Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Inner Awesomeness: Books that Promote Self-Esteem and Tolerance

This post is all about promoting your child's "inner awesomeness".  With the help of books, of course.  I had multiple inspirations for finding books that celebrated individuality, uniqueness, and well, inner awesomeness. 

First, my friend has been telling me about this Free to Be...You and Me book that she swears I should remember from elementary school (although I don't).  After checking out the website - it seems totally cool and does bring back 70s and 80s nostalgia, yet still does not spark my memory of the book, DVDs, or songs.  Nevertheless, the message is clear!  And a good one at that. 

Second, let's face it, Lady Gaga is everywhere....showing off her inner monster and pleading for people to express theirs.  She's a modern icon who dares to be different (really really really different) and I admittedly find her expressiveness very inspiring, despite the fact that I don't always "get it". 

Third, I feel like every time I turn around I see this heart wrenching commercial about how being gay "gets better".  OK, I get teary eyed just thinking about it.  The "It Gets Better Project" sends the amazing message of respecting people for who they are.  Now if only we could educate our children about hatred and intolerance at a young age, we wouldn't even have to have such projects.

Fourth, I'm a big fan of Glee, and I love the fact that it sticks up for nerds, and every other minority under the sun (and in a very comedic way I might add).  In fact, I just watched a commercial for spread the word to end the word - a plea to not use the R-word in everyday conversation.

Fifth, every once in awhile when the weather is rainy I take baby bookworm to the pet store up the street to visit the animals.  On our latest outing we encountered a boy who was severely autistic.  He couldn't speak and exhibited the characteristic hand flapping of many autistic children.  Baby bookworm immediately sensed that this boy was different.  She acted afraid, clung to my leg (which is very uncharacteristic of her personality), and pointed at him as if to say, "what's wrong with him?".  Of course she didn't know any better (she is only 17 months), but this outing got me thinking......maybe it IS time to have the "everyone is different and yet special in their own way" talk.

And last but not least my baby bookworm does this thing....this thing where I say "You are soooooo...." and she finishes by exclaiming "cute".  Some may perceive that as teaching arrogance or conceitedness, but I say "Nah".  When you consider how commercials and movie stars and singers are pleading people of this nation to love themselves for who they are, accept those who are different, and not to spread hatred, I say "you ARE cute baby bookworm, and say it all you darn well please!"  Putting all of these aforementioned points together, you might actually think there's some kind of hatred epidemic going on in this country.  Hatred for oneself and hatred for others.

So here's the books that I have used and will use to teach baby bookworm about her own "inner awesomeness" and "specialness" and yes, cuteness.  Because it's perfectly OK to think you are cute or smart or even the best at something....which leads me to my first book.
written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins (also author of the Maisy books)
This is a simple and comedic book that is perfect for toddlers.  The main character is a dog who proclaims himself as “the best” at doing a bunch of different things (such as digging holes).  He believes that he is much better at these things than his friends (a mole, ladybug, goose, and a donkey) but only later realizes that he is not, in fact, the best at these things (mole can actually dig holes much deeper than him!).  His friends help him realize though that he is the best at being a good friend, and having beautiful fluffy ears.  To which dog says “Oh, phew”…. “obviously having beautiful fluffy ears IS the most important thing. So I AM the best.”  You just have to love it.  A dog with an attitude!  Again, is it OK to think you are the best at something?  I think so.  If we all think hard enough I’m sure we can find something about ourselves that we are pretty good at, and we should be proud of that.  Baby bookworm thoroughly enjoys this book too.

I Like Myself
by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow

The title says it all.  It's a fun, rhyming book with an adorable curly haired African-American girl as the main character.  The text promotes self-esteem in children.  Baby bookworm and I have only read this book once in Barnes and Noble (another rainy day outing), but I immediately fell in love with this little girl.  It's a fabulous book, with a very good message, and it's an easy read-though with a toddler because the illustrations are so whimsical. For those of you with older kids in elementary school, check out this site for some wonderful activities to go along with this book!

My Book about ME
By Me, Myself with the help of Dr. Seuss

This is a book all about your child, written by your child.  You could use it for younger children as well if they had an adult handy to help them fill it out.  On each page is some fun fact to fill in.  For example, there are questions about height, weight, eyeglasses, freckles, where he or she lives, and interesting facts.  I can't wait until baby bookworm can fill out her book - we got hers as a present (and a good one at that). The woman who bought this book for baby bookworm told me that her kids (who are now in middle school) actually filled it out twice!  When we visited with them, both of her girls were very, very proud to show off their completed books to me.....  I think they had definitely learned the lesson that they are unique and special.

My Nose, Your Nose
by Melanie Walsh

A perfect book again for toddlers on the topic on individuality.  The story has a repetitive format and tells of how friends Daisy, Agnes, Arthur, and Kit are all different on the outside (for example, one child has green eyes and another brown), yet they all are the same on the inside.  Baby bookworm and I have checked this book out a few times from the library.  She definitely likes it, and it was even featured recently in one of her toddler story times.

Here's a few other books that fit nicely into this theme.  We haven't read them yet, but we definitely will in the future.

I'm Gonna Like Me by Jamie Lee Curtis and illustrated by Laura Cornell
Free to Be...You and Me by Marlo Thomas
I Like Me by Nancy Carlson
Girls Hold Up This World by Jada Pinkett Smith and illustrated by Donyell Kennedy-McCullough
Hooray for You! A Celebration of You-ness! by Marianne Richmond

I hope your baby bookworm and you embrace your own inner awesomeness!

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