It’s never too early to start giving your kids a solid foundation for feeling good about themselves and their bodies throughout their life. Body image issues are all too common these days, and they seem to be affecting ever younger demographics. So what can you do to help protect your kids from the negative messaging and judgment they will inevitably face? It’s a big question, and I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I can at least give you a place to start!
Here are some of my favourite books that can be used to teach children about bodies, body diversity, and positive body image.
The Best Part of me: children talk about their bodies in pictures and words, by Wendy Ewald and Miss Lord’s 3,4,5th grade class
This wonderful book brings together beautiful photography and children’s own writing about their favourite body parts, from hands, foot, and faces, to elbows, scarred knees, and hair. The children’s poems model a healthy focus on loving our bodies for the things that they can do, the memories we attach to them, and the ways they connect us to our cultural history and ancestors, rather than simply because they look a particular way. It is a great place to start a loving and positive conversation with your kids about their bodies, and to start them thinking about what they love about those bodies!
Brontorina, by James Howe and Randy Cecil
Brontorina is a simple story about an Apatosaurus who wants to be a ballerina. Although she is told that she is too big (and she doesn’t even have the right shoes!) she knows in her heart that she is a ballerina. She struggles to fit in (literally) at ballet school, until one day the instructor realizes the real problem is not that Brontorina is too big; it’s that the studio is too small! I love how simply this story sends the message that accessibility is not about people’s bodies being wrong, it is about spaces being designed incorrectly.
In addition to showing children positive models for body image, simply teaching them about their bodies, how they work, and all the things they do is a vital part of preparing them to have a lifelong, positive relationship with their bodies. Bodies are amazing, after all, and fascinating too! At VPL, we have *tons* of kids’ books about human bodies, and they are all great, but here are some of my favourites:
My Body, Your Body, by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom
This picture book is a great introduction to bodies for young children. It covers the five senses, as hair, muscles, bones, skim, and our brains, all in simple terms. The book also compares people to various animals for each section, demonstrating the diversity of life on earth, and encouraging children to think about what makes their own bodies special.
The Body Works series, by Liza Fromer and Francine Gerstein
The six books in this series (My Noisy Body, My Messy Body, My Achy Body, My Itchy Body, My Healthy Body, and My Stretchy Body) tactfully approach some of the weird and potentially embarrassing things that all of our bodies do, and explains the important functions behind why those things happen. From ‘gross’ bodily functions and the weird noises we make, to all of the confusion that can come with living inside a growing and developing body, these books take it all on in an upbeat, informative and normalizing way. I can’t recommend them highly enough!
Human Body Factory, by Dan Green
The Human Body Factory goes through all the of the major body systems and how they work, with charmingly illustrated representations of little workers throughout the body, telling the reader what they do, and how the body’s parts work together to digest food, send signals to the brain, and produce sweat and saliva, among many other things. There is so much to look at on every page, this book is sure to engage kids of almost any age.