In a world filled with bullying, it is more important than ever to teach young children the concept of self-acceptance. As a parent, there have been plenty of times my kids have come home sad because they didn’t measure up to other children and were teased about it. Bullying has real and severe implications, and I truly believe the only way to nip it in the bud is to discuss the topic of self-acceptance through books that kids can easily relate to. There are plenty of wonderful picture books that promote this concept in a way that leads to a natural, post-book discussion. Here are some of my family’s favorites:
Being Small (Isn’t So Bad After All) by Lori Orlinsky This book tells the sweet story of a little girl who doesn’t want to go to school because she’s the shortest kid in her class. Through clever rhymes and beautiful, colorful illustrations, readers can understand and empathize with her perspective and why she feels sad. Through talking to her mom, the little girl begins to see the special things that only she can do because of her height (e.g. fit in the cart in the grocery store, get the most leg room on a plane). This is a great story for any child (not just a short one) who has ever felt different. Orlinsky does a great job in making this tough topic of self-confidence and acceptance approachable for young readers.
Wanda’s First Day by Mark Sperring This story is about an adorable witch named Wanda who mistakenly goes to a school for fairies instead of the school for witches on her very first day of school. Wanda feels like a fish out of water because she does not have wings like all of the other fairies and she carries a broomstick instead of a wand. She eventually realizes the mistake that she has made and promptly alerts her teacher that she is at the wrong school. Her very kind and empathetic teacher tells her that she is not in fact at the wrong school, but exactly right where she belongs. With her teacher’s help and a little magic, Wanda makes new friends and has a great first day of school. Sperring does a wonderful job imparting the message that we all fit in no more how different we may seem. Children will enjoy the adorable illustrations that perfectly compliment the story.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes One of my all-time favorite picture books, Chrysanthemum, is about a little mouse who absolutely loved and adored her unique name. She would proudly say it all the time because she loved it that much. But, when she starts school and shares her name, everyone laughs at her for being named after a flower and having a name with so many letters in it. Chrysanthemum is crushed and goes from loving her name to absolutely abhorring it. But, with the help of a much-loved music teacher named Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle, Chrysanthemum, as well as the other students, learn just how very special it can be to have a unique name. It’s a beautiful story about learning to love, accept, and embrace our differences.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell This wonderful story is about a clumsy little girl named Molly Lou Melon. Molly Lou is “just taller than her dog” and has “buck teeth that stuck out so far she could stack pennies on them.” She never let the fact that she looked a little different get in her way. What Molly Lou lacked in height, she made up for with her indomitable spirit, as well as a strong belief in herself, that was instilled in her by her grandmother who would always tell her to “stand tall.” But, her strong sense of self is questioned when she moves to a new town. At her new school, she gets picked on by a mean bully named Ronald. Never one to just give up, Molly Lou perseveres with that indomitable, positive spirit of hers. She charms her classmates with her unique talents and sweet personality, eventually even winning over Ronald by “killing with kindness.” Lovell’s story has a beautiful message about the power of believing in one’s self. Additionally, Molly Lou Melon serves as an excellent role model and an inspiration for all.
Hooway For Wodney Wat by Helen Lester Rodney Rat has a speech impediment and therefore cannot pronounce his R’s correctly, making it difficult for him to say his name. The other rodents bully and tease him about his speech impediment. One day a new student named Camilla Capybara, who is a self-proclaimed bully, joins Rodney’s class. Camilla terrorizes all of the rodents until one day when Rodney’s speech impediment inadvertently stops the bully and saves the day during an epic game of Simon Says. Any child who has ever been a victim of bullying will easily relate to Rodney and his story. The cheery and vibrant illustrations will capture your child’s attention.