Books to enhance body image and self-esteem in children

Guest post.

Standing in front of the mirror, head bowed. She narrows her eyes, focuses, dwells. She focuses on all the ‘flaws’, and the pre-teen girl looking at her agrees with her thoughts.

Yes. Definitely ugly.

His hair is too fine. His skin too pale. Her body too thick. And her face? Well, it’s horrible, of course.

She walks over to the pile of clothes on her floor (the one her mom has been nagging her to put away) and selects the same oversized hoodie she wears most days. Even if it’s not cold.

She wants to hide. She disappears into her softness and take comfort in her cloak. Above all, she hopes to be invisible to all the other slimmer, prettier, more popular guys she might run into in stores.

These are the nice ones. The ones who deserve attention, admiration and ALL the love because they don’t look like her.

It feels less than. And she does more and more every day.

we all know her

As I write this, I have a specific child in mind, but it could be many that we know: boy or girl, or even an adult (us?).

But this preteen is a beautiful 12-year-old girl. She has a huge heart and I adore her. She’s kind and funny, but lately she’s losing her shine. And I think it’s because she doesn’t see herself as I do.

I know that you are becoming terribly hampered by a distorted body image. One that is being reaffirmed by the unrealistic beauty standards you see on Instagram, television, and advertising. It also doesn’t help that other kids have made some nasty comments about her appearance (so her mom tells me). Sob.

You risk developing an eating disorder (if you haven’t already) and spending your life thinking you’re not worthy, that you’re not loved, that you’re not enough.

His self-esteem is plummeting and I want to yell at him that he is everything he thinks he is not and then some.

But that is not the way to reach children. it never is

Books to stimulate self love

Although she has the full support of a wonderful family, this impressionable young woman needs to develop a healthy body image. She needs to learn to see her amazing body for what she does and gives, not how society tries to make her feel about it.

She also needs an injection of self-love so that SHE can tap into her own inner power to silence negative thoughts, or better yet, not have them in the first place because she knows she deserves more.

You need a stack of empowering books at your fingertips. Books that will reach her, connect with her, and then change the way she thinks. Books written by amazing humans with powerful words that will take root in her psychic so she can turn to them again and again, even years later when she’s grown up.

Here are some titles that do just that. Some are for younger readers (because healthy body image and self-love should be encouraged from the start) and others are geared toward older teens.

They are all important. They are all powerful and they are all chosen by Megan Daley, who knows the best books to reach young people, including my friend’s girl.

My hope is that after reading some of them, she will begin to see herself in the mirror again.

I hope all our children do.

(See all of Megan favorite reads for every age and stage here.)

The best books to improve body image and self-esteem in children

The books are listed in order of age group, apart from ‘I love your body’ which we’ve placed at the top of this list because Megan thinks it’s truly a must read for ALL kids over the age of six and she doesn’t want you to miss out.

‘I love your body’

By Jessica Sanders, Carol Rossetti (Illustrator)

For olders than 6

‘All bodies are good bodies’

By Charlotte Barkla, Erica Salcedo (Illustrator)

For older than 3 years

‘It’s okay to be different’

By Todd Parr

For older than 3 years

‘hug your body’

By Taryn Brumfitt, Sinead Hanley (Illustrator)

For older than 3 years

‘You are like you’

By Shona Innes and Irisz Agocs

For older than 3 years

‘I know who you are’

By Todd Parr

For older than 3 years

‘I am enough’

By Grace Byers, Keturah A. Bobo (Illustrator)

For over 4 years

“Stand Up, Molly Lou Melon”

by Patty Lovell

For over 4 years

‘Julian is a mermaid’

by jessica love

For over 4 years


By Lupita Nyong’o, Vashti Harrison (Illustrator)

For ages 5+

‘Strawberry with freckles’

By Julianne Moore, LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)

For ages 5+

‘Abigail the whale’

By Davide Cali, Sonja Bougaeva (Illustrator)

For olders than 6

‘Beautiful girl’

By Christiane Northup

For olders than 6

‘Girls things for girls from 8 to 12 years old’

By Kaz Cooke

For those over 8 years old

‘Be your own man’

By Jessica Sanders, Robbie Cathro (Illustrator)

For those over 8 years old

Megan’s review of ‘Be your own man’.

‘wise girl’

By Sharon Witt

For those over 8 years old


by wise boys

For those over 8 years old


by Jess Hong

For those over 8 years old

‘You are awesome’

By Matthew Syed, Toby Triumph (Illustrator)

For ages 9 and up

‘Dare to be you’

By Matthew Syed, Toby Triumph (Illustrator)

For ages 9 and up

‘A Smart Girl’s Guide to Liking Herself’

By Laurie E. Zelinger, Jennifer Kalis

For ages 9 and up

‘Shine from within’

By Amanda Rootsey

For ages 11 and up

‘The body image book for girls’

By Charlotte Marky

For ages 12 and up

‘nice selfie’

By Turia Pitt

For ages 12 and up

‘Future Girl’

by suffocation

For ages 12 and up

‘at home inside’

By Meredith Gaston

For ages 12 and up

‘Find your spark’

By Meredith Gaston

For ages 12 and up


By Jennifer Mathieu

For ages 12 and up

‘Girl things 13+’

By Kaz Cooke

For ages 13 and up


By Maxine Beneba Clarke

For over 15 years

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Lana Hallowes is an online writer and mother of two boys. She recently adopted a rescue puppy, so she feels that there is also a stray child living in her house. When she’s not nursing or working, she ignores housework and reads a good book.

Biography of Megan Daley

Looking for more great book reviews and recommendations? I’m Megan Daley and you can find out more about me here.

My book recommendations (from babies to young adults) are here and you can read ALL my reviews (searchable by age, genre and subject) here.

Check out my mini eBook, ‘What to Read Next’ or sign up for my FREE webinar, ‘3 Tips for Starting the Best Book Club Ever’.

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