As much as we hate to admit it to ourselves, there will come a time when our precious babies will feel less than the amazing beings that they are. So often, our society pushes messages of conformity on them – don’t stand out, do what’s “the norm,” and try to fit in.
The reality is we are all very different, each with a unique set of talents, traits, and ways to serve our communities and the world around us. In fact, those who tend to shy away from the crowd are usually the ones who make an incredible impact or create social change. As we’re seeing more often now, sometimes this can mean being teased or taunted or purposely left out, both as children and as adults.
What our kids need to know is that they are brimming with strength and resolve and that within them lies greatness. Being confident in one’s self is not easy and sometimes can feel lonely, but the task is very important to undertake. Sometimes, the help of a good book can go a long way in helping kids understand things like societal norms, what it might be like to feel different, and how to remain true to yourself.
If you’re like me and use children’s books to start meaningful conversations with your kids, this list is for you. Read on for our 15 favorite children’s books that show kids it’s okay to be different below.
Gerald the giraffe wants nothing more than to dance, but he's not quite built in a way that makes that graceful for him. But rather than giving up, some encouragement from an unlikely friend, he learns to express himself in the way that makes him feel the best, no matter how silly he looks.
A little boy brings his older brother in for show and tell – and he only has one hand. Your child will learn along with the kids in the story that people with physical differences aren't disabled, they're just abled differently. It also reminds you, as a parent, that most questions kids ask are purely out of curiosity, and when we respond to those questions honestly and with positivity, we're helping change the conversation around physical differences.
Nate is really excited to dance! But when he learns that he'll be the only boy in his ballet class, his brothers start making fun of him maybe wearing tights and a tutu. Although he's nervous, he still pursues the activity he loves, and your child will be so encouraged by him!
Nothing like Seuss to teach a lesson in acceptance – with rhyme! The Sneetches are divided – half of them have green stars and the other half do not. When certain privileges start coming to some of the Sneetches and not others, a wild scuffle to change appearance and status ensues. It's a playful way to be reminded of the obvious fact (in a way only silliness can do) that truly we are all the same, no matter what we look like.
This book might touch you more than your child. Dyson loves to wear jeans and also he loves sparkles. He sometimes wears dresses, even when he's climbing trees. He loves being a boy, and he loves being a princess. Written from a mother who is working to understand her son while also displaying her unconditional love might be an encouragement to you, mom, while also showing your child that they can be interested in whatever they'd like to be, no matter how "different" it might appear.
Leo the tiger has yet to draw, speak, or write, and his father is getting worried. His mother, however, knows that Leo is just taking his time and he'll bloom when he's good and ready. If your child is also a late bloomer, they'll love having Leo to relate to, and if they're not, they can learn that other people just develop in their own special way – and that's just fine!