Watching your child struggle is one of the hardest things we do as parents. So often we see what they're going through and don't know how to help. Sometimes kids don't know how to express what they are going through, either. This creates a chasm that leaves our children feeling lonely and us feeling lost. Books bridge that gap.
School is exciting and filled with learning new things — except for when it's not. It's easy for kids to feel different, less than or like they don't fit in. These 10 books help them see how normal those feelings are while showing how to increase self-esteem, be themselves and show kindness to others.
"Chrysanthemum" offers the most beautiful story about a girl who is being teased at school. The reader sees her struggle and immediately wants to cheer for this little mouse with the big name. A fantastic read-aloud title for preschoolers and older, "Chrysanthemum" will leave kids feeling hopeful and confident in who they are.
"Giraffes Can't Dance" is a silly story about a lovable giraffe that feels like he's not like his friends. Ages 3 and older will love the vivid illustrations and laugh with Gerald as he discovers how to find his own music. The book also shows kids how they can be a good friend by cheering on people who are different than they are.
A beautiful story that looks at skin color in all its shades, "The Colors of Us" follows the story of a little girl. Trying to paint a picture of herself, she struggles to find the right color of paint. As she walks through her neighborhood, she sees the beautiful skin of everyone around her in all its varying shades. Perfect for little kids and older kids alike, this story reminds us that we are all unique &mdash and that is a beautiful thing.
A story with a strong message, "A Bad Case of Stripes" reminds readers to be exactly who they are, even if it's not the same as the people around them. Through this funny tale and illustrations, kids see how much better it is to be themselves than to conform. Perfect for early elementary grades, kids will laugh and be reminded it’s okay to be different.
"You Are Special" is one of the treasures in the well-known Wemmicks book series. Beautifully illustrated and featuring characters who carry through to all the books, these stories help kids understand that they are special no matter what anyone else thinks. Perfect for those striving to be like everyone else, this heartwarming story spans early elementary to middle grades.
A current favorite, "Wonder", is one of the most honest stories about a boy who looks different and his experiences at school. His story will inspire your child (and you) to be the best version of yourself, embrace all that life hands you and find joy in the most difficult of times and circumstances. While it is a middle-grade novel, it's a fantastic read-aloud story for kids in grade 3 through adulthood. It's also a movie!
While "Blubber" may not solve every part of the problem, it opens the door to having conversations about bullying and all the roles people play when someone is bullied. This classic Judy Blume tale is a middle-grade favorite, and is a great book to read with your child.
A fantastic graphic novel, "All's Faire in Middle School" is the story of a girl named Imogene who has grown up in the Renaissance Faire scene. Finally headed to public school, she learns that middle school can be tricky and friendships aren't always what they seem. Imogene's journey to discover how to be herself and find out what real friendship looks like make this a treasured title for fans of graphic novels.
Middle school can be challenging for anyone, but 12-year-old Catherine faces special challenges in "Rules." Struggling to understand how to be who she is when her family life often revolves around her brother with autism, Catherine sets out to understand what normal is and discovers a lot about friendship, herself and her family along the way.
"Stargirl" is an emotional tale that highlights the ups and downs of popularity in a new high school. It's easy to see why this book is so highly acclaimed, as it touches on subjects such as first love and being yourself no matter what everyone around you says. "Stargirl" is a great upper-middle-grade story, given its honest look at peer pressure and the desire to fit in.
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Editor's note: This article was originally published in April 2018, and updated in August 2021.