Parents and educators are always trying to find ways to show children how to celebrate individuality and gain self-confidence. Below are seven picture books that beautifully showcase this message. As a teacher in California of primary-aged students in a public school, I have read these books to my students and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a good book to read aloud to kids.
1. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes – I usually read this picture book at the start of the school year. It features main character, Chrysanthemum, and her worries about starting school and how other students will perceive her long, unusual name. In the end, her worries are put to rest, and Chrysanthemum learns a lesson about the power of being unique. According to Scholastic Books , this picture book is “especially appropriate for any child with a difficult or unusual name, this perceptive picture book will charm a wider audience with its wit and wisdom.”
2. Ruby the Copycat by Peggy Rathmann – In this picture book, Ruby is a new student at her school. Wanting to fit in with her new classmates, she decides to copy a girl named Angela. Fortunately, her teacher is there to help her find a way to fit in and be herself at the same time. There is a wonderful lesson to be learned about individuality and self-confidence in this picture book, but as an added bonus, the pictures are also wonderful. Google Books describes them as “charmingly offbeat illustrations in full color.”
3. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell – Molly Lou Melon is a tiny girl with buck teeth, but it never stops her from being the fabulous girl that she is. I love reading this book to my students year after year because Molly Lou Melon’s spirit and strength is a reminder to be proud of oneself despite the adversities and disadvantages life has handed out. Kirkus Reviews says of this picture book, “Even if Molly Lou Melon’s tale is a little too good to be true, she leaves readers with the feeling that anything can be accomplished if you are the best person you can be and make the most of your gifts.”
4. Odd Velvet by by Mary Whitcomb – Because I have read Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon for ten years now, I wanted to read a new book that sent out the same message. That’s when I discovered Odd Velvet, which is a beautifully illustrated picture book for elementary-aged children. In this picture book, Velvet is unlike most girls at her school, but she is comfortable with not liking dolls, enjoying her rock collection, and just being herself. “This inaugural picture book for both author and artist features an oddball girl whose differences teach her classmates to appreciate their own unique qualities, ” says Publishers Weekly of this charming book. Also,Odd Velvet truly is the perfect replacement for when I get tired of reading Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon. In fact, I think Molly Lou Melon and Velvet would be great friends if they truly existed in our world.
5. Elmer by David McKee – Based in the United Kingdom, LoveReading4Kids says, “The subtle message [in Elmer ] is that it is OK to be different, and combined with the vibrant colour and cheeky humour of the main character.” Elmer is a fantastic book about an elephant unlike all other elephants because he was covered in colorful pat work instead of being plain gray. It is a wonderful picture book to read in the classroom or homeschool because it not only teaches children about the importance of individuality, but it also can be used to teach art. At then of the story, all of the other elephants decide to color themselves in a pattern, each different from the rest. So, as an art project, I have students decorate and color a large paper elephant, usually to teach them the resist art technique.
6. Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – Barnes & Noble’s online store provides this summary of this delightful tale about individuality: “He’s always been a happy little utensil. But lately, he feels like life as a spoon just isn’t cutting it. He thinks Fork, Knife, and The Chopsticks all have it so much better than him.” The best part of this book is that Spoon’s parents are in the story to help boost his self-confidence and to remind him that he will always be loved and appreciated at home. This picture book shows how each individual should be celebrated because each of us is special.
7. Zero by Kathryn Otoshi – This book is especially great for very young children because it teaches kids about having self-confidence, while simultaneously helping them learn about the value numbers and counting. The characters of this book are all numbers, and Zero, the main character, wishes he could be more like other numbers, like One, for example, because he feels that they have “value” and he does not. “As budding young readers learn about numbers and counting, they are also introduced to accepting different body types, developing social skills and character, and learning what it means to find value in yourself and in others,” according to Goodreads.