and fame, but as time went on, she realized she missed her true friend. By the end she realizes that she just wants to be herself.


6. “YOU ARE SPECIAL” WRITTEN BY: MAX LUCADO ILLUSTRATED BY: SERGIO MARTINEZ

The Wemmicks were wooden people carved by Eli. Every day the Wemmicks went around putting stickers on each other. The talented and pretty Wemmicks got gold stars. But Punchinello kept getting gray dots despite his efforts to try to get stars. One day he met a Wemmick that the stickers just fell off of. He was curious how she was able to keep them from sticking and he learns just how special he is as he searched for that answer. I love reading this one to my own little ones. Such a wonderful way to remind them how truly special they are and to not let others label or define them.


  


7. “WE’RE ALL WONDERS” WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED BY: R.J. PALACIO

If you have seen the movie, or read the novel, then you know how easy it is to love Auggie. This picture book is a wonderful way to share the same amazing message with younger audiences. Auggie is a an ordinary boy, but looks different than ordinary. He deals with bullies and people treating him differently. I love that the book sends the message that if people would change the way they see, they would see that we are all wonders.



8. “NOT QUITE NARWHAL” WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED BY JESSIE SIMA

This story is about Kelp. Kelp was quite different from the other narwhals. But he didn’t seem to mind, and neither did they. But he later discovers that he is actually a unicorn. He loves fitting in with all of the unicorns, but misses his friends under the sea. He finds a way to celebrate who he is and doesn’t leave anyone out. This story has darling illustrations and all of the creatures are kind, positive, and welcoming.


9. “CHRYSANTHEMUM” WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED BY:  KEVIN HENKES

Kevin Henkes writes so many wonderful children’s books. But this one may just be my favorite. Chrysanthemum grows and has wonderful confidence. Her parents remind her often how perfect she is. Chrysanthemum loved her name. Then when it was time for her to start school, the other children tease her about her name. Suddenly, she didn’t like her name anymore and her confidence dwindled. But one amazing teacher helps change how she and the other kids view her unique name. You will love reading this story and finding out how Chrysanthemum feels about herself and her name by the end of this sweet story. I love that this book teaches children to love themselves and the things that make them unique. It also shows them the impact they can have on others if they say unkind things.


10. “GIRAFFES CAN’T DANCE” WRITTEN BY: GILES ANDREAE ILLUSTRATED BY: GUY PARKER-REES

This is a book that really shows how you can find your strengths by embracing your differences. Gerald the Giraffe feels sad at the jungle dance. He feels like everyone else can dance, and he dances bad. The other animals didn’t help, by confirming his fears and teasing him for being clumsy. But as Gerald left the dance, he met a cricket that told him he may just need to dance to a different song. You will have to read to see how that new song helped Gerald turn his differences into a strength the other animals soon admired.


11. “NERDY BIRDY” WRITTEN BY: AARON REYNOLDS ILLUSTRATED BY: MATT DAVIES

This book uses a sweet, nerdy bird to show the effects of being too cool, leaving others out, and treating others badly. Nerdy Birdy is different from the other birds. He feels alone, and left out from the “cool birds” until he meets another nerdy bird. They bond and he makes a flock of nerdy friends. But in the end, a vulture tries to join the crowd. His nerdy flock doesn’t welcome her with open arms. How will Nerdy Birdy treat the new bird? Check this one out to find out how Nerdy Birdy acted when the tables turned at the end of the book.


12. “I LIKE MYSELF” WRITTEN BY: KAREN BEUMONT ILLUSTRATED BY: DAVID CATROW

“I Like Myself” has a very straightforward message with a silly spin that is great for younger audiences. I love how it shows that you should love all of the things that make you, you!
Okay, I know… I said 12 books.  But I had to add this cute book. Let’s just consider it a bonus. . .



13. “BEING SMALL” WRITTEN BY: LORI ORLINSKY ILLUSTRATED BY: VANESSA ALEXANDRE

We recently got a copy of this book from the author, Lori Orlinsky, and my kids love it! This sweet book is a wonderful reminder to look at the positives in all of your differences. It is about a young girl who doesn’t want to go to school because she is smaller than the other kids. Her mother comforts her by pointing out all of the perks of being on the shorter side. This is a great book for any little one that is feeling “too small” to do what their peers are doing. It is also a great conversation starter for any child to discuss focusing on the positive and embracing our wonderful differences. 
Let’s help our little ones embrace all of their unique qualities. Let’s show them to embrace differences, feel confident, and show empathy. Let’s show them that kindness is truly powerful, and that they are absolutely amazing just the way they are!
Do you have another favorite picture book that helps encourage children to be themselves?  Please share in the comments.  I would love to check them out.

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