Book clinic: what books will boost self-confidence in my 10-year-old son?

A boy peers over the top of a book

Children’s fiction can play a powerful role in building confidence and resilience.’ Photograph: Alamy

Q: What books would help instil confidence in a preteen boy?
Stay-at-home mother, 33, trying to help her 10-year-old son to become calmer and more confident

A: Fiona Noble, children’s books editor at the Bookseller, writes:
The act of reading can itself create an oasis of calm in a busy world, and I believe children’s fiction can play a powerful role in building confidence and resilience. Look for stories showing characters facing and overcoming fears and persevering in tough times. SF Said’s modern classic Varjak Paw, with wonderfully menacing artwork from Dave McKean, is about a young cat on a voyage of discovery and self-acceptance in the big city, replete with martial arts and terrifying villains. Another thrilling tale of bravery is Katherine Rundell’s epic adventure The Explorer, last year’s Costa children’s book of theyear. Four children lost in the Amazon jungle face a compelling physical struggle to survive while each facing their own, more personal battles.

Nonfiction may also offer inspiration. In Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different, Ben Brooks looks beyond the stereotypes, at a diverse selection of male lives, from Lionel Messi to Barack Obama and Daniel Radcliffe. The confidence-boosting message here is that there are many different ways to follow your talents and be valued.

Finally, heightened awareness of mental health means self-help and mindfulness books have become a fast-growing category in children’s publishing. These books won’t be right for every child, but No Worries! – illustrated by Katie Abey and part of the Mindful Kids series – is full of “self-care” activities designed to build confidence, tackle anxiety and promote a calm outlook.



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