Every parent wants to raise a child brimming with self-esteem and confidence; ready to tackle any adventure. It’s not entirely up to us as parents, however. While there are children seemingly born with supreme self-esteem and who carry that confidence with them into adulthood, they are few and far between. Most of us will find ourselves with a child who struggles with issues like shyness, fitting in, standing their ground or speaking their mind.
Sometimes, reading the words of someone who is not Mom or Dad helps cement a lesson or a concept in a child’s mind far more than you. Building a strong foundation of self-esteem and confidence means equipping your child with lifelong social, practical, physical and emotional skills.
Preschoolers: 2 To 5 Years Old
Kids this age love to be read to and they especially love to hear stories. There are thousands of great books written to boost a young child’s self-esteem and confidence. The following are some great reads to inject a little confidence and feel-good vibes into story time at your house.
A delightful book by Kevin Henkes about a lovely little mouse with a beautiful, nature-inspired name. All is well with Chrysanthemum until she goes to school where she is teased for her flower-like moniker. Children try to “smell” her and pretend to pluck her and she begins to feel that maybe her name is not so special, maybe it would be better to have a different, more “normal” name. However, a special teacher reminds her of the joy of being different.
Great for children with non-traditional names. It will help them learn how to embrace diversity and be proud of who they are.
The Eensy-Weensy Spider Freaks Out (Big Time!)
Not only is this a funny take on the original nursery rhyme, it’s a picture book on how Eensy lost her courage to climb after the waterspout incident – and how she eventually conquers her fears to climb again.
This clever picture book offers a contemporary take on an old favorite to provide young readers with a gentle template on how to face and overcome their own fears.
Stand Tall Molly-Lou Mellon
A book EVERY child should read, all is right in Molly-Lou’s world until she has to move away from her beloved grandmother. In her new environment, the neighborhood bully singles her out for being short and having not-so-perfect teeth. In the end, with the help of some grandmotherly advice, Molly-Lou prevails and finds a place for herself in her new home.
An uplifting book with great illustrations that teaches children that being different can be wonderful when you feel good about yourself.
The Sneetches And Other Stories
There are four stories in this lovely classic, but the first, The Sneetches, is the one that focuses on self-esteem most. The Sneetches are creatures born either with or without a star on their tummies. The sneetches with the stars decide they are the best of the bunch and the ones without become envious of those with the stars. The end brings a lovely lesson about appearance and self-worth.
How can you go wrong with Dr. Seuss? With colorful pictures, funny names and a great storyline, this book teaches kids valuable lessons in tolerance and accepting everyone without discrimination.
You Are Special
This award-winning story is about a race of wooden dolls called Wemmicks, much like Pinocchio, created by the Master Wood Carver. Much like Seus’s Sneetches, the Wemmicks decide each other’s worth with a system of gray dots or gold stars. Poor Punchinello gets loads of gray dots and it pains him to no end. One day he meets a new friend who has neither gold stars nor gray dots, and she seems so happy. She shares her secret with Punchinello and he learns what really makes a person worth something.
This is a heart-warming book with a feel good storyline that will help any child who struggle with self-esteem to understand about his/her own self worth.
Spaghetti In A Hot Dog Bun
In this “life lesson” book, our heroine is belittled for the things she loves, like the dish in the title. Do your kids worry that the things they like make them weird? Then this book is for them. Being one of a kind hurts this little girl so, until she is able to help someone in need and then she finds not only self-love, but acceptance amongst her peers.
This delightful book sends a strong positive message to kids about compassion, courage, embracing individuality and that it’s okay to be different. It is also a great way to open up discussions with your children about bullying and teasing.
Giraffes Can’t Dance
This is the tale of Gerald, a tall, awkward giraffe, with long gangly legs. When he tries to participate in the annual dance party, the other animals mock him before he can even demonstrate his dancing abilities. However, a new friend tells Gerald that “when you are different, sometimes you just need a different song”. Gerald then performs a wonderful dance inspired by the sounds of nature, and teaches his animal friends that “we all can dance… when we find the music that we love.”
Encouraging story that teaches children to follow their heart, find their own rhythm and be a star in their own unique way. Also a great way to help them learn about the name of jungle animals!
The charming tale tells of a young bluebird who has to face flying for the very first time without the help of her friend, the wind. She has several whimsical adventures before discovering her own confidence.
Packed with beautiful illustrations, Bluebird by Lindsey Yankey is a delightful story of determination and love that every young child will enjoy.
Elementary Students: 5 to 10 Year Olds
No one is more fun to read with than an emerging reader! Just by taking turns reading pages you’ll boost his/her self-esteem and confidence.
Few words. Big message. With a simple story, but beautiful illustrations, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds is about a girl named Vashti who thinks she can’t draw and and how she overcame her own insecurity – and in turns inspire others.
Reading this book, kids will be inspired to try things they thought they could not do. It might even inspire you too!
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
A great book for kids who tried too hard, this is a story about Beatrice Bottomwell, a nine-year-old girl who spent her whole life being a perfectionist – until that fateful day where she makes her first BIG mistake in a very public way! How will Beatrice react to her first mistake?
Let your kids see for themselves that no one is perfect and that being perfect really isn’t as much fun as it’s cracked up to be.
I Like Myself
I Like Myself! is about a girl who knows she is special just for being her. No matter where she goes, or what she does, she is just great! Funny phrases and diverse faces make this a great addition to any bookshelf.
This book is a self-esteem builder and shares a healthy message about loving and liking yourself for who you are.
Unstoppable Me: 10 Ways To Soar Through Life
In Unstoppable Me, Dr. Dyer uses ten values to teach traits that make us all special and unique. From creativity, healthy ways to deal with stress and risk-taking, each one is illustrated in a way that helps children see the strengths that lie within.
A really nice book with gorgeous illustrations and bright colors, written with positive affirmations to keep the kids’ minds open wide and filled with positive thinking.
The Name Jar
In The Name Jar, a newly arrived Korean girl decided she has to choose a new name, since hers is too different and difficult to pronounce. It is only when a new friend learns what her name means that she learns to value it too.
A great book to help kids feel empower about their own name as well as excellent tool to teach them about cultural awareness and individuality.
Affirmation Weaver: A Believe In Yourself Story
Affirmation Weaver is a beautifully illustrated story that gives children tools and education to deal with stress and anxiety in the form of relaxation exercises and positive thinking. It teaches kids that they have the strength and the ability to overcome many of the obstacles that life throws in their path.
If you want to help build your children’s self esteem, get this book. Affirmation Weaver will help them believe in themselves and gives them more confidence.
Have You Filled A Bucket Today? A Guide To Happiness For Kids
This is a a favorite read in my family! I love the very concrete idea that kind words and deeds fill our love and happiness “buckets” and that negative words and actions take our joy away! It explains this in a physical, visceral way that is easily understood by the youngest student. This book is also loved by many teachers and some start out the school year by reading it and giving students sand buckets and shovels as a reminder of this colorful, engaging story.
Have you filled a bucket today is a wonderfully, inspiring book that will positively impact young readers on how their actions of kindness, appreciation, and helpfulness will make them a better person.
Trisha, diagnosed with a learning disability, is placed in a special education class that her peers have named “the Junkyard”. Troubled by this, her teacher takes Trisha and her classmates to a real junkyard, demonstrating that treasures can be found amongst the debris. Junkyard Wonders is based on the real-life experiences of the author and her fellow special-education classmates. In the end, the author updates the reader on the successful lives of all of her fellow junkyard friends.
Do you want to help your child achieve his/her full potential? Junkyard Wonders will help them to realize their “inner genius!”
This is for any girl (even boy) you know who is struggling with braces, headgear, retainers or the like. This true story is written by a popular graphic novel artist who lived through adolescence and had the traumatizing experience of having dental gear at a time when her body and friendships were ever changing and evolving. Stories of friendship, first crushes and even an earthquake are accompanied by full colored, comic-like illustrations.
A lot of kids who is wearing braces can seriously relate to this book! This book captures the most amusing and painful experiences of growing up and how to deal with adversity.
Tweens And Teens: 10 Years Old And Up
Life is tricky for ‘tweens’ and early teens. They are surrounded by change – change in themselves, changes in schools and changes in what’s expected from them. These books might steer you and them in the right direction.
Stick Up For Yourself!
Stick Up for Yourself has been a standby for parents, educators, and child professionals for more than twenty years. The recently revised and updated guide for kids uses illustrations and everyday examples to show how to stand up to bullies, siblings, and even parents by teaching them to identify their feelings, build relationships, handle anger constructively, make choices based on personal values, resolve problems, and deal with sticky situations.
A very practical book that will help kids to have positive self esteem and the ability to stand up for themselves.
The Self Esteem Workbook For Teens
This self esteem workbook is meant to guide teens through a gentle self-analysis of their strengths and weaknesses, leading them towards self-acceptance. It defines self-esteem and distinguishes it from being self-absorbed, selfish, and self-centered. It has exercises to aid teens in dealing with everyday problems such as failure, criticism, and bullying and come through with confidence and grace.
This workbook is excellent for boosting a healthy level of self esteem and confidence if your teen is suffering from low self esteem issues.
Bring Your “A” Game
Sports are a great way to build self-esteem and confidence in children. The problem is the 10 -13 year-old set often struggles with keeping up with bigger kids, moving on to harder skills and more demanding practices, and simply holding it all together. Bring Your “A” Game will give them some very healthy and simple empowerment strategies to improve their sport performance and reach their potential.
The focus of this book is on mental toughness. If you have an aspiring athlete, it’s worth a read for both parents and child.
Where’s My Stuff: The Ultimate Teen Organizing Guide
Helping teens keep track of everything can be a key in building self-esteem. If you don’t have to nag them and they can find their own stuff, they are taking a huge step toward independence. This guide has many great ideas to empower the disorganized child to develop positive habits to become more organized at home and in school.
This is the guide to read for the messy child who needs (or wants) to get more organize and productive.
Teen Cook: How To Cook What You Want To Eat
Few things are more empowering than knowing you can feed yourself more than microwave mac and cheese. With easy to follow recipes and great illustrations, this cookbook aims to teach young adults how easy it is to make great tasty meals from everyday ingredients.
This book was written by teens, for teens. Confidence in the kitchen translates to better self-esteem and confidence in life. Really!
Turn The Ship Around!
This is a tremendous, true story suitable for ages 16 and up. While we want our kids to do as we ask, it’s important for them to know they can and, sometimes should, question authority. This terrific read is also about taking responsibility for their actions with valuable insights on how to be a great leader.
Be sure to read it yourself. There is lots of dinner table fodder in this book.
Fiction Sources for Boys
Born with a facial deformity, August Pullman is used to stares and unkind words. His protective parents keep him out of school until the fifth grade and attending a school for of “normal” peers is both a challenge and a struggle on a long road to acceptance by his peers and acceptance of himself. Wonder is written from multiple perspectives and rose to #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Wonder is a fabulous story that will teach your children how to look past their own limitations, accept themselves for who they are, and the gifts they have to share.
A Newbury award winner, Holes is a story of a boy named Stanley Yelnats who is under the burden of a several generations long curse. This curse results in him being sent away to a juvenile detention camp in the middle of the desert. Overcoming obstacles with his fellow outcasts, revealing secrets and solving the overarching mystery help Stanley see that one is only cursed if one believes one is.
Want to help your kid to build character? Give this to your child to read. It will teach them a great lesson!
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
This book was made into a movie a short time ago. The novel mostly revolves around Charlie, a high school freshman. While dealing with normal teenage angst, like crushes, body changes, family tensions, changing friendships, a burgeoning sexuality and experimentation with drugs, he is also dealing with the devastating suicide of his best friend. Charlie muddles through it all, learning how to keep on living and to be all right.
This book really captures the essence of growing up and will be a great read for any teen who needs to feels “infinite.”
Take an average 13 year-old boy, put him as the lone survivor of a plane crash in remote Canada and see what happens. Hatchet will have every child riveted as Brian Robeson figures out how to survive on his own. Children will see evidence of the strength and resourcefulness we all have within us as he struggles, sometimes failing, with learning how to light fire, make shelter, build a raft and feed himself, surviving 54 days alone in the wilderness, with no previous outdoor survival experience.
This novel is not specifically designed to build self-esteem, but the main character is so typical and real that it will get readers thinking about how much they really DO know.
Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie
The central character, Steven, is a pretty normal 13 year old boy, until his younger brother gets cancer. Follow Steven through a year in the life of his family in this touching and humorous book as he struggles with coming of age and self-doubt amidst a year-long family crisis. Steven has to dig deep and find it within himself to be there for his family and brother all the while coping with the changes within and around him.
Does your tween or teen suffered from a flawed self-esteem and thinks life is unfair? Then this story will inspire them to turn those thoughts of “hopelessness” into a discovery that they CAN and have the ability to make positive changes to address difficult challenges.
This timeless coming of age classic follows Ponyboy as he struggles through adolescence learning that first impressions aren’t always true, friends aren’t always who you think they are and everyone is an insider and an outsider, depending on perspectives. It also teaches the reader that some mistakes cannot be undone and is a great lesson about being true to yourself, no matter what those around you are telling you.
This book has a lot of lessons to teach (especially teenagers) that can change a person’s entire outlook on life – for the better.
Fiction Sources for Girls
In the beginning, Deenie is the girl all the girls want to be. Tall, and beautiful, her mother feels she is destined to be a model someday. Enter a diagnosis of scoliosis that puts Deenie in a painful full-torso brace that turns her into one of the outcasts she has always looked down on. Suddenly, given a free pass from others expectations of her, Deenie struggles to find out who she really is and what she wants for herself.
Besides been the perfect book for any girl who has scoliosis, this is also a real life book about growing up and facing facts about life.
The Running Dream
When a teen who finds her identity in running loses her leg in an accident, she is suddenly faced with a loss of a limb, a loss of identity and doubt about her place in the world. Her missing leg is one of the many setbacks the protagonist faces as she is suddenly confronted with all of the changes in her life and she starts to understand others whom she had previously ignored because they are faced with similar challenges. The Running Dream is a great story of struggles and hope.
An awesome book about courage, strength, determination and the unlimited reserves of humanity.
Catherine has a lot of rules in her life, but none of them are for her. The rules are for her brother David who is diagnosed with autism. The rules are Catharine’s attempt to help David appear normal to those around them. David provides challenges when a girl Catharine hopes to befriend moves next door. He just doesn’t want to follow her rules. It is only when Catharine meets a new friend through her brother that she realizes that normal is rather relative after all.
How not to be ashamed, embracing differences and accepting people as who they are are the key takeaways that describe this book!
Does My Head Look Big In This?
Amal is a normal teenage girl by all accounts, she just looks different than others. Marked by her Muslim head covering, everyone around her has an opinion about her, an opinion based solely on a garment that she chooses to wear. Does My Head Look Big In This discusses important lessons that many young adolescent girls can relate to including stereotyping, pressure to fit in, tolerance, eating disorders and racism.
While this book deals with deep issues, it is light hearted and not overly didactic. It is a pleasure to read and teaches the important lesson that we are not to be summed up by how we look or what we wear.
The Skin I’m In
While all children are teased from time to time, it is difficult to be teased about something you can’t change, like your skin color. In this coming of age and self-esteem book, Maleeka suffers every day from the taunts of the other kids in her class. Obsessed with her own problems, Maleeka’s teachers barely register in her radar. However, a new teacher, with skin issues of her own, eventually becomes an example of how to find courage amidst the bullies and naysayers, and to find happiness within.
Many, many girls especially girls ages 10 and up can relate to Maleeka. This book teaches valuable lessons on how to love yourself and be confident, no matter what you look like. Will definitely help boost self esteem.
A Wrinkle In Time
In this classic tale, a veritable outcast in a family of outcasts, Meg Murray is an underdog who misses the one who always made her feel loved, her father who has inexplicably disappeared. On an amazing adventure that takes brains, boldness, and the help of friends and family members, Meg embarks on an amazing adventure where it will take wits, boldness and a little bit of brass to find her father and find the beauty and value she already possesses.
A Twinkle In Time is a magical story that will awaken the imagination of your child to new possibilities!
These are just suggestions to get you going. Keep your child’s needs in mind when selecting books – there are a lot of good ones out there! Don’t worry if you take two steps forward and then fall back a step or two – that’s just part of growing up. Stick with it and your child will be the happy, confident adult know he/she can be.