This story originally appeared on Fatherly:
“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death … This means, to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” That’s Jerry Seinfeld, famed purveyor of parental wisdom, talking about a fear that takes root in childhood. Speaking up is scary for a lot of kids, and while some of you have managed to break the ice with a shy toddler by complimenting their shoes, even more of you have likely told a kid, “Use your words” so many times that you’ve forgotten what those words mean. One of these 10 stories will probably deliver the message better, provided you don’t get stage fright when it comes time to read them.
The Name Jar
Having just moved from Korea (and presumably lacking access to a machine that tells you everything you could ever need to know about your name), Unhei decides to go nameless to school until she can pick one she knows the kids will be able to pronounce. They fill a jar with possibilities, but a classmate discovers the beauty behind her name’s meaning and helps Unhei make the only clear choice.
The Invisible Boy
Brian fades into the background figuratively and literally (he’s drawn in black-and-white) until a kind gesture towards the new kid in class illuminates his artistic talents and their value. It’s a struggle to be a lonesome kid silently drawing superheroes with the power to make friends, but as an artist, one day Brian will appreciate not being appreciated in his own time.
A kid only using their inside voice sounds like a good thing, until you witness the struggles of Willow, who never speaks beyond a whisper. She can’t accept group lunch invitations, challenge bullies, or get the right kind of juice (just point to apple!) until she builds a makeshift megaphone. After it breaks, she learns to make her voice stand on its own, which of course all kids should — just at a reasonable volume.
Decibella And Her 6-Inch Voice
The flip side of that coin is Decibella, who, as you might have inferred by her nickname (real name, “Isabella”), has a bit of an issue controlling THE VOLUME OF HER VOICE. Her teacher helps her understand the 5 voice volumes, and she practices until she realizes that “Donald Trump Challenging A Debate Moderator To A Fight” level is almost never appropriate.
Mary Wrightly, So Politely
Then there’s Mary Wrightly, who’s so well behaved she’ll even apologize for whatever dumb thing your kid just did. Mary learns that sometimes you have to assert yourself to get what you want, especially when all you want is to buy your kid brother a toy. So, would you be kind and read this to your kid? Please? Sorry, that should have said, “READ IT NOW!” Wow, that does feel better.
When No One Is Watching
Being brave is easy when nobody’s watching. When all eyes are on you, though, not so much. It’s the reason most shower singers never make it. Then there’s that one friend around whom you can do anything, and that’s the kind of friendship the narrator here has with Loretta. Introverts can be awesome, too. They just don’t care if you know about it.
Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike Of 1909
There’s speaking up, and then there’s being a tiny Ukranian immigrant girl who leads the largest strike of women workers in US history. In Yiddish. Brave Girl is a history lesson and a primer in perseverance rolled into one, and it’s illustrated by a Caldecott Honor artist in case you needed one more reason to buy it. (Although Clara has proven to be pretty convincing on her own.)
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
There’s never any doubt that buck-toothed, bug-eyed, toad-throated Molly Lou Melon will heed her grandmother’s advice and charm her would-be bully, Ronald Durkin. But predictability doesn’t make the story, or its titular heroine, any less awesome. It’s beautifully illustrated, and Molly Lou struts through the pages with an infectious “I’ve got to be me”-ness. In other words, your kid will come away assured that it’s their world; you’re just living in it.
Shh! We Have A Plan
Speaking up can also be done in the form of actions, which are of course louder than words (unless you’re Decibella). Case in point, the tiniest of 4 hunters in this jaunty little number is the only successful one, and the only one who doesn’t repeatedly issue the titular refrain, which sort of spoils the whole stealth thing most hunters tend to go for.
You Are Not Small
This Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner is basically an Abbott and Costello routine between 2 frumpy looking, bear-like critters trying to figure out who is small and who is big. It takes even more, equally goofy looking critters to settle the debate and teach your goofy looking critter that it’s okay to voice their opinion, but all things are relative.
(Top Photo: Getty Images)
More stories you’ll like from Fatherly: