9 Books That Teach Healthy Masculinity

by Yvette Manes

Traditionally, men have been expected to be strong, brawny, tough, and macho. But what happens when a man is more gentle and sensitive? Those kinds of characteristics have long been associated with females and femininity, and males who express those traits are often referred to as effeminate or emasculated. Thankfully, society is slowly changing, and more men today are able to express their emotions and gentler sides. As a parent, it's important to show your children examples of men and boys who don't fit the stereotypical macho man mold. You can start by picking up some children's books that teach healthy masculinity.

The term "healthy masculinity" means different things to different people. For some it is about removing violence from the perceived definition of being masculine. The prevalence of rape and rape culture are often sited as some of the main reasons why more young men need to readjust to idea of a new masculinity. And, it's not just about culture, it's about health, as well. According to Psychology Today, in a 17 year study of more than 700 men, those with traditionally "feminine" characteristics had lower rates of death from coronary heart disease.

Here are some books you can read to and with your kids that display examples of healthy masculinity.


'Wonder' by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio follows the story of Auggie, a 10-year-old boy who is born with severe facial deformities. After being homeschooled his whole life, he decides to enroll in mainstream school. Auggie has to struggle through adversity and deal with some not-so-kind classmates. Auggie, his dad, principal and male teachers are all examples of positive male characters.

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'Lentil' by Robert McCloskey

Written in 1978 and set in the 1940s, Lentil by Robert McCloskey is still relevant todays. It tells story of a boy who longs to sing, but can't. He decides to buy and learn how to play a harmonica, which eventually leads to him saving the day. Lentil features a positive male character who works through insecurity and becomes an unlikely hero.

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'The Sign Of The Beaver' by Elizabeth George Speare

Elizabeth George Speare's The Sign Of The Beaver was written in 1983 and takes place in in the wilderness of 18th-century Maine. 13-year-old Matt is left alone to guard his cabin while his father leaves to fetch the rest of the family. In the months he is alone, he strikes up a friendship with a Native American boy named Attean, and is protected by Attean's grandfather.

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'Hatchet' by Gary Paulson

Gary Paulson's Hatchet is my son's all time favorite book and for a good reason. It's about a 13-year-old boy named Brian who is in a plane crash and lands in the Canadian wilderness. Brian has to learn to survive, while attaining important skills such as patience, resilience and tenacity.

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'Pelle's New Suit' by Elsa Beskow

Pelle's New Suit by Elsa Beskow is a lovely book about Pelle, a boy who owns a lamb. As Pelle grows, his suit gets shorter and shorter, but his lamb's wool grows, so he sheers his sheep and does chores in his town in exchange for carding, spinning, weaving, and dyeing his wool for a new suit. This book shows how a boy can be helpful and sensitive, as well as resourceful.

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'The Lunch Thief' by Anne C. Bromley

Anne C. Bromley's The Lunch Thief is not a story about a thief or a bully, but of a hungry boy. Rafael sees that Kevin stole his lunch, but instead of picking a fight, he takes his mother's advice and gets to know Kevin, and learn why he is stealing lunches.

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'Iggy Peck, Architect' by Andrea Beaty

Iggy loves to build, and will use anything he's got on hand. Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty is a book that will encourage boys to use their imaginations and creativity.

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'The Kiss That Missed' by David Melling

The Kiss That Missed by David Melling is about a king who is in too much of a hurry to kiss his little prince goodnight, and so he blows him a kiss that flies out the window and floats into the dark forest. Dads who are always busy will not miss the moral of this story.

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'The Butter Man' by Elizabeth Letts

Another book that teaches about a man who has developed patience, perseverance, and hope is The Butter Man by Elizabeth Letts. Baba cooks dinner for his daughter while her mother works. As he cooks he recounts his life as a young hungry boy in Morocco in the middle of a famine.

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