Books To Promote Healthy Self Esteem

Looking for a picture book to talk about self esteem? Here are sample of books I use with small groups, class lessons, and individual students to support self esteem.


The Little Butterfly That Could by Ross Burach

Cover art

The butterfly needs to find his family and it’s an overwhelming task. How does helpful self talk affect our behavior? This little butterfly will find out.

This book covers so many topics, such as: perseverance, growth mindset, helpful and unhelpful self-talk, goal setting, overcoming obstacles, and mindfulness.

Activity: My book companion set is full of a variety of activities.

Brave by Stacy McAnulty

brave book and dog on bed

Being brave is more than just facing your fears. Explore what it means to be brave with this picture book guaranteed to make you smile.

Activity: Follow @stacymcanulty on Twitter. Ask students to complete the sentence “I am brave when..” by drawing or writing. Share their answers with the hashtag #IamBraveWhen.

Find scraps of cloth or fabric at your local Goodwill, Old Time Pottery, etc. and have students create their own capes. If your school allows, have students dress up like their favorite hero.

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Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty

Unlike her book Brave, all the characters in this book are female. The story reminds me of a “Dove” commercial that empowers girls to look past their outer qualities and focus on intrinsic strengths that make them truly beautiful.

Activity: Cut out paper hearts and have students write down one thing they love about themselves, then use the hearts to create a bulletin board.


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 Cupcake by Charise Mericle Harper

This is one of my favorite books to use with all grades. It’s a perfect book to use as an icebreaker, get to know you activity, and to identify what makes them unique. Cupcake doesn’t have colorful toppings like his siblings and candle isn’t fancy like his, but together they just might discover that together they are special.

Activity: Use this classic activity from Elementary School Counseling to  have students design their own cupcake with a topping that makes them special, things they love, etc. For example, I cover my cupcake with paw prints.

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The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright

Lion is bold and braggy, mouse is meek and mild. However mouse wants to find “his lion inside.” The twist at the end makes my students giggle every time. 

Watch the rap version for a fun twist.

Activity:  I have an entire activity pack to go with this book!


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Be Who You Are and It’s Ok To Be Different by Todd Parr

Todd Parr has the most colorful, eye catching books. He’s a must have author and I enjoy using his books with all elementary grades.

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Activity:  Have students do partner interviews and create an “about me” sheet for their partner. Once done, have students create their own self portrait. Then hang up with the interview sheets covering the portrait, which allows students to guess who it’s about and discover the answer by lifting up the sheet and seeing the picture beneath.


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Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell

This book is a must have for any elementary school counselor.  For my friends in TN, it’s also part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program. Not only can you talk about self esteem, but you can also use it to talk about friendship, conflict, bullying, encouraging others, and moving to a new school. Molly Lou Melon may be small, but she’s her personality and sparkle is so big it wins over even the meanest of classmates.

Activity: I am not artistic, but thankfully I’ve had lots of interns over the years that were. One of those smart cookies drew this example of of a self portrait and I’ve used it ever since. img_2834.jpg

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Stella Is A Star by Bernadette Peters

The best part of this book is the cd. I love hearing Bernadette Peters exciting and yet soothing voice read this story about a pup who discovers who she really is and becomes a star.

Activity: Cut out stars and have students write down what makes them a star.

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Leo The Lightning Bug by Eric Drachman

I love books with cd’s because not only are they engaging, but they save my voice after I teach 450 lessons a year. This story talks about the importance of believing in yourself. With the help of his mother, Leo, learns to overcome teasing and love himself.

Activity: Do you have tons of craft supplies sitting in your office? Then use them to make this adorable Leo. This is also a perfect story to have students create a positive self talk shield and identify three trusting adults that encourage them.

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Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreade

Do you and your students dream of greatness? Then this book is for you. Gerald thinks his legs are too long to dance, but with some wisdom from a cricket, he soon discovers he will reach his dream in a very special way.

Activity: There are so many resources online. Scholastic has a FREEBIE activity here.  I love this worksheet from Marissa at Elementary School Counseling, giraffes_cant_dance work page – Anxiety). Find more freebies herehere, and here . There is also this super cute poster/ color page to give to your students as part of a lesson on self esteem, bullying, perseverance, etc.  Of course, it’s always fun to end this lesson with a little dance party.

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 10.38.30 AMRed: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

As soon as I read this book I bought it. I think it’s the perfect book about self acceptance and “labels.” Poor “Red” just can’t be what his label and others say he is suppose to be. No matter how hard he tries, he just can’t color red. It isn’t until he learns to take of his label and that he finds he really shins being blue. It’s a must have book for any students with gender identity issues or students that are going on a journey of self discovery.

Activity: Have students create a crayon that represents themselves. Display all the crayons in a giant crayon box that represents the class, grade, school, etc. as a sign of acceptance. There are also a ton of resources on TPT. I love this freebie because I love using this book to address self esteem and acceptance. Want to get really tech savvy? Have students create a cool video about the book and/or themselves like this amazing stop motion video.

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 10.39.36 AMI’m Special, I’m Me by Ann Meek

It’s no shocker that this book is an award winner. It’s wonderful for elementary age students with a sweet message of “you are special because you are you”.

Activity:  Partner with this Sesame Street video. This book is awesome because it can partner with so many different TPT finds like  the “elf esteem” holiday activity from Savvy School Counselor,  this one which I like to use around Valentine’s  or this one for use around St. Patrick’s Day.

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 10.40.09 AMCarla’s Sandwich  by Debbie Herman

I consider this book a classic for school counselors. It’s great for all ages in elementary school and covers so many topics, like acceptance, the power of words, and teasing. It’s also a great book to compare and contrast with The Sandwich Swap, and then discuss culture, traditions, etc. If you use it in a small group you can have students bring in sandwiches to share that represent their unique style and heritage.

Activity: is not only a great place to watch this story, but they also have a in-depth activity packet.  Marissa at Elementary School Counseling has some exceptional activities to go along with this story as well. You can also do a readers’ theatre to really get into the book and have student’s practice public speaking. For my early finishers, I always have lots of paper around so they can design their own sandwich.

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! (EXCLAMATION MARK) by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Amy Krouse Rosenthal is one of my all time favorite authors. Her books are funny and thoughtful, and this book is no exception. It’s about a sweet exclamation mark who is different than anyone else, but discovers that being unique is extraordinary.

Activity: Tease students with this book trailer introduction. Then you can partner with The Middle School Counselor’s self esteem packet . You can also use this book to talk about problem solving by using this TPT packet.

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 10.41.39 AMI Like Myself by Karen Beaumont

This book is great for positive self affirmations, positive self talk, and boosting self esteem.

Activity: Have students draw a self portrait and surround with positive self affirmations. Kids Health also has this awesome “chain of compliments” activity.  This activity from Simply Second Grade also goes great with this book.



I Am Small by Qin Leng

The main character in the story is struggling with being small and all the hardships that come with that- like not being able to over the counter. It isn’t until a new baby sibling comes along that she goes from feeling very small to very big.

Activity: Have students draw a time in their lives when they felt “big” or draw a portrait of who makes them feel “big.”



Except When They Don’t by Laura Gehl

This rhyming book tackles gender stereotypes related to the activities we do, toys we love, interests we have, and the clothes we wear. It’s great for all ages.

Activity: Grab my FREEBIE activity set here.

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