Body Positive Reading for Children

In honor of Weight Stigma Awareness Week, Two Books to Teach Children the Truth

Amanda's Big Dream. Judith Matz and Elizabeth Patch

As a parent and an eating disorder specialist, I am always on the lookout for positive body image resources for children. In the context of the war on obesity, too much focus is placed on being thin. Weight bias is experienced by children as young as three. Negative body image and body shame are linked to numerous negative health outcomes including eating disorders and depression.

Two recently published books by respected colleagues are wonderful additions to body positive children’s literature.

They both follow philosophies of Health at Every Size® and Intuitive Eating, which promote body acceptance and healthy eating behaviors.

Your Body is Awesome: Body Respect for Children by Sigrun Danielsdottir (Singing Dragon) is a picture book for children ages 4 to 7. Brightly colored illustrations show diverse bodies engaging in a variety of activities. The text emphasizes that bodies can do many amazing things and that our bodies tell us what they need, including when to eat.  Readers are encouraged to take good care of their bodies and to celebrate the diversity of different bodies. Messages include, “All bodies are good bodies,” and “Fat and thin bodies are also different.  Neither is better than the other.”

Amanda’s Big Dream  by Judith Matz (Graceful Cat Press) is a thirty-two-page story book for children ages five and up. It tells the story of Amanda, a girl who is hoping for a solo in the ice skating show.

Her skating coach tells her she may improve her chances if she can “lose a little weight.” In most books of this ilk, the child responds to this fat-shaming incident by obediently losing weight, following which they become happy and popular. The message given by such books is that being thin is the road to success and happiness; anyone who diverges from this path is doomed to a life of humiliation and misery.

This is exactly where Amanda’s Big Dream breaks the mold. In this book, Amanda’s parents tell her that she is fine “just the way you are,” and that she does not need to lose weight. She sees her doctor, who tells her she is healthy because she gets lots of exercise, listens to her body to tell her when she is hungry, chooses a wide variety of foods, and stops when she is full. Her doctor then says, “Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, Amanda. The most important thing is to keep making choices that are healthy for your body. That’s how we’ll know your body is exactly the right weight for you.”

After a period of discouragement during which she briefly stops skating, she ultimately continues to pursue her dream at her current size. However, there is no typical fairytale happy ending. We don’t know whether she ultimately gets a solo. We just know that she continues to work hard pursuing her goals.

It is unfortunate that there are still books for children that suggest the answer to a child being teased about their weight is for that child to go on a diet.

The solution should be to stop the shaming, rather than pressure the child to lose weight in conformance to a cultural ideal. Amanda’s Big Dream provides a model for just that: supporting versus pressuring a child who has been weight shamed. Judith Matz has also made available (via her website) helpful body image resources for parents, teachers, and caregivers, which can help adults to discuss these issues with children.

Both books offer opportunities for children to learn about body respect and healthy behaviors. Let’s hope that resources such as these can help the next generation to be more respectful of the diversity of bodies and less focused on pursuit of the thin ideal.


Stice, E., Hayward, C., Cameron, R. P., Killen, J.D., Taylor, C. B. (2000).  Body-image and eating disturbances predict onset of depression among female adolescents.  Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109, 438-444

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