If you are a parent and are wondering what books are appropriate to begin initiating conversations around their sexuality, here are some resources by different age groups.
Ages 3 to 6
Itʼs MY Body – A book to teach young children how to resist uncomfortable touch, Lory Freeman and Carol Deach
Preschool children can learn safe boundaries, how to distinguish between “good” and “bad” touches, and how to respond appropriately to unwanted touches. This is a powerful book for enhancing self-esteem. Parenting Press’s bestseller!
Itʼs NOT the Stork! A book about girls, boys, babies, bodies, families and friends, Robie Harris and Michael Emberley
From the expert team behind IT’S PERFECTLY NORMAL and IT’S SO AMAZING! comes a book for younger children about their bodies — a resource that parents, teachers, librarians, health care providers, and clergy can use with ease and confidence.
Young children are curious about almost everything, especially their bodies. And young children are not afraid to ask questions. What makes me a girl? What makes me a boy? Why are some parts of girls’ and boys’ bodies the same and why are some parts different? How was I made? Where do babies come from? Is it true that a stork brings babies to mommies and daddies?
IT’S NOT THE STORK! helps answer these endless and perfectly normal questions that preschool, kindergarten, and early elementary school children ask about how they began. Through lively, comfortable language and sensitive, engaging artwork, Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley address readers in a reassuring way, mindful of a child’s healthy desire for straightforward information. Two irresistible cartoon characters, a curious bird and a squeamish bee, provide comic relief and give voice to the full range of emotions and reactions children may experience while learning about their amazing bodies. Vetted and approved by science, health, and child development experts, the information is up-to-date, age-appropriate, and scientifically accurate, and always aimed at helping kids feel proud, knowledgeable, and comfortable about their own bodies, about how they were born, and about the family they are part of.
What’s the Big Secret? Laurie Krasny Brown, Ed.D. and Marc Brown
American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, 1997 Are boys and girls different on the inside? How do you tell girls and boys apart? Do girls and boys have the same feelings? Is sex a dirty word? Where do babies come from? What does being pregnant mean? How do you get a belly button? Tell me about when I was a baby…
“Mom, where do babies come from?” Many parents live in fear of the day their child asks this question?which inevitably happens, often as early as the preschool years. Here is a picture book designed especially for young children who are becoming aware of their bodies, but aren’t ready to learn about sexual intercourse. Written with warmth and honesty, Amazing You! presents clear and age-appropriate information about reproduction, birth, and the difference between girls’ and boys’ bodies. Lynne Cravath’s lighthearted illustrations enliven the text, making this a book that parents will gladly share with their young ones.
How Was I Born, Lennart Nilsson
Ever since the publication of the magnificent third edition of A Child Is Born, Lennart Nilsson has devoted himself to retelling this magical story especially for children. How Was I Born? closely follows the experience of Mary who is nearly five and her family as they lovingly prepare to welcome a new baby. The book matches Mary’s insatiable curiosity, impatience, and concern with gentle, reassuring information. Nilsson’s spectacular photographs illustrate Mary’s actual questions: when she wonders how big the baby is, one photo shows an ant on her brother’s fingertip, opposite the exact image of her future sibling at that time. When she asks how the baby eats, the reader sees her drinking through a straw as the baby-to-be feeds through the umbilical cord. Meant to be read by a child alone or with a parent, How Was I Born? answers all the questions children ask about pregnancy and childbirth–the biological as well as the emotional ones. Perfect for children aged five and up, it is also a wonderful book of all ages.
Look Inside Your Body, Gina Ingoglia
Geared toward young children curious about the way things work.
Your Body Belongs To You, Cornlia Spelman
In simple, reassuring language, the author explains that a child’s body is his or her own; that it is all right for kids to decline a friendly hug or kiss, even from someone they love; and that you can still be friends even if you don’t want a hug now.
A Kid’s First Book About Sex, Joani Blank
An introduction to sexuality for young readers, discussing feelings, bodies, and developing a positive self-image.
The Bare Naked Book, Kathy Stinson
Twenty years old and still going strong, The Bare Naked Book remains a favorite family introduction to the human body. There is nothing more ordinary and more special than the human body. After all, everybody has one, and for all the parts that are the same each comes in a different shape and size. The Bare Naked Book joyfully celebrates this wonderful ordinariness with a matter-of-fact introduction for toddlers to the parts of the body. From hair (dripping, straight, curly, and tangled) to toes (stamping, ticklish, skinny, and squishy) and the private bits in between, Kathy Stinson’s playfully simple prose identifies the parts of the body at rest and in motion. Meanwhile, the friendly realism of Heather Collins’s illustrations offers a variety of body types in familiar environments, from the bathroom to the beach.
Human Body: Hidden World,Claude Delafosse and Gallimard Jeunesse
In Hidden World Human Body, young children will learn fascinating facts about the hidden world inside the human body and how it works!
“Where Did I Come From”: The Facts of Life Without Any Nonsense and With Illustrations, Peter Mayle
Describes the reproductive process from intercourse to birth.
Bellybuttons Are Navels, Mark Schoen
“Bellybuttons Are Navels” is designed for use with young children. Cheerful artwork and gentle words frame this engagingly told story of two children taking a bath. As Mary and her brother Robert splash about and play, they not only discover that boys and girls have some of the same body parts, but also that boys and girls have some distinguishing features- that have accurate names. Today, when the USA has among the highest rates of teen pregnancy, HIV and STD rates in the western world it is clear that we need to begin prevention early. “Bellybuttons Are Navels” is a tool to help assure your child becomes a sexually healthy adult. “New parents should get this as a present when their first child is born.” -Mary S. Calderone, M.D., M.P.H. “An easy, accurate introduction to anatomy to share with children.” -Booklist “…fulfills the requirement virtually all sex educators stress: It names body parts” -Redbook “…a fine resource.” -SIECUS Report
“What Makes a Baby is extraordinary! Cory is a Dr. Spock for the 21st century.”—Susie Bright
“A Truly Inclusive Way to Answer the Question ‘Where Do Babies Come From?’: The new book What Makes a Baby offers an origin story for all children, no matter what their families look like.” —The Atlantic
“This is a solid, occasionally quirky book on an important topic.”—School Library Journal
Geared to readers from preschool to age eight, What Makes a Baby is a book for every kind of family and every kind of kid. It is a twenty-first century children’s picture book about conception, gestation, and birth, which reflects the reality of our modern time by being inclusive of all kinds of kids, adults, and families, regardless of how many people were involved, their orientation, gender and other identity, or family composition. Just as important, the story doesn’t gender people or body parts, so most parents and families will find that it leaves room for them to educate their child without having to erase their own experience.
Written by sexuality educator Cory Silverberg, and illustrated by award-winning Canadian artist Fiona Smyth, What Makes a Baby is as fun to look at as it is useful to read.
Ages 7 to 9+
It’s So Amazing! A book about eggs, sperm, birth, babies and families, Robie Harris and Michael Emberley
“An outstanding book. . . . Meets the needs of those in-between or curious kids who are not ready, developmentally or emotionally, for It’s Perfectly Normal.” —Booklist (starred review)
How does a baby begin? What makes a baby male or female? How is a baby born? Children have plenty of questions about reproduction and babies—and about sex and sexuality, too. It’s So Amazing! provides the answers—with fun, accurate, comic-book-style artwork and a clear, lively text that reflects the interests of children age seven and up in how things work, while giving them a healthy understanding of their bodies. Created by the author and illustrator of It’s Perfectly Normal, this forthright and funny book has been newly updated for its fifteenth anniversary.
The Girls Body Book: Everything You Need To Know For Growing Up YOU! Kelly Dunham and Laura Tallardy
Growing up isn’t as easy as it looks. With changing emotions, friends, expectations, and bodies, some days it can seem like life is one big roller coaster ride. The Girl’s Body Book is here to help with expert advice, common sense tips, fast facts, and answers to all questions a girl might have. Topics include: From hair care to high heels, a head to toe guide to what’s happening with your changing body Dealing with your friends even when they don’t want to deal with you – and how to handle “Mean Girls” Your guide to the care and keeping of parents, teachers, brothers, and sisters Sports, music, math, art, reading: finding out what you like and learning to like who you are
The Boyʼs Body Book: Everything You Need To Know For Growing Up YOU! Kelly Dunham and Steven Bjorkman
You have questions? We have answers to everything you need to know for growing up you!
Growing up isn’t as easy as it looks. With changing emotions, friends, expectations, and bodies, some days it can seem like life is one big roller coaster ride. The Boy’s Body Book is the #1 bestselling guide for boys, and it’s here to help with expert advice, common sense tips, fast facts, and answers to all questions a boy might have.
* From hair care to athlete’s foot, a head to toe guide to what’s happening with your changing body
* Basketball football, soccer, chess: How you can excel no matter what you like to do
* The care and keeping of parents, teachers, brothers, and sisters
* How to keep your friends and your morals, and what to do if peer pressure or bullying starts to be come an issue
* And so much more!
Just Because I Am: A Child’s Book of Affirmation, Lauren Murphy Payne
Young children need support and encouragement as they learn to value themselves and recognize their own worth—“not because of the things I do, not because of what I look like, not because of what I have . . . just because I am.” This book of sweet, simple affirmations for children helps them respect their bodies, acknowledge their own needs, and name their feelings. Just Because I Am invites little ones to love, accept, and feel good about themselves exactly as they are. A special section for parents, teachers, and caregivers includes activities and discussion questions to use with children.
An honest and reassuring guide to puberty for elementary school children
Puberty can be an exciting?and confusing?time for children. In the follow-up to her bestselling Amazing You!, Dr. Gail Saltz navigates the curiosity and confusion that youngsters feel as they start to notice the changes their bodies undergo. She also talks about reproduction and emerging sexuality all with her renowned brand of warmth and candor. This refreshingly accessible picture book also includes an author?s note to parents
You and Your Body, Susan Meredith, Kate Needham, and Mike Unwin
Covers anatomy, nutrition, diseases, reproduction, and human differences.
Ages 10 + older
It’s Perfectly Normal! Changing bodies, growing up, sex and sexual health, Robie Harris and Michael Emberley
The definitive book about puberty and sexual health for today’s kids and teens, now fully updated for its twentieth anniversary.
For two decades, this universally acclaimed book on sexuality has been the most trusted and accessible resource for kids, parents, teachers, librarians, and anyone else who cares about the well-being of tweens and teens. Now, in honor of its anniversary, It’s Perfectly Normal has been updated with information on subjects such as safe and savvy Internet use, gender identity, emergency contraception, and more. Providing accurate and up-to-date answers to nearly every imaginable question, from conception and puberty to birth control and STDs, It’s Perfectly Normal offers young people the information they need—now more than ever—to make responsible decisions and stay healthy.
The “What’s Happening to My Body?” Book for Girls, Lynda Madaras with Area Madaras
Everything preteen and teen girls need to know about their changing bodies and feelings Written by an experienced educator and her daughter in a reassuring and down-to-earth style, The “What’s Happening to My Body?” Book for Girls gives sensitive straight talk on: the body’s changing size and shape; the growth spurt; breast development; the reproductive organs; the menstrual cycle; body hair; diet and exercise; romantic and sexual feelings; and puberty in the opposite sex. It also includes information on anorexia and bulimia, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, and birth control.
Featuring detailed illustrations and real-life stories throughout, plus an introduction for parents and a helpful resource section, this bestselling growing-up guide is an essential puberty education and health book for all girls ages 10 and up.
Selected as a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association.
What’s Going on Down There? Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask, Karen Gravelle with Nick and Chava Castro
Describes the physical and emotional changes that occur in boys (and, to a lesser extent, in girls) during puberty and discusses sexual activity, homosexuality, AIDS, and other related topics.
2016 Winner of the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction
2016 ALA Stonewall Book Award, Honor Book
2016 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-fiction, Nominee
A comic book for kids that includes children and families of all makeups, orientations, and gender identies, Sex Is a Funny Word is an essential resource about bodies, gender, and sexuality for children ages 8 to 10 as well as their parents and caregivers. Much more than the “facts of life” or “the birds and the bees,” Sex Is a Funny Word opens up conversations between young people and their caregivers in a way that allows adults to convey their values and beliefs while providing information about boundaries, safety, and joy.
The eagerly anticipated follow up to Lambda-nominated What Makes a Baby, from sex educator Cory Silverberg and artist Fiona Smyth, Sex Is a Funny Word reimagines “sex talk” for the twenty-first century.
Changing Bodies – Changing Lives, (14+) Ruth Bell and others
“It seems like everyone else has the script. Everyone else knows what’s happening and I look around and say, Duh.”
Of course, the truth is that no one has the script because there is no script to follow. Chances are you’d find that almost everyone else has questions and worries a lot like yours, if you could get them to admit it. This brand-new, completely updated and revised edition of Changing Bodies, Changing Lives is full of honest, accurate, nonjudgmental information on everything teenagers need to know about today.
Am I the only one who
can’t get up the nerve to ask someone out?
got my period so early?
doesn’t even know the right way to kiss?
feels pressured to use drugs?
still hasn’t hit puberty yet?
wants to avoid the gang scene?
worries when my mom doesn’t come home at night?
is scared that I might have AIDS?
can’t decide what form of birth control to use?
has no idea how to tell my friends I’m gay?
goes on eating binges?
has never had an orgasm?
is shut out of the popular crowd?
Changing Bodies, Changing Lives has helped hundreds of thousands of teenagers make informed decisions about their lives, from questions about sex, love, friendship, and how your body works to dealing with problems at school and home and figuring out who you are. It’s packed with illustrations, checklists, and resources for the answers you really need. Best of all, it’s filled with the voices, poems, and cartoons from hundreds of other teenagers, who tell you what makes them feel worried, angry, confused, sexy, happy, and, yes, even excited and hopeful about their lives. (Check out the first two pages for a sample of the quotes you’ll find inside.)
Being a teenager is tough. With the information and the ideas inside this book, you’ll have what you need to make these years the best they can be.
Body Drama – Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers, (14+) Nancy Redd
“You’d think a Miss America swimsuit winner would feel completely confident about her body, right? Not always! So I decided to write the book I wish I’d had as a teen and in college—an honest, funny, practical, medically accurate, totally reassuring guide to how women’s bodies actually look, smell, feel, behave, and change. Alongside real-deal photographs of women just like you and me (no airbrushing, no supermodels, no kidding) you’ll find medical pictures of things you need to be able to recognize, true confessions by yours truly, and the encouragement you need to appreciate the uniqueness, strength, and beauty of your body. What are you waiting for?”—Nancy Redd
From fashion magazines to taboo Web sites, curious young women have access to tons of old wives’ tales about and thousands of airbrushed and inaccurate images of the female body—misinformation and harmful portrayals that can lead to low self-esteem, self-destructive acts, or even disturbing plastic surgery procedures. Teaming up with a leading physician specializing in adolescent health issues, Harvard graduate and former Miss Virginia Nancy Redd now offers a down-to-earth, healing, and reassuring response to those damaging myths. In Body Drama, Redd gives girls insight into the issues they’re often too ashamed to raise with a doctor or parent. She also reveals her own experiences with the culture of “American beauty,” and shows readers all the many versions of “normal.” From body hair and bras, to acne and weight issues, along with crucial issues such as the importance of a healthy self image, Body Drama is a groundbreaking book packed with informative fast facts, FYIs, how-tos, and moving personal anecdotes as well as hundreds of un-retouched photographs. A highly visual book, it’s the first of its kind for women: filled with real information and real photographs of real bodies, to celebrate all our different shapes and sizes.
Named by Glamour magazine as one of America’s top-ten college women “most likely to succeed—at anything,” Redd has spent the most recent years of her life on a mission to tackle the issues least discussed but most significant in young women’s lives. Celebrating the many versions of “normal,” and replacing seriously erroneous information with the honest, medically proven truth in a language all girls can understand, Body Drama dares to empower a new generation—with facts instead of fantasies, and the priceless gift of self-knowledge.
GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens Kelly Huegel and Steven Cozza
The teen years are full of challenges.
For gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning teens, these challenges can include prejudice, discrimination, rejection, reprisals, insensitive remarks (even among friends and families) and, sometimes, violence.
But being a GLBTQ teen can also be fun and enlightening—when you are comfortable with who you are.
Author Kelly Huegel understands what GLBT teens want and need to know. As a teen, she struggled to realize and accept her own identity. Her frank, sensitive book is written for teens who are beginning to question their sexual or gender identity, those who interested in GLBT issues and rights, and those who need guidance, reassurance, or reminders that they aren’t alone.
Kelly offers practical advice, knowing encouragement, accessible resources, and real-life testimonials from teens who’ve “been there.” Topics include coming out (the pluses and minuses), facing prejudice and pressure, getting support, navigating relationships, staying safe, making healthy choices, surviving and thriving in high school, and more.
The message throughout is strong and clear: By accepting yourself, you take charge of your own future.
Created with feedback and suggestions from individuals at PFLAG (Parents, families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and other organizations, this book is for any GLBTQ teen—and any straight friend, parent, teacher, counselor, youth leader, or other adult who cares and wants to understand.
Growing Up: All About Adolescence, Body Changes and Sex, Susan Meredith
Revised and updated, this award-winning book provides practical advice to anyone aged 10 or over. Describes in an approachable and straightforward way exactly what happens in puberty – the role of hormones and the changes in the body. Sections on sex, contraception as well as on food, exercise, hygiene, drugs and HIV. (“Excellent reference book for the older child… Amusing illustrations and reassuring words of wisdom.” Practical Parenting) Paperback
Parents + caregivers
So Sexy So Soon – The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids, Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne. How to deal with all that sexy stuff coming at our kids.
Risqué Halloween costumes for young girls. T-shirts that boast “Chick Magnet” for toddler boys. Sexy content on almost every television channel, as well as in movies and video games. Popular culture and technology inundate our boys and girls with an onslaught of graphic sexual messages at earlier ages than ever before. Without the emotional sophistication to understand what they are doing and seeing, kids are getting into increasing trouble emotionally and socially. Parents are left shaking their heads, wondering: How did this happen? What can we do?
Diane E. Levin, Ph.D., and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., internationally recognized experts in, respectively, early childhood development and the impact of the media on children and teens, offer parents essential, age-appropriate strategies to counter the assault. Filled with savvy suggestions, helpful sample dialogues, and poignant stories from families dealing with these issues, So Sexy So Soon provides parents with the information, skills, and confidence they need to discuss sensitive topics openly and effectively–so their kids can just be kids.
Protecting the Gift, Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane), Gavin De Becker. One of the best sexual abuse prevention books ever written.
Safety skills for children outside the home
Warning signs of sexual abuse
How to screen baby-sitters and choose schools
Strategies for keeping teenagers safe from violence
All parents face the same challenges when it comes to their children’s safety: whom to trust, whom to distrust, what to believe, what to doubt, what to fear, and what not to fear. In this empowering book, Gavin de Becker, the nation’s leading expert on predicting violent behavior and author of the monumental bestseller The Gift of Fear, offers practical new steps to enhance children’s safety at every age level, giving you the tools you need to allow your kids freedom without losing sleep yourself. With daring and compassion, he shatters the widely held myths about danger and safety and helps parents find some certainty about life’s highest-stakes questions:
How can I know a baby-sitter won’t turn out to be someone who harms my child? (see page 103)
What should I ask child-care professionals when I interview them? (see page 137)
What’s the best way to prepare my child for walking to school alone? (see page 91)
How can my child be safer at school? (see page 175)
How can I spot sexual predators? (see page 148)
What should I do if my child is lost in public? (see page 86)
How can I teach my child about risk without causing too much fear? (see page 98)
What must my teenage daughter know in order to be safe? (see page 191)
What must my teenage son know in order to be safe? (see page 218)
And finally, in the face of all these questions, how can I reduce the worrying? (see page 56)
The TALK – What your kids need to hear from you about sex, Sharon Maxwell, Ph.D.
View our feature on Sharon Maxwell’s The Talk.
A groundbreaking resource to help jump start an ongoing discussion between parents and teens about sex and sexuality Internet chat rooms, boy/girl sleepovers, reality TV . . . there’s more to “the talk” than ever before. Faced with a culture that pushes our kids to be “sexy” before puberty begins, how do we explain the power of sexuality in a way that promotes healthy, age-appropriate behavior?
The Talk is a breakthrough resource for parents and educators that prepares kids for a hypersexualized world and lays the foundation for ethical sexual behavior that can guide our children from elementary school through college.
Using real-life situations, Dr. Sharon Maxwell demonstrates how dramatically the world of preteen and teen sexual exploration has changed. She helps parents think through the message they want to give to their kids about sexual behavior, and how that message must evolve as their kids get older. Focusing on the importance of love and intimacy, Dr. Maxwell helps parents define their values about sex and gives concrete ways to share those values with teens.
The Talk shows parents how to:
*Set family guidelines for safe Internet use
*Address the social power that comes from looking sexy, and the personal responsibility each of us has to use that power appropriately
*Discuss the moral aspects of sexuality in ways teens will understand
*Help children recognize the difference between feelings of sexual desire and love
*Develop principles with our teens that will help them figure out when it’s okay to be sexual with someone and when it’s not
Dr. Maxwell connects the dots between reproduction, the potent power of sexiness, sexual desire, emotional intimacy, and the spiritual dimension of sexuality. Offering an innovative framework for looking at human sexuality, this book has the potential to change the national conversation on sex education.
StopItNow.org – Child sexual abuse support + information
D2L.org – Sexual abuse awareness training for churches, youth serving organizations, teachers, parent groups.
SavvyParentsSafeKids.com – Sexual abuse + abduction prevention tips and classes for parents
Momster.com – Great mom-to-mom advice for moms of tweens + teens
Scarleteen.com – Inclusive, comprehensive, supportive sexuality and relationships info for teens and emerging adults.
Who is Martha?
Dr. Martha Tara Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and relationship coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. She is the author of the books Love, Sex and Everything In-Between, and Orgasmic Yoga. She is also the host of the weekly radio show Eros Evolution on OMTimes Radio. For more, visit www.ErosCoaching.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.