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Embracing Book Week: the best body image books for kids

BY Zali Yager

Embracing Book Week

Ahh, Book Week. Two words that strike fear into the hearts of parents all over the country. We’re all for a week that celebrates books and the joy of reading, but could probably do without the “Mummmmm, I need a Book Week costume” at 8pm on a Sunday night…

So we’re here to let you in on a parenting hack – use this as an opportunity to help your kids Embrace, and send them in as themselves with the Embrace Your Body book! 

Books are a great way to improve body image and promote body confidence in kids of all ages – and it’s backed up by research. In one study, 9-year-old girls were read Shapesville twice, and their body image improved. Research from the Pretty Foundation found that 3 in 5 parents reported a positive impact on their child’s body image within just one month of reading the Charlie’s Tales books to their kids. 

After more recommendations for picture books to help you talk about this topic with your kids? Here are 13 of our faves.

Embrace Your Body, Taryn Brumfitt

This bright, fun book and accompanying song (be warned – it’s catchy!) are a perfect starting point for kids aged 2+ to start building messages of body confidence in your story time: talking about the amazing things our bodies can do, and celebrating diversity without comparing our bodies to others.

Buy through the BIM shop.

Charlie’s Tales series, The Pretty Foundation

Charlie’s Tales are a set of five books originally developed by the Pretty Foundation, and now distributed by The Embrace Collective. These books do a beautiful job of exploring major themes like: our bodies are all unique, and we need to value the ways we are different to everyone else; and our character is important, and we need to value our inner beauty. Perfect for 4-9 year olds.

Buy through the BIM shop (all proceeds go to The Embrace Collective).

Why Don’t I Have That?, Taylor Anderson

Why Don’t I Have That? is the story of Mae, a fairy wren who is so focused on admiring the birds around her, she doesn’t see her own beauty. It was written by 16-year-old Taylor Anderson while in recovery from an eating disorder, who realised that comparison really was the thief of joy. This book encourages young people to realise that they are worthy and they are enough, just as they are, and they don’t need to compare themselves to anyone else.

Buy through Etsy.

Love Your Body, Jessica Sanders

This book has it all – gorgeous graphics that depict a wide diversity of body shapes and sizes, positive messages that we know are effective in improving body image, a focus on body functionality, and helpful tips for things to do when you are not feeling so #bodypositive. It’s a picture book, but perfect for the tweens and early teens (ages 8-14).

Buy through Booktopia.

Be Your Own Man, Jessica Sanders

This beautiful new book from Jessica Sanders is for the boys in your life. It takes on toxic masculinity head on by breaking down the ‘tough guy’ stereotype to normalise the wide range of ways that boys and men can be.

Buy through Booktopia.

Minnie & Max are OK!, Chris Calland and Nicky Hutchinson

Minnie has had a bad day at school. Some children made fun of her looks, and she wishes she was more like them. This beautifully illustrated, confidence-boosting book will help children aged 3-7 celebrate their strengths and embrace diversity. It includes questions that adults can ask to see how children relate to Minnie and Max’s thoughts and feelings. Colourful, funny and uplifting, this book will help you make sure your child is OK with their body image!

Buy through Booktopia.

The Colors of Us, Karen Katz

Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself and she wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighbourhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades. Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people.

Buy through Booktopia.

We’re All Wonders, R.J. Palacio

We’re All Wonders shows readers what it’s like to live in Auggie’s world – a world in which he feels like any other kid, but he’s not always seen that way. The book taps into every child’s longing to belong, and to be seen for who they truly are. It’s the perfect way for families and teachers to talk about empathy, difference and kindness with young children, and to open up a conversation about disability, and how we can make everyone feel welcome and included.

Buy through Booktopia.

Little Miss Jessica Goes to School, Jessica Smith

Written by Jessica Smith, the incredible Paralympic swimmer who was born without a left arm, Little Miss Jessica Goes to School aims to tackle issues like disability, body image, self acceptance, friendship, social interaction, self esteem, stereotypes and breaking down stigma – while also increasing representation in children’s books.

Buy eBook through Amazon.

Shapesville, Andy Mills and Becky Osborn

Shapesville is a picture book about five friends who live in a small town. They are all different shapes, sizes and colours, and each has a unique talent. They encourage children to celebrate their own differences and learn that, “It’s not the size of your shape, or the shape of your size, but the size of your heart, and that deserves first prize. So be proud of your body, any size or shape will do. Be proud of your body because YOU are a STAR too!” Shapesville has been officially evaluated by researchers, and was found to have a positive impact on children’s body image and weight stereotyping.

Buy through Booktopia.

The Magnificent Toby Plum, Deirdre Cowman and Deirdre Ryan

The mission of this wonderfully illustrated book is to promote an appreciation of diversity and a positive body image. Psychologists Cowman and Ryan, who are both researchers in the area of self-esteem and the prevention of eating disorders in young people, have undoubtedly completed this mission. This is classically a children’s book (ages 6+) but could be enjoyed by readers of any age. 

Buy through the Deirdre Cowman shop.

Your Body is Brilliant, Sigrun Danielsdottir

Another book written by body image researchers, Your Body is Brilliant helps children to recognise body functionality and diversity. Bodies do all sorts of amazing things, like move around, grow bigger and heal themselves. Bodies also come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and we need to take care of them so that they stay healthy and strong. If we listen to our bodies, they tell us exactly what they need.

Buy through Amazon.

Sparrowlegs, Anupa Roper

Based on her lived experience of being teased as a child, Anupa Roper’s Sparrowlegs is a beautifully illustrated book with a message that appeals to everyone, but particularly for children teased about being small or skinny. Sparrowlegs learns to value the other things that her body can do, role modelling appreciation of the functionality of the body, no matter what it looks like. 

Buy through Booktopia.

Meet The Author,
Zali Yager

Dr Zali Yager is the Executive Director of The Embrace Collective [TEC], a DGR-status health promotion charity on a mission to help people everywhere build better body image. In her research position as Associate Professor in the Institute for Health and Sport at Victoria University, Zali was also the Chief Investigator on the Goodform project for boys, a WADA-funded, randomised controlled trial of this 4-session school-based program.Connect with Zali via LinkedInInstagram and her website. Find out more about The Embrace Collective on Instagram. Sign up for the EK Support Squad to receive body image resources and support for young people.
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