We all fell in love with viral sensation 3-year-old Aayan who emphatically recited his daily affirmations. It’s never too early to help children feel good about who they are and develop strategies for overcoming challenges that may arise. A positive self-image is such a vital part of creating a sense of worthiness and an understanding that just our being is enough.
We’ve created a collection of books that promote positive self-esteem and help children make positive life choices. They cover issues such as identity, personal value, staying true to oneself, and standing up for your uniqueness. These books can be powerful tools to help children feel seen, loved, and valued.
The Wash Day by T.B. Darks, Fabian Ramadhan (Ages 2-8)
Love your hair! Love the journey! Join Nina on her wacky Wash Day adventure as she teaches the little girls of today confidence and self-love, wearing her natural hair and loving the process.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, Gordon C. James (Ages 3-8)
The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.
A fresh cut makes boys fly.
This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair. It’s a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts, that’s where it all begins.
Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe (Ages 4-8)
When the stars shine, the world is mine! I am born to be awesome! My hair is free, just like me! I am born to be awesome!
Boys will love seeing strong, happy reflections of themselves in this vibrant, rhythmic picture book celebrating a diversity of hip black hairstyles. From a ‘fro-hawk to mini-twists and crisp cornrows, adorable illustrations of boys with cool curls, waves, and afros grace each page, accompanied by a positive message that will make kids cheer. It’s a great read-aloud to promote positive self-esteem to boys of all ages, building and growing the foundation of self-love (and hair love!) and letting every boy know that “You are born to be awesome!”
Sulwe by Lupita N’yongo, Vashti Harrison (Ages 4-8)
Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.
In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.
Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Ebony Glenn (Ages 4-8)
A young Muslim girl spends a busy day wrapped up in her mother’s colorful headscarf in this sweet and fanciful picture book from debut author and illustrator Jamilah Tompkins-Bigelow and Ebony Glenn.
A khimar is a flowing scarf that my mommy wears.
Before she walks out the door each day, she wraps one around her head.
A young girl plays dress-up with her mother’s headscarves, feeling her mother’s love with every one she tries on. Charming and vibrant illustrations showcase the beauty of the diverse and welcoming community in this portrait of a young Muslim American girl’s life.
Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, Vashti Harrison (Ages 4-8)
It’s up to Daddy to give his daughter an extra-special hairstyle in this ode to self-confidence and the love between fathers and daughters, from Academy-Award winning director and former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry and New York Times bestselling illustrator Vashti Harrison.
Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he’ll do anything to make her — and her hair — happy.
Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair — and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.
When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner, David Catrow (Ages 4-8)
From early on, children are looking to discover their place in the world and longing to understand how their personalities, traits, and talents fit in. The assurance that they are deeply loved, and a unique creation in our big universe is sure to help them spread their wings and fly.
Through playful, charming rhyme and vivid, fantastical illustrations, When God Made You inspires young readers to learn about their own unique gifts and how they fit into God’s divine plan as they grow, explore, and begin to create for themselves.
‘Cause when God made YOU, somehow God knew
That the world needed someone exactly like you!
Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (Ages 4-8)
What’s in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from — and who she may one day be.
If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.
Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, Rafael Lopez (Ages 4-8)
Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be challenging. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful.
In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us, but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.
A Boy Like You by Frank Murphy, Kayla Harren (Ages 4-8)
There’s more to being a boy than sports, feats of daring, and keeping a stiff upper lip. A Boy Like You encourages every boy to embrace all the things that make him unique, to be brave and ask for help, to tell his own story, and listen to the stories of those around him. In an age when boys are expected to fit into a particular mold, this book celebrates all the wonderful ways to be a boy.
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia L. Smith, Cornelius Van Wright (Ages 4-8)
Jenna loves the tradition of jingle dancing that has been shared by generations of women in her family, and she hopes to dance at the next powwow. But she has a problem–how will her dress sing if it has no jingles?
The cone-shaped jingles sewn to Grandma Wolfe’s dress sing tink, tink, tink, tink.
Jenna’s heart beats to the brum, brum, brum, brum of the powwow drum as she daydreams about the clinking song of her grandma’s jingle dancing.
Mixed Me by Taye Diggs, Shane W. Evans (Ages 4-8)
Mom and Dad say I’m a blend of dark and light:
We mixed you perfectly and got you just right.
Mike has awesome hair. He has LOTS of energy His parents love him. And Mike is a PERFECT blend of the two of them.
Still, Mike has to answer LOTS of questions about being mixed. And he does, with LOTS of energy and joy in this charming story about a day in the life of a mixed-race child.
I Promise by Lebron James, Nina Mata (Ages 4-8)
Just a kid from Akron, Ohio, who is dedicated to uplifting youth everywhere, LeBron James knows the key to a better future is to excel in school, do your best, and keep your family close. I Promise is a lively and inspiring picture book that reminds us that tomorrow’s success starts with the promises we make to ourselves and our community today.
Featuring James’s upbeat, rhyming text and vibrant illustrations perfectly crafted for a diverse audience by New York Times bestselling artist Nina Mata, this book has the power to inspire all children and families to be their best.
Thunder Boy Jr by Sherman Alexie, Yuyi Morales (Ages 4-8)
Thunder Boy Jr. wants a normal name…one that’s all his own. Dad is known as big Thunder, but little thunder doesn’t want to share a name. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder.
But just when Little Thunder thinks all hope is lost, dad picks the best name…Lightning Their love will be loud and bright, and together they will light up the sky.
I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde, Peter H. Reynolds (Ages 4-8)
Being human means we are full of possibility. We learn we dream, we wonder at the world around us. But we also make mistakes and can feel fearful or sad.
From the bestselling team that created I Am Yoga, I Am Peace, I Am Love, and I Am One comes a hopeful celebration of the human family. I Am Human affirms that we can make good choices by acting with compassion and having empathy for others and ourselves. When we find common ground, we can feel connected to the great world around us and mindfully strive to be our best selves.
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match: Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown, Sara Palacios (Ages 4-8)
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. To Marisol, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together.
Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol-can’t she just choose 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.
A mestiza Peruvian American of European, Jewish, and Amerindian heritage, renowned author Monica Brown wrote this lively story to bring her own experience of being mismatched to life. Her buoyant prose is perfectly matched by Sara Palacios’ mixed-media illustrations.
My Brown Skin by Thomishia Booker, Jessica Gibson (Ages 5-7)
Hey Carter! Children’s Book Series is all things “Brown Boy Joy”. From start to finish the books are filled with the wonderful things we love most about our children. Pictures entertain your child as you speak life into them while reading “My Brown Skin”. Your child is amazing and wants to hear it. Your child is wonderfully made! Let’s hear them shout it from the mountain tops. Every child deserves to grow up envisioning their dreams through the stories of characters that look like them and reflect their experiences. Diversity in children’s books matters. Stories are a child’s first steps into their imagination. This hidden meaning is a reinforcement that our children deserve respect. We must remind our children that they are powerful and amazing. “My Brown Skin” is a heartwarming story about embracing who you are. A child’s first words of confidence and pride. Also in Spanish this Book Series proves representation really matters.
Magnificient Homespun Brown: A Celebrationby Samara Cole Doyon, Kaylani Juanita (Ages 6-8)
Told by a succession of exuberant young narrators, Magnificent Homespun Brown is a story — a song, a poem, a celebration — about feeling at home in one’s own beloved skin.
With vivid illustrations by Kaylani Juanita, Samara Cole Doyon sings a carol for the plenitude that surrounds us and the self each of us is meant to inhabit.
Black Is a Rainbow>by Angela Joy, Elkua Holmes (Ages 6-8)
A child reflects on the meaning of being Black in this moving and powerful anthem about a people, a culture, a history, and a legacy that lives on.
Red is a rainbow color.
Green sits next to blue.
Yellow, orange, violet, indigo,
They are rainbow colors, too, but
My color is black . . .
And there’s no BLACK in rainbows.
From the wheels of a bicycle to the robe on Thurgood Marshall’s back, Black surrounds our lives. It is a color to simply describe some of our favorite things, but it also evokes a deeper sentiment about the incredible people who helped change the world and a community that continues to grow and thrive.
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez (Ages 9-12)
The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.
There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malú (María Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.
The real Malú loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malú finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams (Ages 9-12)
There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant–even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.
What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight–Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter-skinned man, none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple of friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.
But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin, knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?
What books do you use to help your little ones build positive self-images?
You can find all of these books and many more in our Bookshop.org store under the category: “You Are Enough: Picture books affirming skin, hair, and self-love.” Check them out and others in our collections.
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