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Tidbit Tuesdays: Sex-Ed Books for the Kids


(Featured image from Candlewick Press)

When I was a librarian, one of the most difficult questions for patrons to ask me was for books that taught sex-ed to kids. Not that it was difficult for me (although one of the staff noticed the search history on the computer and came to me in a panic thinking one of the staff was a pedophile), but it was a difficult question for a lot of parents to ask me and involved a lot of beating around the bush and stuttering.

It’s a strange thing we see a lot in the United States. Kids are exposed to violence pretty early, but something about sex is just different. I say it this way because I’ve been told numerous times that Europeans and occasionally people from other regions are always scratching their heads at why American parents always seem to be freaking out about sex scenes, but ignoring the violence. During the last New York Comic Con I watched a panel that included a discussion about Elf Quest, where creator Wendy Pini discussed how, decades ago, she received a letter from a mother irate about a loving orgy scene in the comic…. completely ignoring the brutal violence of the war in the comic. Why was joyous, consensual love the problem?

Well, it usually gets blamed on the religious background of the country’s founding and things like that, but I’m not really interested in discussing those things today (but for the record, I blame the Manicheans and St. Augustine for the root of so many annoying things that linger today).

Anyway, so I just wanted to mention my favorite book for sex-ed for kids. I ordered this book numerous times at a couple of different libraries and every copy was promptly stolen. Sometimes these thefts are “protest thefts”, but often these thefts can also be because the person who wants the book is embarrassed to have anyone, including staff, see them taking the book. Unfortunately, unless someone actually writes a protest letter, it can be impossible to know which type of theft it was… and I never received a letter. I suspected more were protest thefts, since they were never returned.

Cover of the book "It's Perfectly Normal" by Robie H. Harris

The Family Library has other similar books as well but I have yet to read them. Now, no one book is perfect and of course these books for children are never terribly long. You will probably find some areas lacking in depth and it probably won’t satisfy the most liberal of sexual parents (and it will be grossly offensive to the most conservative of parents), but honestly, I was always very impressed with the basic foundation this book lays. It doesn’t beat around the bush. It doesn’t hide the genitals or otherwise give subtle clues that one’s body is unacceptable. It is all extremely positive and presented in a very secular manner. And it is easy to add to the discussion yourself (and of course, with any book of this nature I would recommend pre-reading the book thoroughly and preparing what you will wish to add to the discussion in advance) without giving the impression that you are contradicting the book. For example, note the explanation of gender (pages 10-11) in the link above (click on the cover). Not satisfactory, surely, for all parents, but basic enough and simple enough to expand on in a positive manner.

I can’t wait until my son is old enough for “the talk.”

What are your favorite books and resources?

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  1. I LOVE this book. (And had so-called university ‘friends’ steal both my copies.) Thank you for reminding me of it as I will get it again now, even though my daughter is only 2 at present. She can point at the pictures and get sensible ideas about body shapes.

  2. We have the level down of that book…. It’s Not the Stork. My 6-year old ADORES it. I think he went through a phase where he wanted it read to him every night for a month. I will be getting him the next one (I think it’s for 8 and up) in a year or so!

  3. I like “What makes a baby” by Cory Silverberg.
    It is great because it works for all types of families, including adoption, IVF, heterosexual, homosexual, cis, trans*, surrogacy etc.
    It tells how a baby is made with an egg, a sperm and a uterus, but doesn’t assume that the people that contributed these things are the same as the people/person raising the child. It also doesn’t equate uterus with female, sperm with male etc.

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