Inside: The right sex education books can make talking to your kids about sex or the ‘facts of life’ much easier. Learn how to take the stress out of reading sex education books to kids.
We all know about the importance of reading with our kids, and reading sex education books are just as important too.
Reading aloud doesn’t just help to improve your child’s ability to read but also help them to understand language, use their imagination and to learn new things.
As a mum, I find that reading books to my kids, makes sex education much easier.
You’ll find more information about sex education in my Sex Education 101 page.
Why sex ed books are so helpful
There are a number of reasons as to why books about the ‘birds and bees’ or ‘the facts of life’, can make sex education easier:
1. You don’t have to remember everything as it is written down for you in the book eg what changes happen during puberty.
2. Books can be used to help teach your child things eg where does a baby come from.
3. Books can help you teach your kids about sensitive topics eg how a baby is made.
4. Books get kids talking about things in the story eg I have a penis and so does daddy.
5. Reading helps you get over any embarrassment ie you can keep on reading whilst you are squirming with embarrassment.
6. Books help you talk about difficult subjects in an age-appropriate way ie the authors will usually use write at the level that kids will understand, without giving them too much information.
7. Books can be used to start discussions eg you can ask questions during the story or chat about it the next day.
8. Books can provide the answers to questions that you can’t answer ie you don’t have to know the scientific way that a baby is conceived, you can just read it from the book!
9. Books can help you teach kids in terms they understand ie most books will use terms and words that kids understand.
Feeling uncomfortable is normal
Sex education books make sex education easier but they don’t take away the discomfort that you feel when you come to certain sections. Even me, who can talk to a client quite comfortably about what she gets up to in the bedroom, squirms along with everyone else.
The first sex education book that I read with my daughter was about how babies were made (Mummy Laid an Egg by Babette Cole). And this page below, made me squirm with embarrassment. I would slowly turn the page and we would stop and look at this page. My daughter would lean down closer and peer at each individual image, and I would sit there holding my breath, waiting for her to ask a question. She would then sit back up and I would turn the page quickly. Eventually, I was brave enough to ask her a question, but by then I was a lot more used to the book!
PS It took me about 5-6 reads of this book to get to that stage!
How to pick a sex education book
There are a lot of sex education books out there, some are fantastic, some are good and some are really really bad! Some are written in a very entertaining way with lots of humour. Whilst others are more educational in nature and may not have as interesting a storyline.
The important thing to remember though is that no book is perfect! Some of the content in the book you will just not like. For example, if my child was born through IVF, the Babette Cole book, ‘Mummy Laid an Egg’, talks about traditional ‘penis in vagina’ baby-making.
What you have to do is either not read certain parts of the book or change what you read. For example, ‘With Mummy Laid an Egg’, I could talk about the fact that babies can be made in other ways as well, and talk about how IVF works.
If you are lucky, you may have a bookshop locally that will actually stock a good range of books. If you aren’t so lucky, you will have to buy online. Don’t forget to check out my list of children’s books, where I have reviewed over 200 books.
The first step is to decide what you want the book to be about. Do you want a book about body parts, public and private, how babies are made, sexual intercourse/activity, puberty or periods?
Once you have decided the topic, you can then start looking for the perfect book. Some books focus on one subject eg how babies are made, and other books talk about a lot of stuff, like the Robie H. Harris book, ‘It’s Perfectly Normal’.
With your first sex education books, I suggest that you start off simple and choose a book that focuses on just the one topic.
Before you start reading
When it comes to sex education books, don’t do what I do ie open up a brand new book (that I haven’t even looked at), start reading it blindly to my kids and then go ‘oh f#%*k’ when you hit the sex stuff!
Be kind to yourself, and actually read the book first You can either sit there and read it by yourself, or you can read it with your partner. Are there any bits in the book that you may struggle with ie be too embarrassed to read? Are there any bits that you may want to change or skip over? For example, ‘Mummy Laid an Egg’ talks about vaginal delivery, but babies are also born by caesarian.
Start thinking of questions that you can ask your child about the story, for example:
- do you have a penis or a vulva?
- who else has a penis? Your dog?
- do you think puberty will happen to you one day?
- do you have any questions about what happened in that book?
How to read the book with your child
The first couple of times, just read the book with your child. Don’t ask questions, or embellish the story, or point out different things in the pictures – just read the words and turn the pages.
If a section makes you uncomfortable, just turn those pages quicker. Remember, they aren’t noticing your response to the book – they are just listening to you read the book out loud to them.
What if they ask a question?
If your child asks a question, be honest and just answer their question. If they are old enough to ask, they are old enough to hear the answer.
In the beginning, you should just answer the specific question they are asking. As they get older and their questions get more complex and detailed, your answers should as well.
Don’t forget to check that they understand your response and to ask if they need any more information.
If you don’t know the answer, try:
- Hmm… I’m not sure about the answer to that. How about I find out, and get back to you later
- Have a phrase ready for inappropriate moments – “that’s a good question. How about we talk about it when we get home”. Make sure you do follow up on the question.
- If you aren’t sure about how to answer their question, try
- I’ll have to think about the answer to that one. Just give me a moment
If you are embarrassed:
- Remind yourself that sexuality is an everyday topic and not something special
- Take a deep breath and take your time to respond to questions
- Use humour – you don’t have to make a joke about it but laughing about sex and relationships shows that it is a normal topic
- Throw the ball back in their court, and ask your child ‘what do you think?’
Read it again that week
Read the book again to your child, a few more times over the next week or two. Make sure you are nice and discrete about it ie slip it into the book pile or tell them that you really like this book and that you want to read it again! You don’t want to make a fuss of the book and make it feel different from any other books that you read.
Once you have read the book a few more times, it is time to start asking some questions whilst you read the book. For example, you may ask, ‘do you know of any other ways that babies are made?’ You can also be more general, and ask your child ‘ what did you think about that book?’
And remember, if you don’t know an answer, be honest and admit to it, but promise to get back to them with the answer. Make sure that you do – you want your child to know that you are reliable so that they will keep asking you and not their friends.
But my child isn’t ready for this
The most common complaint from parents about sex education books is that the book will open up topics and lead to questions before the child is ready. Most sex education books are written by authors with a sexuality background which means that child development will have been taken into consideration. Parent objection usually means that it is the parent who isn’t ready for the book.
Make sure you look at the age recommendations of the book, and remember, that it is only a rough guide. You are the best judge of what your child is curious about.
And remember, if a child isn’t ready to understand a concept, such as the scientific details of conception, it will just go in one ear, and out the other. They will just forget what they have been told because they don’t understand it.
If you need help getting comfortable, then there are a few things that I suggest. Slowly start reading stuff about sex education. You can do this by signing up for weekly information from me or you can follow me on my facebook page where I post multiple articles each day.
The more that you read about sex education, the more comfortable you will begin to feel about the whole thing!
Getting comfortable with sex is a bit like riding a bike – the more you practice, the more confident you get, and before you know it, it’s easy!
Now don’t forget!
There is more to sex education than buying a sex education book and handing it over to your child to read by themselves. You still need to talk about the messages inside of the book. This is your opportunity to talk about what your values and beliefs about sexuality are.
You can find some of my favourite sex education books that I recommend to parents in my list of sex education books.