Your value shouldn't rely on my opinion.
June 12, 2020 6:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for children's books about everyone being valuable, but NOT because they have some kind of interesting attribute or useful ability.

I've noticed a troubling pattern in many children's books, and I remember it from when I was in elementary school. The pattern goes:
* This person is different and we don't like them.
* Oh, they actually have a special skill or interesting attribute. Now we like them.
This does not really affirm the idea that everyone is valuable just because they are a living person, it reinforces the idea one's value depends on others deciding they are interesting or useful. I realize that's a more difficult story to tell, but are there any children's books that deliver the message that human worth isn't achievement-based or based on others' perceptions? My oldest is 4 so books for that age are preferred but older is fine too.
posted by Tehhund to Education (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe On the Night You Were Born?
posted by beyond_pink at 6:39 AM on June 12, 2020

Todd Parr's It's Okay to be Different
posted by xo at 6:46 AM on June 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are good, but I'm looking more for "recognizing the value in others" than recognizing the value in yourself. That might be too abstract for a 4 yo so feel free to go much older if that's what it takes.
posted by Tehhund at 7:13 AM on June 12, 2020

A little orthogonal, and a little youthful, but maybe But Not The Hippopotamus and But Not The Armadillo.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:55 AM on June 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Who Are You? is technically about gender identity but in the course of explaining the relevant concepts, it's very affirming of being whatever type of person you truly are, even if you're not quite certain what that means, with no need to be "special" to be valuable. My four-year-old adores it and their preschool teacher thought he could make it work for reading to their mixed-age preschool class (right before everything happened and there were no more storytimes). (On non-preview: even though it is "self"-centered, I think that's actually an age-appropriate way to approach "everyone is valuable". Who Are You? is addressed to a single reader but all the scenes are full of multiple humans and it clearly means that everyone answers the questions for themselves as well.)
posted by teremala at 9:19 AM on June 12, 2020

(My partner and I characterize the stories you don't like as belonging to the "All Of the Other Reindeer" trope, by the way. It's proven to be a very concise way to sort potential books, and teachers/librarians tend to understand it immediately.)
posted by teremala at 9:26 AM on June 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

> via 30+ Books to Educate Kids and Teens about Race (ELLE)

I Am Enough - described by the Children's Library Lady as offering "positive affirmations for those who lack self-esteem and self-acceptance. It celebrates children for who they are."
posted by katra at 11:47 AM on June 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

I think The Animal Family would be good. Bonus, the lovely illustration by the late, great Maurice Sendak.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:55 AM on June 12, 2020

Seconding I Am Enough, which is on the nose (a 4yo will get it!) and also lovely.

I am big fan of the Robie Harris body books (It's Not the Stork, It's So Amazing, etc., geared toward different ages), and she has a few other books that also touch on what you're looking for. Who We Are! is exactly about this, and Who's in My Family! is too, to a lesser extent. All the other books of hers I've seen are also very positive (and not "achievement-based") about difference, even when that's not the main topic.
posted by miles per flower at 1:46 PM on June 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

'The Birchbark House' by Louise Erdrich is interesting. The main character works to contribute to her family, but also has a hidden quality which becomes important in an unusual plot twist. Note, the vocabulary (and some subject matter) is for older kids/juvenile level. Worth a look, maybe later...
posted by ovvl at 5:01 PM on June 12, 2020

Best answer: Along the top-favorited item so far, there actually is an All of the Other Reindeer page on TVTropes, as well as, perhaps even more relevant, an Internalized Categorism page.

Also, Emm Roy (F/T/I) is worth checking out, as is Chibird and Cat's Cafe.
posted by WCityMike at 12:47 PM on June 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I feel like Mister Rogers wrote these kind of books.
posted by SisterHavana at 4:29 PM on June 14, 2020

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