The journey to loving yourself isn’t always an easy one, especially for young girls. Faced with pressure from peers, society and even family, having a positive body image can feel elusive at best.
As the mom of two daughters, I’m always looking for books that help build a positive body image.
And thankfully, there are many! These nine books will empower girls to celebrate their uniqueness, find confidence, and love themselves just as they are.
Here are my top picks:
Recommended age: Babies and up
Read this if … you want even your littlest girls to appreciate their curly hair.
In a nutshell: This is a playful board book that celebrates Black girl curls and all the joy that comes with them!
Why I love it: The peppy words and bright illustrations make this one a book for all ages to enjoy.
Favorite quote: “shine big/ hair love”
Recommended age: 4-8 years
Read this if … you’re looking for a stunning picture book that highlights the power of loving yourself.
In a nutshell: When a young girl notices that her eyes don’t look quite like her classmates, she looks to the generations of women in her family to show readers just how special her own eyes are. Her eyes, like her Mama’s, like her Amah’s, like her Mei-Mei’s, are not only full of the culture and history of her family, but they glow like warm tea, hope for the future, and look up when others look down. Through her family, the little girl cherishes what makes her so special.
Why I love it: Just like the little girl’s eyes, this book is full of both beauty and strength. The gorgeous illustrations carry readers through each page, and the words are a powerful testament to loving what makes you unique.
Favorite quote: “My lashes curve like the swords of warriors and, through them, I see kingdoms in the clouds.”
Recommended age: 4-8 years
Read this if … you want a book about a strong, confident little girl who loves herself.
In a nutshell: Tameika knows she is a star. She just is, plain and simple. She was born to perform, to sing, to dance, to be on stage. When she sees the audition notice for the first-grade performance of Snow White, she knows it's meant to be. But even Tameika's confidence is shaken when she hears other kids suggesting that she's too big, too tall, and too brown to be Snow White. Luckily, with support from her parents, Tameika is reminded that she's exactly who she is supposed to be and her confidence comes soaring back just in time to snag that role!
Why I love it: It's a fun and bright book that little ones will enjoy, but it’s also a great book to open up a conversation about body image on a very age-appropriate level.
Favorite quote: “She could act, she could dance, she could sing. She loved herself as much as she loved music and movement.”
Recommended age: 4-8 years
Read this if … you want your girls to feel comfortable in their own skin, no matter the color.
In a nutshell: Sulwe dreams of having light skin like her sister, whose friends call her “Beauty” and “Sunshine.” But Sulwe’s skin is as dark as night, and no matter how she tries, there’s no changing it. One night, a shooting star appears at Sulwe’s window. It transports her into the story of two sisters, Day and Night, showing Sulwe that the world needs both light and dark, and that there is beauty in each one.
Why I love it: Gorgeous illustrations, a story within a story, and a powerful message for every child — how could I not love it?
Favorite quote: “[Night and Day] were inseparable from that moment on, and promised to celebrate the brightness in each other, whether people chose to see it or not.”
Recommended age: 7-9 years
Read this if … you want your girls to celebrate their bodies and all the amazing things they can do!
In a nutshell: This coffee-table worthy book presents body positivity through words and illustrations that appreciate all kinds of bodies and how each one is unique and incredible. The book also includes tools and activities to help readers love their own bodies and even includes mental health and other resources at the end.
Why I love it: The illustrations are diverse, inclusive and gorgeous, and the text isn't only encouraging but empowering and informative, too. We read parts of this book during a Brownie Girl Scout meeting on being your best self, and it was perfect.
Favorite quote: “Every body is different and every body is a good body.”
Recommended age: 8+ years
Read this if … you want a straightforward body image book for your girls.
In a nutshell: Written by an author dedicated to anti-fat discrimination, “A Kids Book About Body Image” lets young readers understand that no matter what you might sometimes feel, or what others might sometimes say, our bodies are amazing, and it’s OK to love yourself the way you are.
Why I love it: I love that this book is designed to be read with an adult. Yes, it’s important for young girls to read these words, but parents and other grownups have a crucial role in reinforcing them!
Favorite quote: “Here’s the real truth: Nothing about you needs to be fixed.”
Recommended age: 8-12 years
Read this if … you want a charming middle grade novel about learning to love every part of yourself.
In a nutshell: Karma is freaking out. She’s just discovered 17 hairs on her upper lip, which is pretty much the last thing your average sixth grade girl wants to discover. As if that weren’t bad enough, in addition to her new mustache, Karma’s also facing a lot of other new experiences in her life, from her nearly unrecognizable best friend to her dad becoming a stay-at-home dad, to the death of her beloved Dadima. In this funny and smart novel, Karma sets out to face the challenges of adolescence head on and ends up realizing that maybe new isn’t so bad after all.
Why I love it: This book had me rooting for Karma from the very first line. I cringed and laughed and cried right along with her as she navigated the very tricky waters of being a sixth grade girl!
Favorite quote: “Dadima used to say I’d be as strong as a lion if I drank milk twice a day. She never mentioned I’d get as hairy as one too.”
Recommended age: 8-12 years
Read this if … you want a smart, empowering read about three young girls fighting against sexual harassment.
In a nutshell: Eve never dreamed that she’d be number one on the list ranking the top 50 prettiest girls in 8th grade ― and she’s not so sure she likes the new and unwanted attention. Her best friend Nessa tries to be supportive, even though she knows that her size would keep her from even getting on such a list. And Sophie, well, Sophie knows she really should have been number one. But one thing all the girls agree on ― whoever wrote that list has to be taken down.
Why I love it: Though the book’s focus is on objectification and sexual harassment, it also expertly weaves in friendship, family, economic disparity, mental health and overall body image issues into a great read for young girls.
Favorite quote: “I contain multitudes, we all contain multitudes, we are a million things unfolding eternally and we’ll never even know our own full stories. You are not a number. You are not a body.”
Recommended age: 13-17 years
Read this if … you’re looking for a joyful YA read with a fabulous body-positive main character.
In a nutshell: Korean-American K-pop superfan Skye is pumped. She’s auditioning for an international TV show looking for the next K-pop star, and with her singing and dancing skills, Skye knows she’s got this in the bag. The only problem? Skye is overweight. And in the world of K-pop, that’s a big no-no. Skye is comfortable in her own skin, but the industry has other ideas, and Skye comes face to face (literally) with fat-shaming like she's never faced before. But Skye is determined to push back against the judges’ harsh comments, just like she’s been pushing back against her own mother’s comments about her weight her whole life. And it just might be enough for Skye to get closer than ever to her dream of becoming the first-ever plus-sized K-pop star.
Why I love it: Skye’s story touches on some serious topics, like fat shaming and family and cultural issues, but the whole book was an absolute delight to read.
Favorite quote: “Fat girls can’t dance. I hear Mom’s words over and over again, like a broken record. Well, Mom, I’m here to prove you wrong.”
Ciarra Chavarria runs the Instagram feed @girlsreadtheworld, where she regularly posts her latest finds. She’s also a lawyer and the mom of two super cool girls who live in New Jersey.