This weeks guest blogger is Shelley John. Shelley has a fantastic blog on books for kids. This particular post covers books to encourage self-confidence and individuality in toddlers which is great to feature during Children's mental health week.

Ivy, my two-year-old daughter, is currently a big ball of confidence. I watch her run in to her dance classes, leap in to the arms of family friends, blow raspberries at strangers and wave at everyone she walks past in the street and I wonder if she will always be this sure of herself.

I truly hope so, but experience tells me that somewhere in her childhood those little doubts will start to creep in as she compares herself to school friends and pop stars, YouTubers and Instagrammers.

I am keen to makes sure that from an early age she knows that whoever she is now and whoever she turns out to be she will always be loved, and she will always be good enough.

When choosing books for her I seek out strong characters with interesting stories. I shy away from princesses in towers and damsels in distress and look for tales of individuality, where being true to yourself is the super power which wins the day.

Our five favourites are:

1) Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival: Norman is a perfectly normal little boy until one day he sprouts a pair of wings! At first he loves them, but then he realises he doesn’t know any other little boys with wings and worries that others will make fun of them. He covers the wings up with a big yellow coat and tries to get on with his life. Constantly wearing the coat makes everything difficult and he soon becomes sad and lonely. One day he realises that it’s not the wings that are making him unhappy – it’s having to hide them under the coat. What will happen if he has the confidence to take it off and show his beautiful wings to the world? Buy it now

2) Dogs Don’t Do Ballet by Anna Kemp: Biff is not like other dogs. He’s not interested in sniffing bottoms and fetching sticks - instead he dreams of becoming a ballerina! Every time he tries to dance he is told ‘No – Dogs don’t do ballet!’. He hones is art in private by watching his owner at her ballet classes and one day he sneaks after her when she visits the royal ballet for her birthday. Disaster strikes when the prima ballerina is injured in a fall. Is it possible that Biff the dog could dance in her place and make all of his dreams come true? Buy it now

3) Elmer by David McKee: Elmer is a brightly coloured patchwork elephant in a herd where everyone else is grey. He’s always the life and soul of the group but deep down he worries that people are laughing at him because he is different and not because he is funny. He sets out on a mission to make himself grey like everyone else – but soon finds out that being himself is a lot more fun. Buy it now

4) Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima: Kelp was born in the Ocean and grows up with a family of narwhals. Although he has a tusk, just like they do, he knows deep down that he is different. One day he is swept away by a strong current and finds himself in a strange new place. He meets a group of unicorns and after spending time with them he realises that this is who he really is. Can he spend time as both a narwhal and a unicorn or does he have to choose between his family and his new friends? Buy it now

5) The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright: The little brown mouse in this story is so tiny and meek that he is often ignored and forgotten. He knows that he is smart, and he knows that he is worthy, but he just doesn’t have the confidence to show this to the world. Meanwhile the mighty lion is considered king by all the other animals just because he has the loudest voice. One day the mouse decides that he simply must make a change, so he ventures up the dark mountainside to ask the lion to teach him how to roar – but when he gets there he has a big surprise. Surely that big old lion isn’t scared of a tiny little mouse…is he? Buy it now

In the last 12 months I’ve seen an increasing number of children’s books with positive messages about individuality, self-esteem, diversity and inclusion, and this makes me extremely happy. By reading these books with our children we’re not just developing their literacy skills and furthering their education. We are helping them see that we’re all different and we’re all the same - and that we are all stronger when we work together.

For more toddler book recommendations follow Ivy's Library on




February 07, 2018

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