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Contributing Writer: Lomikia Gerling-Douglas
All around the world we as teachers have the pleasure of meeting children from various racial, socio-economic, gender, linguistic, and religious backgrounds with diverse family makeups. All of these points of interest can impact a child’s self-esteem and pride because they are still learning to celebrate their differences rather than shun them. Books can be just the tool for teachers and parents alike, opening the door to conversations about self-esteem and pride in order to help children begin to not only understand differences but to nurture and grow self-esteem and pride in who they are as an individual.
According to Psychology Today:
Confidence in one’s value as a human being is a precious psychological resource and generally a highly positive factor in life; it is correlated with achievement, good relationships, and satisfaction. Possessing little self-regard can lead people to become depressed, fall short of their potential, or tolerate abusive relationships and situations (Psychology Today, n.d.).
As teachers, we are at the forefront of the development of a child’s self-esteem and pride, and at times it may not seem like it, but if you take a moment to reflect upon yourself, think about the teachers you remember. Do you remember the teacher that impacted your self-esteem negatively or positively? For most of us, the answer will be a strong yes in either direction. How did these teachers shape some of the choices you made? Did you reach for your dreams, or did you tell yourself that you couldn’t achieve them? If you reached for your dreams then it’s time to pass on that gift, and if you didn’t, it’s time to change the narrative. Check out why teachers are so important to a child and the value of building relationships and rapport with students here!
These top ten books will help you to open the door for growth and conversation between you and your students on their journey to fostering positive feelings of self-worth and pride:
- I am Enough by Grace Byers
Grace Byers’s book is a beautiful and lyrical book that focuses on loving yourself, respecting others, and being kind. Byers’s intention was to empower young girls against bullying, which can have an immense impact on one’s self-esteem and pride. While the book was intended for female-presenting students, everyone will benefit from its message. Age range: 5 – 11.
- The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad
Most of you may know Ibtihaj Muhammad as the first Muslim American woman to compete in hijab for the USA Olympic fencing team and win a medal. The Proudest Blue is a tale about loving yourself and your traditions despite being shunned for those differences. It’s about dealing with feelings about yourself when others don’t understand your culture and traditions. It portrays the bond between siblings, inclusiveness, and experiencing new things as an added bonus. Age range: 6 – 8.
- Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
In Giraffes Can’t Dance, Gerald is an awkward and clumsy character. He really wants to dance but lacks confidence. Throughout the book, various animals dance their own dance. For example, the Chimps do the cha-cha, and the Lions do the tango. Gerald must learn to sway to his own tune and show everyone that Giraffes can, in fact, dance. Age range: 1-4 as a Read aloud, and 5-7 for independent readers.
- The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright
If you’ve heard the expression as quiet as a mouse, Rachel Bright’s story The Lion Inside is a great book for helping children find the confidence to find their voice. Bright’s story follows a little mouse who is tired of not being heard and seeks help from the Lion, hoping to learn to roar. Although great for quiet students, it is geared towards kindergarten-aged children.
- The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Woodson’s The Day You Begin is a great book about appreciating and sharing your differences. Woodson lets children know it’s okay to feel different while featuring multiracial characters of various backgrounds. Such as a child who just moved from Venezuela, a child explaining what Kimchi is, and our main character from a low socioeconomic background, who did not travel like the rest of her class for vacation. This book is about embracing those things, sharing parts of yourself, and connecting with other human beings. Age range: 5-8.
- I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem by Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell
Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell do a great job inspiring kids to celebrate liking themselves, featuring alternating points of view from male and female-presenting characters. Their message, you enjoy yourself because you are who you are. Curtis uses rhyming text that reads like affirmations and inspires feelings of confidence whether you’re missing teeth, love to dress in bright colors, or wear crazy patterns. Age range: 4 – 8.
- I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott
In I Talk Like a River, a young boy struggles to speak because of a stutter. Feeling isolated, lonely, and as if he can’t communicate. Jordan Scott does a great job of portraying a kind father who helps his son reconnect with the world around him and find his voice. Scott’s story of compassion shows that we’re all like a river. We flow, crash, bubble, and swirl around all sorts of obstacles, but we keep going until we reach our destination. Age range: 4 – 8.
- Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Julián is a Mermaid is less about the words and all about the pictures. 90% of this book are pictures, and while the dialogue is simplistic and positive, the pictures tell you all you need to know. Love’s book is for all students to show them that, like Julián, they don’t need to conform to gender stereotypes or feel ashamed for not falling into the norm. Julián learns that he’s not the only mermaid in his city and embraces themselves fully. Age range: 4 and up.
- Pink Is for Boys by R. Pearlman
Pink Is for Boys empowers all kids to embrace who they are, whether they like racing cars, sports, unicorns, or dressing up. Pearlman introduces children to a diverse group of characters who express themselves with pride outside society’s binary gender norms. Pearlman’s book also empowers adults to accept children as they are. Age range: 3 – 7.
- Confidence is my Superpower: A Kid’s Book about Believing in Yourself and Developing Self-Esteem by Alicia Ortega
Although this is book 5 in her series covering Gratitude, Honesty, Acceptance, and Breathing, Confidence is my Superpower is a stand-alone book great for building confidence. Follow Leonardo’s journey to realizing that failure is the key to success and to keep believing in himself even when things don’t go right. Students will learn to turn their frown upside down in this book as they recite the same affirmations as little Leonardo, like, “I am loved! I can choose! I am brave! I am amazing!” Age range: Everyone searching for their superpower!
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Book Cover photos credit:
Goodreads. (n.d.). Meet your next favorite book. Goodreads. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from http://www.goodreads.com/
Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). Self-esteem. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/self-esteem