Consent is a hugely important topic for young children. Often with lots of love to give and little autonomy, they can easily run into the challenges around forced physical contact. Fortunately, there are picture books about consent for children that can help kickstart these conversations. Representing both sides of consent—the skills to ask for and refuse—these picture books are appropriate for a range of ages from toddlers to school-age children.
Will Ladybug Hug? by Hilary Leung, illustrated by Hilary Leung
Ladybug loves hugs! As we meet a new animal friend on each page, Ladybug assesses whether or not her friend is interested in a hug. Leung introduces nuance to this kid-appropriate discussion on consent by describing different kinds and degrees of hugs that are okay according to each character’s preferences. With a paper cutout illustration style, this picture book has a repetitive beat to it perfect for toddlers and beyond. Will Ladybug Hug puts consent in a context kids both understand and recognize, making it a memorable piece for caregivers to refer back to in the event of a teaching moment. “Remember how Sheep did not want a hug from Ladybug?” you can ask—and it’s likely your child will!
C Is for Consent by Eleanor Morrison, illustrated by Faye Orlove
Finn is visiting with friends and family for a party. Like many children, he is encouraged to show physical affection with those in attendance. Fortunately, his parents have expressed that Finn should maintain his boundaries and interact with individuals within his comfort zone. Finn helpfully provides language and scripts children can apply in their own lives. A great pick for ages 4 and up, C Is for Consent pairs a simple illustration style with slightly more complex text. Morrison also includes a discussion guide at the end of Finn’s story to facilitate further understanding.
Hands Off, Harry! by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Rosemary Wells
Children’s book extraordinaire introduces readers to a young alligator named Harry, who has trouble with the concept of personal space. After a number of invasions of space throughout the school day, Harry is met with a classmate’s idea—he will wear an innertube that will help him define his personal bubble and better understand others’. With prose that is a bit more complex, Hands Off, Harry! is a good read-together option for Kindergarteners (and up!) and their grownups. When it comes to picture books about consent, this one takes a slightly more sideways approach while remaining relevant to the general conversation around what it means to be respectful of others’ space.
Miles Is the Boss of His Body by Samantha Kurtzman-Counter and Abbie Schiller, illustrated by Valentina Ventimiglia
From the Miles series, Miles Is the Boss of His Body invites readers to Miles’s birthday party, where he meets with all kinds of people in an illustration style that mixes cartoon-y traditional picture book and comic speech bubbles. Each person wants to greet Miles differently, but Miles isn’t interested in being touched—finally fed up, he makes his wishes known to results that surprise him. This reactive response to physical consent will help kids verbalize no after the fact and give them confidence that their caregivers will respect and honor their boundaries. A solid choice for children 5 and up.
Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller, illustrated by Sharee Miller
Aria loves her hair and so does everyone else! While the admiration isn’t a problem, that everyone wants to touch it—and does without asking—is. Soon, Aria has had enough and exclaims that people must ask permission before touching her. Drawing from her own experiences, author Sharee Miller adds vibrant and exciting illustrations to Aria’s story, perfect for a read-along with ages 4 and up. Miller talks briefly about her own experience in an author’s note, enabling readers to dive further into the discussion around consent. While Don’t Touch My Hair speaks to the specific experience many black people have with non-consensual hair touching, it is a great pick to discuss both this specific experience and how the concepts apply beyond black hair.
My Body Belongs to Me by Jill Starishevsky, illustrated by Angela Padrón
Written by a district attorney responsible for prosecuting thousands of sex offenders, My Body Belongs to Me tells the story of one child who is molested by their uncle’s friend. Told in gentle rhyme, the simple plot describes in a sequence of events that, while traumatic, are told with clarity and accessibility. Starishevsky’s gender-ambiguous character makes the book especially useful for children who have experienced abuse, by nature of its non-specificity. My Body Belongs to Me includes a guide called “Suggestions for Sharing This Book with Children” as well as a list of resources for adults. Sadly, children of all ages have shared the main character’s experience, making it relevant to a wide range of ages with simple text; however, the depiction of the character suggests ages 5 or 6 and up are the best audience for this title.