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Be Who You Are: 5 Great Reads That Build Self-Esteem

dad reading to two kids one adopted

Self-esteem helps children learn and grow with positivity and love. It also gives them the confidence to try new things—and if they fail, to try again.

From quiet observers to do-it-yourselfers, all children—and plenty of grown-ups—benefit from a little positive reinforcement, and stories are a great way to nurture it. Here are five of our favorite titles—inspired by what we use in our own centers—that deliver lessons on self-esteem in sweet, silly, entertaining, and relatable picture books. Plus, we’ve got kid-friendly questions to spark more conversation.     

I Like Me cover

1. I Like Me! 

By Nancy Carlson 

A perky pig proclaims that she has a best friend: herself! Sweet, colorful pictures help piggy celebrate the many things she appreciates about herself: The way she looks, her many hobbies, and how she takes care of herself by exercising and eating well. When piggy is feeling down she can cheer herself up, and when she makes mistakes, she can try again.  Piggy is proud of who she is, and it’s a downright pleasure to see. Buy it here.

Conversation starter: What are some of the ways you take care of yourself, both inside and out?   

Frederick cover  

2. Frederick 

By Leo Lionni 

We all have unique talents and gifts to share. In this Caldecott Honor Book, Frederick the field mouse sits on a rock by himself as his family gathers food for the winter. When they question him, he replies that he, too, is working, gathering sun rays, colors, and words. The other mice don’t see the value until winter’s darkest days, when Frederick’s poetry warms their hearts and feeds their spirits. Simple, graphic collage illustrates the message that there’s more to a full life than what’s for dinner. Buy it here.

Conversation starter: How do you help family and friends when they feel sad?

Whistle for Willie cover   

3. Whistle for Willie 

By Ezra Jack Keats 

From the author of the Caldecott Medal–winning classic The Snowy Day, this beloved 1964 picture book follows Peter as he perseveres in his attempts to whistle for his pooch, Willie. Vibrant illustrations capture a child’s inner world as he navigates frustration and disappointment until he finally, joyfully, succeeds. Buy it here.  

Conversation starter: How have you felt when there was something you wanted to do, but couldn’t? What did you do?

Blue Ribbon Day cover   

4. The Blue Ribbon Day

By Katie Couric 

Best friends Carrie and Ellie try out for the school soccer team, but the inseparable pair face some challenges when only Ellie is selected. Disappointment may be an inevitable part of life now and then, but with some help from her mom and friends, Carrie learns that we all have ways in which we shine. Jazzy rhymes brim with confidence-building and inspiration to try new things. Buy it here.

Conversation starter: When you feel disappointed, what do you do to feel better?

Too Loud Lilly cover   

5. Too Loud Lily

By Sofie Laguna and Kerry Argent 

Everyone in her family and at school tells Lily Hippo that she’s too loud. She’s even noisy when she reads a book! But then a flamboyant new drama teacher enters the picture and encourages Lily to channel her boisterous talents for the school play. Buy it here.

Conversation starter: Has anyone ever told you that you were being too loud? What are some good ways to let out your loudness?

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