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Ten Books to Inspire Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem in Kids

When I was a kid, we didn’t hand out Valentines to everyone in our class (and they were not at all Pinterest worthy). In sports, we didn’t all receive trophies for participating. And, we didn’t have to feel guilty about not inviting the entire class to our birthday parties. Egos got bruised for sure.

Oh, how times have changed.

Sure, we encourage our kids to include others, to be empathetic, and to stand up for their friends and classmates. But we can’t always shield them from rejection, nor should we want to, as difficult as it may be to witness. Rather, we want them to come out on the other side, stronger and more confident. (Note: I am not talking about bullying, an entirely different issue).

Sometimes, books say it better than we can, and at the very least, may open up talking points with our children.

If you’re a reader yourself, check out my free downloadable checklist of BOOKS TO READ FROM A TO Z at the end of this post! 

Books that Inspire Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem:

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Preschool to Early Readers:

Happiness Doesn’t Come From Headstands by Tamara Levitt

self confidence and self esteem for kids happiness doesn't come from headstands by tamara levitt

Although Leela loves yoga, she can’t master headstands. This book’s lesson applies to both children and adults. Our successes or failures do not define us. And though we set goals for ourselves, we can’t always achieve them. And, that’s OK.

Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

self confidence and esteem books for kids dear girl by amy krouse rosenthal and paris rosenthal

Written in the form of a letter, this book reminds girls to stay true to themselves, stand up for what they believe in, and to accept their imperfections.

 The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

self confidence and esteem book for kids the name jar by yangsook choi

With a theme similar to one of my favorite books, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, in this book, a young Korean immigrant struggles with being the new girl and having a name like no other in her class.

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio

self confidence and self esteem books for kids we're all wonders rj palacio

My third-grader read the novel Wonder to my daughter and me. We saw the movie and loved it, but much of it seemed over my 6-year-old’s head. This book, meant for a younger audience, does not retell the story of Augie, a boy who physically looks different. Instead, it focuses on his emotions and the good in people.

Upper Elementary and Middle School:

Way of the Warrior Kid: From Wimpy to Warrior the Navy Seal Way by Jocko Willink

self confidence and self esteem books way of the warrior kid by jocko willink

In this series of novels, written by a former Navy SEAL, the main character gains confidence through mental and physical challenges. Through hard work and discipline, Marc gains the courage to confront his bully.

*An older teen may appreciate the book The Warrior’s Heart, written by another Navy SEAL.

Frazzled, Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki Vivat
frazzled book series books for self confidence and esteem for children

This book series focuses on a girl and her anxiety upon entering middle school.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

self confidence and self esteem books for children smile by raina telgemeier

This memoir told in the form of a graphic novel, recounts the author’s long orthodontic journey, including surgeries and fake teeth. It also deals with bullying and ultimately, self-acceptance. My daughter loves the entire book series.

raina telgemeir book collection

Middle School and Up:

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

books for self confidence and self esteem star girl by jerry spinelli

There’s a reason why Jerry Spinelli’s books are often required reading in middle school. His other books (Loser, Maniac Magee, Wringer) involve characters grappling with their identities. This book tells the story of Stargirl, the ultimate non-conformist, and the boy who falls in love with her.

Deenie by Judy Blume

books to build self esteem and confidence in children deenie by judy blume

This classic Judy Blume book brings back so many memories. As parents, many of us project our own dreams and ideas of success onto our children. What happens when those dreams fail to materialize into reality? Deenie’s mother wants her to pursue a modeling career. But a scoliosis diagnosis changes everything. Deenie must wear a full back brace and has to learn that self-worth comes from within.

The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake

This book follows a middle school girl, bullied for the color of her skin. She struggles with self-esteem issues but learns to stand up for herself.

books to build up self esteem and confidence in kids the skin i'm in by sharon g flake

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Martin Ganda

i will always write back book builds self confidence and esteem in children

This is the true story of two pen-pals, a teenage girl in the United States and a boy living in Zimbabwe. Through their six years of letters, the two become real friends and gain an understanding of the others’ very different life. Your child will gain a real-world perspective and understanding of how others live and the problems they face.

You may also be interested in this blog post about children’s books that teach tolerance and kindness and children.

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The effect of social media on our children’s self-esteem and confidence

Despite our best efforts to protect our children’s feelings, there will come the day when your child will be excluded. There’s no way around it. Maybe it’s a party, an outing somewhere, or a friend leaves him off of a group text. Only now, social media makes the exclusions all the more apparent and has the power to crush their little souls like nothing else. If you haven’t seen the documentary, Screenagers, I highly recommend it.

Check out the clip below, paying special attention at 1:40 mark.

What about Adults?

Of course, social media can do a number on us adults too, bringing out issues of self-doubt: Profile photos of happy families, parents sharing their child’s newest talent, husbands tagged for buying flowers just because, and that innocuous hashtag “blessed” that is anything but.

It’s time to get a grip on your reality. Remind yourself of how real and awesome you are IRL. Your life is so much grittier, tougher, and more interesting than anything you could possibly put out there on social media-your private struggles, your relationship truths, your failures, successes, and regrets.

You may also want to our Favorite Things by MyPurseStrings Facebook Group, where we share our favorite things, including books.

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Related posts about books:

How to Find a Book Club that’s Right for You

Reading Challenge Bingo

The Ultimate List of Books from A to Z

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Saturday 17th of March 2018

[…] STRATEGIZE Helping our kids be more confident. Here are some books to help. […]

Valentine's Day Gifts for Married Couples: Keeping it Real -

Saturday 10th of February 2018

[…] my kids, on the other hand, it’s a week-long holiday, with parties, cards, treats, and […]


Saturday 10th of February 2018

Hey Very nice I will Recommend to my son read this thanks

Jessica Gaibler

Tuesday 30th of January 2018

My tween loves Smile and all of the other books by Raina Telgemeier. I have read a few of the others, but many are new to me. Pinning! Thanks for the great list!


Tuesday 30th of January 2018

My son will be getting braces soon. He's going to have to read that one.

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