One of my first memories about talking with my mom about sexuality happened when she strategically gifted me a book called, Where Do Babies Come From? I was about eight when she invited me to sit down on the couch with the book, one she’d purchased at our local bookshop. The cover was purple with an unassuming, pastel illustration of a baby.
Being the 80s, the book focused primarily on reproduction and mentioned sex only in this context which, for the time, still would have been considered fairly progressive. My mom’s use of this book to ground a conversation about sex was a brilliant strategy that 30+ years later, as a professional sexual health educator, I fully support!
That pastel covered book was important to me for three basic reasons: 1) it was a source of correct and reliable information 2) it gave me a way to safely satisfy my very normal and natural curiousity about sex and, most importantly, 3) it sent me a pretty clear signal that my mom trusted me enough to learn about sex. I don’t remember many details of this particular conversation because quite honestly I was pretty thrilled to have a book of my own that seemed far more sophisticated than the Beverly Cleary books I was bringing home from the school library or the encyclopedia set that sat on the shelf collecting dust!
Because there are many different approaches to sexuality books for youth, it can be difficult to know where to begin and how much information is adequate. So as the brighter, warmer nights begin and summer holiday approaches, I thought it might be helpful to share some of my current favourite books that will help families strategically grow your conversations and support your kids in the most fun, accessible ways possible.
What Makes A Baby? written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth (Toddlers+)
This colorful dynamic book explains what makes a baby from conception, pregnancy through birth in a positive, inclusive manner. It’s written with concrete concepts that are easy for young children to understand but also allow you to personalize this information for you and your family whether you are gender diverse, single parent, blended, intergenerational, or foster families. You can elaborate as much or as little as you want (or have the time) to answer the question about where babies come from?
The Every Body Book written by Rachel Simon and illustrated by Noah Grigni (8–12 years)
This book approaches growing up through a gender- and orientation-inclusive lens. The information offered about puberty explains the many changes in a way that is honest and empowering. The more involved topics such as gender identity and orientation that parents may struggle to explain are simply and articulately explained. This book affirms all people who read it and it will provide them with all the information about puberty they need.
Consent (FOR KIDS!) Boundaries, Respect and Being in Charge of YOU written by Rachel Brian (ages 6–10)
From the makers of the wildly effective and beloved “Tea as Consent” and “Consent for Kids” videos comes this amazing book which does a fantastic job exploring consent in many different settings through a fun and youthful graphic novel approach. This book offers lessons about boundary setting, role-modeling healthy relationships, and consent as a practice that requires skill.
S.E.X 2nd edition by Heather Corrina (15 years+)
From the creator of Scarleteen, this is an amazing guide for older youth and young adults and it accomplishes exactly what it strives to do—be a comprehensive guide on the physical, emotional, and social aspects of sexuality. This is a resource guide that will become a favourite go to for your older youth inclusive of their gender identity and orientation.
Sex, Teens & Everything in Between written by Shafia Zaloom (parents/families/adult allies/caregivers)
This book acknowledges and challenges the current sex-focused culture that bombards our youth. This book explores the power of decision making through the lenses of values, safety, and equality. It is honest and engaging in approach and explores safer, meaningful relationships and sexuality in an affirming way. One of the most useful pieces of this book is that it combines information, real-life scenarios and questions to ground your conversations.
As you begin to build or add to your family library of resources, it’s essential that books are used strategically, like my mom did, as a supplementary teaching tool supported by conversations about our family values, beliefs, and expectations. Books are not a replacement for conversation; they are a tool to invite further discussion, explore new and differing ideas and also to find community through. Human sexuality and relationships are far too important to simply offer a book without a conversation. Not only do our kids deserve strategic gifts that offer them opportunities to learn about far more than just sexuality and reproduction; they also deserve to have these resources close by to explore and satisfy their very normal curiosities. So grab your mask or your mouse and connect with your local library and/or booksellers to get your strategy started!