14 Books to Promote A Healthy Body Image

Reading about characters who are comfortable in their own skins helps kids learn self-acceptance. By Regan McMahon
14 Books to Help Kids Feel Good About Themselves and Their Bodies

We all want to find entertaining reads for our kids and tweens, but unfortunately, even some of the best stories reinforce body and gender stereotypes. You know the ones: girl characters judged by how pretty they are; boys teased if they’re not big and strong; boys and girls dissed for being overweight or having freckles or the “wrong” color hair or skin; good-looking protagonists who often have a chubby or scrawny sidekick who’ll never be considered cool or attractive. And so on.

But we’ve found some shining examples of books featuring characters who are comfortable with their bodies, no matter their size or shape. They’re appreciated for their talent, skills, and integrity, and they don’t trade on their looks to get ahead. Check out our full list of body-positive books starring kids (and animals) who are at ease in their own skin — or who learn that’s the way to be truly cool. We’ve highlighted some of our very favorites here:

  • Brontorina, by James Howe and illustrated by Randy Cecil, age 4+. When a brontosaurus shows up at ballet class, some of the students insist, “You are too big!” But the open-minded ballet teacher decides the problem is that her studio is too small — and moves the class outdoors. It’s a lighthearted lesson about not letting your size or shape prevent you from following your dream.
  • Flora and the Flamingo, by Molly Idle, age 4+. This charming, wordless picture books feature a spunky yet graceful little girl. Flora has a pear-shaped body, yet does a pas de deux with a flamingo. So many images in books, movies, magazines, and ads feature young girls with slim bodies; it’s nice to see an image of a girl with a round tummy who’s athletic, graceful, and creative.
  • Firebird, by Misty Copeland, age 5+. A young girl who wants to be a dancer but has a low self-image and almost gives up before ballet great Misty Copeland inspires and mentors her to reach her full potential. This exuberant picture book emphasizes hard work and self-discovery.
  • Freckleface Strawberry, by Julianne Moore and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, age 5+. The main character feels self-conscious about her freckles, especially when other kids make comments and give her a nickname she doesn’t like. The final message isn’t that her freckles are beautiful but that maybe they don’t matter. More important, it’s that people are happier when they accept who they are and what they look like.
  • Ivy + Bean, by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, age 6+. Two “opposite” 7-year-old girls become best friends in the first of a wonderful 10-volume series. Bean is a rough-and-tumble tomboy who wears pants and a T-shirt and gets dirty; Ivy wears dresses, thinks a lot, and is always reading books. They appreciate each other’s qualities, and the kids in their neighborhood appreciate them for their individuality and imagination.
  • Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, by Maria T. Lennon, age 8+. Charlie is comfortable with her out-of-shape body (while trying to make healthy food choices) and confident in her bold sense of style in this light middle school tale. In the sequel, Watch Out, Hollywood!: More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, she tries out for a TV show and kids tease her about her body, but the TV people admire her for being comfortable with her shape. It’s a refreshingly positive body-image message to find in a book about middle school.
  • The Littlest Bigfoot, by Jennifer Weiner, age 8+. A lonely human girl strikes up a friendship with a girl from a secret Bigfoot tribe in this light fantasy about two girls who feel like outcasts in their families. It has strong messages about respecting people who seem different and appreciating that they have unseen strengths and struggles.
  • Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit, by Octavia Spencer, age 8+. Randi moves to a new town and becomes best friends with two boys who also are outsiders; one is bullied for being hearing impaired but is as passionate about martial arts as Randi is,and the other is lanky, into music, and super smart. Together the diverse pals — Randi’s white, and her friends are Latino and African-American — solve a mystery using brains and the occasional Bruce Lee move.
  • Blubber, by Judy Blume, age 9+. An overweight girl is teased mercilessly by some classmates, and no one stands up for her in this brutally honest look at (pre-Internet-era) bullying among fifth-graders. The novel doesn’t spell out moral lessons but teaches kids by portraying repugnant behavior and showing the value of true friendship and courage under peer pressure.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth, by Jeff Kinney, age 9+. Middle schooler Greg Heffley goes through puberty in this series installment and suffers the indignity of teeth-fixing head gear. He deals with it all through humor and utter cluelessness, as always. He may not become more accepting of himself, but kids reading about his travails understand that everyone goes through this stage and that you can have a good laugh at the embarrassing stuff.
  • Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith, by Gabby Douglas and Michelle Burford, age 10+. This moving memoir shows the Olympic gymnast’s dedication in the face of homelessness, bullying, and having a coach tell her she should get a nose job. Gabby stays focused, works hard, and accepts herself as she is, even as she strives for greatness.
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson, age 12+. A plump princess is chosen by God (in a fictional religion) for a special unknown task. She begins the book as intelligent but insecure and afraid and ends it confident and powerful.  Rising to challenges and having faith in yourself are big lessons here — as is the message that a girl of any size can be a respected and capable leader.
  • In Real Life, by Cory Doctorow, age 12+. This exciting graphic novel portrays girls as skilled online gamers. Main character Anda is a teen gamer who learns about harsh working conditions in other parts of the world. She’s smart, competent, and compassionate, both in real life and as her online avatar.

About Regan McMahon

Regan has been reviewing children’s books for more than a decade. A journalist and former book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, she cites as one of her toughest assignments having to read and review the 784-page… Read more

THE GROCERY LINE, THE SWIMSUIT ISSUE, AND KIDS

Girls Leadership

Simone Marean thinks we can turn Sports Illustrated Swimsuit‘s controversial cover into a powerful, teachable moment with our kids.

Sports Illustrated is doing us a big favor. Next week they are releasing a swimsuit issue cover that showcases such an absurdly unrealistic version image of “beauty” that can serve us adults as a teachable moment for us, and our kids. Because they are making sure that this image is everywhere, everyone will have the opportunity to join in. In her powerful post, Melissa Atkins Wardy shared Brendan Ripp’s intention, “Sports Illustrated has never tried to launch something this big in the experiential space.” Thanks, Brendan.

Given that we will have little choice but to see this cover in the grocery check out line, pharmacy cashier or convenient store, let’s seize the opportunity to help those youth who see this image learn just what this cover is and how it works. This isn’t to shame Hannah Davis for taking this modeling job, that is her adult choice, but rather prevent some of the negative impact that images such as these have on young people, such as the increasing early sexualization of girls.

*The full version of the magazine cover is shown below*


Here’s a conversation guide to help turn seeing this magazine cover into an opportunity to co-consume media together and connect through dialogue rather than giving the image power through silence. Please adjust to the age of your child:

ON OBJECTIFICATION:

Question (to ask your child): That’s a weird image. The magazine is called Sports Illustrated. Why would Sports Illustrated put a woman on the cover who isn’t playing any sport?

Talking Points (to weave into your half of the conversation):

  • Sports Illustrated tends to show men playing sports, and more often shows women not as athletes, but as something for men to look at. While the athletes (men and women) are shown doing something they practice, something they are really skilled at and enjoy doing, these images of women just capture what they look like. We don’t know anything about this woman, Hannah Davis.
  • When we look at people like this, we objectify them. Objectify means to degrade something or somebody to the status of a mere object.

Question: What is the difference between a person, a human, and an object, like a toy?

Talking Points:

  • An object is a thing. You can do whatever you want to it. It can be controlled, bought and sold. The difference is that person has thoughts and feelings. Actions impact them. You can’t and shouldn’t buy and sell or control people – this turns them into objects.
ON MEDIA LITERACY:

Question: Does this photo look realistic? How do they make photos look unreal?

Talking Points:

  • This is not a realistic photo.
  • Sports Illustrated used computers and software to change her image. They cut away at the edges of her image to make her smaller, they colored over her skin and face, to remove all her blemishes, wrinkles, and body hair until she doesn’t look like a living person any more. She looks like a doll.
  • Check out Dove’s Evolution video to quickly see how the photo editing process works.

Question: Why would a company, like Sports Illustrated, objectify Hannah?

Talking Points:

  • The more magazines they sell, the more money they make.
  • They believe that if she looked like a human person, people wouldn’t spend $20 to look at her, and that people are more likely to spend $20 to own an unrealistic, objectified image.
ON US:

Question: How does this image hurt girls who have no choice but to see it?

Talking Points:

  • The cover teaches girls that this is what “beauty” looks like, that this is what they should look like if they want others to find them attractive.
  • Since it is fake, it is teaching girls to see themselves more like objects to be desired (if they are skinny, busty and hairless enough) than like people.
  • Studies have shown that when girls look at photo shopped images like this cover, it takes one to three seconds for them to have a drop in their self-esteem. And, on average, girls are seeing almost 3,000 – 5,000 of these images a day!

Question: How does this hurt boys who have no choice but to see it?

Talking Points:

  • The cover teaches boys to desire girls as if they were objects.
  • This can make it harder for boys to be friends with girls and to understand that girls are people with feelings, interests, and thoughts.
  • It also teaches boys that “beauty” for girls is skinny, busty and hairless — like the magazine made Hannah look in this photo.

Question: So what can we do?

Talking Points:

  • You can see this cover for the laughable image that it is, turn it over so the person behind you in line doesn’t have to see it, not buy it, share your feelings online (#notbuyingit), scrunch up your face so you remember that you are fully a messy human person and go back to the important things in life, like how good that food in your grocery cart is going to be.

Rachel Simmons at the “Girls Symposium” – October 17 in Trumbull, CT

Here’s some information on an upcoming local symposium on girls featuring Rachel Simmons.  Many members of the Middle School faculty will attend; perhaps some parents would also like to attend.

 

FUND FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS’
2ND ANNUAL GIRLS SYMPOSIUM

Keynote Speaker
Rachel Simmons


Keynote speaker Rachel Simmons, is aNew York Times best-selling author, educator, and coach helping girls and young women grow into emotionally intelligent and assertive adults.

She will share best practices on empowering girls with confidence and courage.

The first 100 registrants will receive a free copy of The Curse of the Good Girl.

Thursday, October 17
Marriott Merritt Parkway, Trumbull

Join more than 200 educators, social service providers, parents, school resource officers and more at the Second Annual Girls Symposium.

You’ll experience expert-led presentations and workshops specially designed to help today’s girls and young women.

You’ll learn strategies you can apply in the following areas:

  • Teen dating violence and sexual assault
  • Self-destructive behaviors
  • Empowering girls to take on leadership roles
  • Body image and self-esteem
  • Bullying and cyberbullying
  • Fostering Collaboration among girls
  • And more

WHO SHOULD ATTEND

The Girls Symposium is ideal for:

    • Educators
    • Social Service professionals
    • Faith-based leaders
    • Therapists
    • School Resource Officers
    • Parents and guardians
    • Anyone who works with girls

REGISTER ONLINE

Registration is $75 per person and includes continental breakfast, lunch and materials.

Space is limited to the first 200 attendees, so register online today.

You can also print, complete and mail your registration form and check.

SYMPOSIUM DETAILS

Date: Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Location: Trumbull Marriott Merritt Parkway
180 Hawley Lane
Trumbull, Conn.
Driving Directions 

INFORMATION

Tricia Hyacinth
Program & Development Associate
The Fund for Women and Girls
thyacinth@fccfoundation.org
203.750.3223

 

 

Body Image for Girls – Thigh Gap

Gallery

Here’s an interesting video on “thigh gap,” a body image issue for teenage girls.  Sacred Heart’s health curriculum and “Turn Beauty Inside Out” Club continue to help the girls develop healthy and realistic perceptions of their bodies, while looking critically … Continue reading

Abercrombie Protesters’ Plight Highlights Brand’s ‘Exclusionary’ Attitude

Kim Bhasin By Kim Bhasin of the Huffington Post

Posted: 06/04/2013

Abercrombie Protesters

Heather Arnet was escorted into the Abercrombie & Fitch headquarters in New Albany, Ohio, flanked by her contingent of 16 teenage girls. It was late 2005, and they were there to voice their discontent about a series of shirts that the company had unleashed on the market with text celebrating skinny blonde teenage girls while deriding brunettes and less-slender figures.

The shirts in question: “I had a nightmare I was a brunette,” “Blondes are adored, brunettes are ignored,” “Do I make you look fat?” and more.

Once inside, the group of protesters walked through a sea of cubicles and past towering images of men and women locked in embraces. The girls looked around in awe, wondering how strange it would be to work each day permanently surrounded by such images. Then, they entered a windowless conference room to plead their case that the fashion brand not demean people who do not fit its version of cool.

Arnet left convinced that their mission was futile.

“What we witnessed in that room that was so tangible was how deep the culture really is at Abercrombie,” said Arnet, reflecting on the experience nearly eight years later. “The only person who seemed empowered in that building was white and male.”

In recent weeks, Abercrombie has been thrashed by consumers, activists and the media for refusing to stock larger sizes for female customers and for controversial remarks made by chief executive officer Mike Jeffries in a resurrected interview with Salon in 2006. Jeffries said at the time that his brand targets the “attractive all-American kid,” forcing the company to issue an apology.

“A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong,” he told Salon. “Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

For Arnet, the chief executive officer of a Pennsylvania-based independent advocacy group called the Women and Girls Foundation, the current controversy feels familiar. In an interview with The Huffington Post this week, she described her own efforts to persuade Abercrombie executives to reexamine their values as a new set of activists are now heading to New Albany to discuss the retailer’s latest brush with protesters.

Abercrombie does have women in powerful positions at the top of its corporate hierarchy. Three of the four executive vice presidents at Abercrombie are women, along with two of the nine members of the company’s board of directors.

“Diversity and inclusion are key to our organization’s success,” reads a quote from Jeffries on the Abercrombie website. “We are determined to have a diverse culture, throughout our organization, that benefits from the perspectives of each individual.”

But the way Arnet recalls her experience, that official message is quickly undermined by the reality inside the company’s headquarters: At her meeting, the men in the room did nearly all the talking, while dismissing the protestors as people who couldn’t take a joke. The two women present sat mostly silent, Arnet said. After the meeting, Arnet took away a clear message: Abercrombie was not interested in broadening its consumer base to those deemed uncool.

“The girls tried to push them to say whether they would move forward with this idea for a girl-empowering line,” said Arnet. “The A&F team declined to say anything specific or committal.”

Arnet’s visit to Abercrombie was the outgrowth of a “girlcott” she and her teenage volunteers had organized against the company five weeks earlier to protest several shirt designs they viewed as offensive to women. Abercrombie decided to pull the shirts, and then said the company would meet in person with Arnet’s group to discuss what happened and hear a proposal for a new line of shirts that would empower girls.

Abercrombie declined to comment for this story. But sources inside the company, who spoke on condition they not be named, said executives justified the controversial shirts on the grounds that they sold very well, reflecting that they were merely satisfying the tastes of their customers. At the time, it was simply the trend, sources said.

Once inside the conference room, the girls readied a laptop connected to a projector and beamed a PowerPoint presentation on a screen. They were nervous, Arnet recalled. This was a real boardroom, and they were about to come face-to-face with a throng of executives from a massive, multinational retailer. Abercrombie’s chief financial officer was going to be there, they were told.

The girls and their chaperones had talked at length about proper business etiquette, and they had all dressed in professional attire — suits and blazers — seeking to be taken seriously, said Arnet.

But when the cohort of Abercrombie executives sauntered in and took their seats, the girls were taken aback. The men mostly wore T-shirts, and some had on flip-flops, including then-CFO Michael Kramer.

According to the Salon story, nearly everyone at the Abercrombie headquarters wears flip-flops, Abercrombie jeans and a polo shirt or sweater, as part of the company’s easygoing culture. Jeffries wears the outfit around “campus” — which is what employees call the complex.

According to Arnet, the executives asserted that the designs at issue weren’t malicious, but merely humorous, effectively suggesting that the protestors should just lighten up. The shirts had gone through focus groups, and no one had a problem with them, they said.

Arnet stressed to HuffPost the lack of involvement by the two female executives in the room. Only one of them spoke, and all she did was “reiterate and confirm” what the men said, according to Arnet’s account. The fact that the women didn’t add to the conversation struck Arnet as bizarre, she said, given that the discussion was focused on the empowerment of women.

“It was clear to all of us that the white men in the room in corporate director positions were ‘in charge’ and that they had the alpha dog status,” said Arnet.

Zoe Finkelstein, one of the leaders of the girlcott, asked Vice President of Conceptual Design Meredith Laginess what she thought about the shirts. Laginess said she “agreed with Mike [Kramer],” who had defended the designs and had done most of the talking at the meeting. When pressed about her personal opinions, Laginess did not respond, according to Arnet.

The group presented their ideas for a new line that would empower girls — not divide and degrade them. Arnet said one of the teens, Maya Savage, told the executives bluntly: “I have never seen anyone who looks like me in your stores, or in any of your ads.”

The man in charge of diversity at Abercrombie, Todd Corley, had remained silent in the meeting until that point. He was asked by a colleague to address Savage’s gripe, so he pointed the teen to the company’s website, which had a link to a page where she could read all about Abercrombie’s commitment to diversity.

“I’m sorry, but I should not have to dig to find a link on your website to find a person that looks like me,” answered Savage, according to Arnet.

At the end of the meeting, the executives thanked the girls for coming in and assured them that they were taking the issue seriously. But in follow-up conversations, Arnet said the movement was largely dismissed.

“They ended up saying that it didn’t fit with their brand to have a girl-empowering brand of T-shirts,” she said.

Several months later, Abercrombie released a shirt that said “Brunettes have brains.”It was a far cry from the systemic change the girls were hoping for, said Arnet. After all, Salon published Jeffries’ now-infamous quote about the exclusionary nature of the Abercrombie brand less than two months after the girls’ visit.

“Ultimately it was disappointing that there wasn’t a sort of long-term change that happened,” said Arnet, as evidenced by the current uproar over Abercrombie. Instead, they offered nothing more than “vague promises for change.”

10 Discoveries About Kids and Body Image

From mom.me

No Makeup Day

Read below for information on a Wisconsin high school’s “no makeup day” to celebrate the natural beauty of girls.  Thankfully, everyday in the Middle School at Sacred Heart is a “no makeup day!”  In addition, our Turn Beauty Inside Out Club is a great resource for our 7th and 8th graders to better appreciate their true beauty and understand how girls and women are portrayed in the media.

By Jacki at Babytalk

Middle and high school can be tough years for teenage girls and their developing self-confidence.

Photo: Courtesy Fox 11 NewsThree girls from New London High School in Wisconsin recently started a campaign to boost the spirits of their peers and get them to embrace themselves. Created by juniors Caitlin Schmidt, Cambria Fitzgerald, and Jenna Mytton the True Beauty Campaign began as an assignment for their enterprise marketing class and developed into much more.

More from Parenting: 9 unique holiday traditions

Their mission: to make all girls love their natural beauty instead of striving to chase some impossible standard of beauty. True Beauty’s most recent function was “No makeup day,” held at school on Nov. 15. Some 300 girls at New London pledged not to wear makeup for the entire day and 100 boys pledged to support their efforts.

It was a school-wide event, inspiring girls of all grades to let their natural beauty shine through. Girls were given stickers that said “Bare-Faced and Beautiful” and the boys were given stickers that said “I Dig Confidence.” They even sold t-shirts and bracelets to raise money for future events.

These girls have figured out what it truly means to be beautiful. Now their confidence is inspiring the rest of the New London teenage community.

How do you teach your children to embrace their natural beauty?

Original article