Being young is difficult. Not only do children and teens need to deal with school anxiety and their changing lives, they also struggle with peer pressure and maintaining a healthy self-image. These books for children and teens celebrate self-acceptance and focus on loving oneself no matter what religion you are, skin color you have, country you are from, or even if you are a frog and not a fluffy bunny.
I Don’t Want to Be a Frog, by first-time author Dev Petty, is great story to read with younger children about a young frog determined to be anything other than his slimy self. He stubbornly questions his father about why he can’t be several other animals. Why can’t he be a rabbit? He can hop, but that doesn’t make him any less of a frog. This is a fun and funny story to share, while at the same time sneaking in a message about accepting yourself, even if you are a green, slimy frog.
For students in middle grades, a great book about self-acceptance is The Garden of my Imaan, by Farhana Zia. This story is about Aliya, who has experienced hateful words and bullying about her religion, and because of that she hesitates to display her faith in outward ways. She is uncertain about wearing a hijab or fasting during Ramadan, because she doesn’t want the other kids in her New England school to notice her differences. During the school year, Aliya gets a new classmate, Marwa, who is also Muslim. Marwa has a quiet confidence that at first Aliya dislikes, but then grows to respect. Eventually, Aliya learns to stand up for herself and make decisions based on what she wants to do, instead of being afraid of what her classmates think.
The Skin I’m In, by Sharon G. Flake, is an older young adult title with a message of self-acceptance that very much resonates today. Maleeka thinks she’s too dark-skinned, her clothes are homemade-looking and falling apart, and she also happens to be the ”tallest and skinniest” thing you have ever seen. These outer features are all anyone notices, and she is made fun of and treated poorly by both her friends and the other kids at school. No one notices her great memory or her amazing math skills or what she reads. The only thing they notice is her appearance, and they aren’t too impressed with that.
When a new teacher comes to school, Maleeka has trouble not staring at this tall, fat teacher with a man’s name. In addition to all this, Miss Saunders also has vitiligo, a skin condition that causes the loss of skin color in blotches. This causes her to have a large white mark across her face. This tough-talking teacher does not let the taunts and snickers of the students bother her. Throughout the book, Maleeka struggles to be tough like this and accept herself for who she is.
To find more books that celebrate self-acceptance, please visit the Free Library of Philadelphia in person or explore and request materials through the online catalog here.
Liz Kenny is the school-age and outreach coordinator for the Free Library of Philadelphia.
By Dev Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt
By Farhana Zia
Peachtree 230 pages.
By Sharon G. Flake
Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children 171 pages.