8 Picture Books To Help Kids Feel Comfortable in Their Own Skin

by Janssen Bradshaw

Photo credit: Peathegee Inc/Getty Images

Is there anything better than a child that is unapologetically herself?

As a parent, one of my goals is to help my children all feel like they have the space and security to feel comfortable being themselves, whatever that looks like. Whether it’s encouraging them to embrace their own interests (even if they aren’t popular among their peers), helping them try out things they aren’t good at yet, or teaching them to accept the ways in which they are unique, I want my children to know that I love them unconditionally for exactly who they are.

Of course, in true librarian fashion, one of my favorite ways to open up those conversations is with a stack of picture books. These titles are perfect for helping kids feel comfortable with who they are and also having discussions about children in their school, neighborhood, or sports who are unique.

  • The Day You Begin

    by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

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    Most of us have probably had the experience of being the only one like us in a room, whether it’s because of the color of our skin, our religion, our nationality, or something else entirely. This beautiful book is a gentle reminder to be brave and reach out to others, no matter our differences, and look for ways to connect.

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  • I Am Not a Fox

    by Karina Wolf, illustrated by Chuck Groenink

    Luca is delighted to be at the dog park until the other dogs tell him he’s not a dog. In fact, they’re quite certain he’s a fox. But when he meets a few foxes in the forest, they don’t think he’s a fox either, since he acts like a dog. Is there anyone out there who will understand Luca and not worry too much about whether he’s a dog or a fox?

  • Giraffe Problems

    by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith

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    Edward the giraffe feels like his neck is just way too long. He tries hiding it and disguising it, but nothing works and he’s not sure what else to do. Then he meets Cyrus the turtle, who reminds him of all the ways Edward’s long neck is an asset. It’s a funny yet sincere story centered on self-acceptance and the power of supportive friends.

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  • Gary

    by Leila Rudge

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    Most of the time, Gary fits in with the other racing pigeons. But when it comes time to fly, Gary stands out because he CAN’T fly. Is there any way for his dreams of seeing the world to come true? Thanks to a lucky mistake and a lot of perseverance, they just might!

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  • One of a Kind

    by Chris Gorman

    This book, filled with bold graphic art that already sets it apart from many picture books, features a kid who loves punk rock and dancing. From head to toe, he’s unique and he likes it that way, even though sometimes it can be a bit lonely. After all, in this big world, there has to be someone else like him!

  • Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh

    by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Kate Hindley

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    When you feel like a big tough dog inside, it’s pretty embarrassing to be called Choochie Pooh, be carried in a handbag, and fed heart-shaped dog treats. Fortunately, Choochie Pooh is up to the task of showing the other dogs that he can keep up with them. And there are benefits to being a tiny dog too — after all, those heart-shaped treats are pretty delicious!

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  • How to Be a Lion

    by Ed Vere

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    Daydreaming, poetry-writing Leonard loves hanging out with Marianne, who happens to be a duck. When some other lions make fun of Leonard because he’s gentle and he’s loyal to Marianne, the two friends pen a powerful poem about being yourself (“Let nobody say / just one way is true. / There are so many ways / that you can be you”).

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  • I am a Cat

    by Galia Bernstein

    Simon is a housecat but he’s DELIGHTED when he meets some big cats, including a lion, a puma, and a tiger. After all, they are all cats! And even when they inform him that he’s nothing like them, he points out all the ways they’re similar. I love this book that shows how both our similarities and differences can bring us together.