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Growing Reader

Tween

Teen

Books to Help Kids Build a Positive Body Image

by Denise Schipani

Photo credit: KidStock, Blend Images/Getty Images

A year or so ago, when my older son was growth-spurting — and sliding into his Awkward Years — he said something so out of the blue (well, to my ears) that I can’t stop thinking about it. “Just look at my legs!” he moaned, with real anguish. “They are so fat.” For the record, my boy is big (always has been), but he is not “fat.” What made his pronouncement ring uncomfortably in my ears was the fact that I thought this didn’t happen to boys!

Clearly, I was wrong. And yet when I started searching for books to help boys deal with distorted body images, I found … not a lot. (Plenty for girls, which is understandable). The fact is, our kids — all of them— are faced daily with unrealistic images of the human body, and some are more vulnerable (thanks to temperament or age or a host of other factors) to making damaging comparisons with their own bodies. Barbie’s Amazonian frame, ever-thinner runway models, notorious magazine and advertisement Photoshopping: what the media presents to girls is well-known. Guess what? Boys are catching up: It’s now commonplace for male models to be shirtless (and more), baring impossibly chiseled torsos. Male action figures, too, have physiques that, if transposed onto adult men, would dwarf the buffest body builder. The point is, all our children are growing up with distorted images of what makes a woman or a man sexy, hot, desirable, cool.

One thing a smart parent can do is limit exposure to these images, but that can be (depending on your child’s age) about as unrealistic as Barbie’s waist size. Start as early as you can by presenting them with positive counter messages, such as those found in these books.