42% of first through third-grade girls want to be thinner
Girls’ self-esteem peaks at 9 years old
By age 10, 80% of girls report being afraid of becoming fat
Most of us have seen statistics like these and know that body image is an important issue for girls, but many parents find cultivating a positive body image in their daughters challenging, especially given all of the messages in the media about girls’ and women’s appearances.
To make it easier for parents to help their daughters develop a positive self-image, A Mighty Girl has compiled this collection of 10 great books for Mighty Girls on body image. There are several selections each for young, middle, and young adult readers, as well as a book specifically for parents.
Of course, the hope is that these books will encourage parents to discuss body image-related issues with their daughters and included are a few resources at the end of this post to help that conversation get started.
What I Like About Me! by Allia Zobel Nolan, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto (age 3-7): The kids in this book all have something to celebrate about themselves. Distinguished glasses? Sparkly braces? Fun, curly hair? This book will remind your child that any difference can be celebrated as something that makes them special -- and at the end, the Mylar mirror lets her pick what she likes about herself.
I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow (age 3-8): This little girl knows that, no matter what she does, where she goes, or what other people think, she is special because “I’m ME!” Kids will laugh at phrases like beaver breath, stinky toes and even sillier things; parents will like including diverse faces in their collection.
Beautiful Girl: Celebrating the Wonders of Your Body by Christiane Northrup, M.D., and Kristina Tracy (age 4 and up): This new release presents the important message that being born female is special, and that your girl’s body is miraculous and deserves to be respected. Equally importantly, it does so without devaluing boys, so families with both boys and girls can read it together. The poetic language and lovely artwork also makes it engaging for all ages.
The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O’Roark Dowell (age 9-12): Abigail is 17 pounds too heavy for the popular girls, but since she’s happy with her body and refuses to accept being teased, she instead befriends Anders, a boy whose veteran father is struggling with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Unexpectedly, Abigail finds that helping someone else might be just the thing she needs to feel her absolute best.
Smile! by Raina Telgemeier (age 9-13): This autobiographical graphic novel starts with a trip and fall that breaks two of Raina’s front teeth. As she has to deal with braces, surgery, headgear and false teeth, she also lives through the challenges of puberty: Morphing friendships, crushes on boys, a maturing body and changing family expectations. Any girl living with (or facing) braces or other orthodontic work will enjoy knowing that others have lived through it -- and gone on to great things.
All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype to Celebrate Real Beauty by Audrey Brashich (10-14): In this informative and eye-opening account of the effect that media and pop culture have on young women’s self-image, Brashich, a former model and fashion writer and editor, aims to make girls aware of the artificial nature of the images they are bombarded with of airbrushed, perfectly styled and made-up celebrities and supermodels. In this accessible guide, Brashich teaches girls to look past the hype and recognize that beauty comes in many shapes and sizes -- including recognizing the value in themselves. Her thought-provoking questions and tips will help girls recognize how they are being marketed to and enable even pre-teens to understand just how subtle and insidious the beauty media myth can be.
Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught (age 12 and up): Jamie is a fat girl and proud of it: She’s writing a feature column in her school newspaper to make people aware of the unfairness suffered by overweight people. But when her boyfriend, Burke, announces that he is going to try gastric bypass surgery to lose weight, Jamie wants to support him but worries that everything will change. Jamie is a fun, ambitious protagonist who loves her body, even as she speaks candidly about her thoughts and feelings about being fat in a world that celebrates thinness. Any teenager will appreciate this story about finding your own way in life.
The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake (age 13 and up): Maleeka finds it tough enough to be teased for her homemade clothes or her good grades -- at least those are things she could change. But being teased about her dark, black skin means being teased about what she is. When a new teacher with a startling white blotch on her face comes to school, Maleeka knows what she’s in for... but Miss Saunders loves the skin she’s in, and taunts don’t bother her. Perhaps Miss Saunders can give Maleeka something more important than acceptance by her peers: Happiness with who she is.
Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Answers by Nancy Amanda Redd (age 15 and up): To quote Redd, “You’d think a Miss America swimsuit winner would feel completely confident about her body, right? Not always!” Redd answers questions about skin, hair, body, weight, and many other issues of concern to teenage girls. Her information is medically accurate, engaging to read, and touches on topics many girls would hesitate to discuss with parents or doctors. Her “before” and “after” images demonstrating the results of photo retouching will be particularly shocking and informative. While her writing is accessible to younger teens, parents should be aware that this book includes photographs that show the wide range of “normal” bodies out there -- including many nude shots and multiple images of female genitalia.
101 Ways to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body by Brenda Lane Richardson and Elane Rehr (parents): Most parents worry about the negative messages their daughters may experience about their bodies. This book, written by two mothers -- who also happen to be a psychotherapist and a journalist -- gives practical ideas to help parents take an active role in teaching girls confidence, love and respect for their bodies. The advice covers all ages, from infancy to adolescence. Parents will come away from it confident that they have all the tools they need to raise a proud, happy girl!
Even if you don’t opt to share these particular books with your daughter, remember that the top wish among all girls is for their parents to communicate better with them -- to have more frequent and more open conversations about everything, including their own lives. A strong relationship with your daughter is the best self-esteem booster of them all.
We leave you with a wonderful testament to positive body image and confidence, India Arie’s inspiring song about loving your body.
To view our full selection of books for all ages about body image, please visit A Mighty Girl Body Image section.
For additional tips on how to talk with your daughter about body image issues, visit PBS Kids Feature on Raising a Girl With a Positive Body Image.
For more information about eating disorders and body image, visit this PBS feature on Eating Disorders and the Family.