What I Tell Myself First: Children’s Real-World Affirmations of Self-Esteem
Written by Michael A. Brown
Illustrated by Zoe Ranucci
Mamba Enterprises, LLC (2019)
Reviewed by Eve Panzer for The Barefoot Librarian and Reader Views Kids (02/2020)
“What I Tell Myself First” by Michael A. Brown is a much-needed tool for educators and parents trying to promote the development of self-esteem in their students and children. It is in a workbook format rather than a storybook, with blanks for the children to write their answers. The interactive book engages children and provides opportunities for discussion. The diversity in the characters in shape, size, color, and appearance makes the book inclusive for all children.
At a young age, children begin facing challenges. As educators and parents, we need to provide children with the tools to face them. It can be a daunting task, but books often give us the opportunity to talk with kids about some tough issues. “What I Tell Myself First” is an important and useful resource to use when building self-esteem to help children navigate their world.
Each page addresses a different aspect of building self-esteem. Major topics include respect; change; embracing your abilities; accepting your limitations; responsibility; self-acceptance; and learning from our mistakes. Below are some messages quoted from the book.
“If I am not right that’s okay. I won’t always be right. Failure is part of success if I learn from failure.”
“Change can be good. Change can be bad. Change can be happy. Change can be sad. I can change some things. I will change some things. I won’t change some things.”
“Before I do anything, I must think first. Two ears and one mouth. Hear more with less mouth.”
“I must wait until the right time to do things. I must speak when it’s time. I must speak what is mine.”
“Work equals worth. In my work, I am worth. Respect is earned when I give respect. I must act in a good way that earns respect.”
“How I look can earn respect. How I speak can earn respect. Not everyone will give me what I earn. Not everyone will respect me. That is okay. I respect me!”
There are a few statements that I think an adult will need to clarify. One is “I must love me first. I must be selfish before I am selfless.” Self-love is important. However, an adult needs to also point out that sharing and helping others is part of being a good global citizen, earning respect and self-respect.
Another statement that will need more explanation for children is: “It is NO ONE’s job to ‘Protect Me’ from anything. That is my job.” Children also need to understand that they do not need to face issues alone. Children need to feel free and safe talking to trusted adults and realize this is a way they can protect themselves. Both of these are great opportunities for adults and children to have meaningful discussions.
The last page of the book includes a kid-friendly diagram of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. “Abraham Harold Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was a psychologist who studied positive human qualities and the lives of exemplary people. In 1954, Maslow created the Hierarchy of Human Needs and expressed his theories in his book, Motivation and Personality.” This offers another opportunity for discourse.
With cheerful, colorful, fun and diverse illustrations, as well as brief text on each page, this book makes many tough topics approachable and relatable. The author’s introduction and endnote help us to understand that these messages are heartfelt. Building self-esteem from an early age and developing social and emotional skills will help children navigate their world in a healthier way.
“What I Tell Myself First” by Michael A. Brown is recommended for parents and educators of children ages 3-10. This book is also available in Spanish!