Book Review: A book that talks about the meaning of sex (without mentioning penetrative sex).
Tell Me About Sex, Grandma! By Anastasia Higginbotham is a book that will help parents to start conversations about the fact that sex is not just about making babies.
There are lots of books that explain sex to children, but most talk about baby-making sex ie how babies are made. This book is different because it provides a fuller description of sex, and focuses on the dynamics of sex instead of the mechanics.
The book starts off with a young child asking grandma about sex.
Grandma starts off by explaining that is okay to be curious about sex. This is important as it lets them know that it is okay to ask you questions. The child wonders what it is (and isn’t), why sex is bad, not spoken about and a secret.
Grandma explains that it is a grown-up thing. This is important as kids do need to be reminded that sex is just for grown-ups. Sex is also private which means it shouldn’t be seen or shown.
The author describes it as a thing you do with your body, moving it with someone (or by yourself ie masturbation) to feel good. And that we know how to do the moving because our feelings tell us what to do. The child asks if sex always makes a baby, which it doesn’t. The author explains that as you grow up, your feelings grow up too, which means you discover what sexuality means for you and who you will like.
Consent is talked about, in that you choose whether you want to, and the same for the person that you might be with. The child asks why grown-ups don’t want kids to know about sex, and the authors says that we want to protect children from growing up too fast. The message is shared that adults should not have sex with children (you could also add in that children should not have sex with children too).
I really like this book, and I think it is a book that parents should have on their bookshelf, as it provides you with the opportunity to talk about the other meanings of sex.
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Tell Me About Sex, Grandma! By Anastasia Higginbotham is ideal for children between the ages of 6 - 11 years of age.
You can find more books like this in my extensive list of Sex Education Books for Children.
Hi, I'm Cath Hak from Sex Ed Rescue. Sex Ed Rescue is that channel where I review books and help you become more comfortable with talking to your kids about sex education.
Underneath this video is a link to the boot camp I run. If you are interest in the information, just sign up for the newsletter. Basically, over the period of five days, I give you all the information you will need to give your child sex education. After all, it is very hard to teach someone if you do not know anything on the topic.
Now, today I’m reviewing a 2017 book under the name, Tell Me About Sex, Grandma! This book is written by Anastasia Higginbotham.
This is a sex education book for older children. There is more than just the mechanics of sex, however. It is what I would call a sexology, or sex therapy, approach to education.
When you look up the book, underneath the title it says, ‘Ordinary Terrible Things.’ I do not like the wording in that, since it does portray sex as a taboo thing; that it is forbidden or bad.
Higginbotham does have other books she has written. For example, in September 2018, she released a book named Not My Ideas. That book was all about racism, divorce, death, and topics people do not like talking about.
As a sexologist, there are many things I do not like about this book. But, other than these few ideas, this is not a bad book. There is good information inside of it.
With sex education, this stuff is very difficult. For example, when we first explain sex it may be because our children are curious on how babies are made. So, we explain, ‘A man and a woman have sex together. When they do this, it takes a part of each person and puts them together.’ Or, something like that.
At first, this explanation may work. But, as your child gets older, they’ll go, ‘But, wait. How do people have two mums or two dads then? How were they made?’ So, we begin talking about how not everyone has sex to make children, or how children aren’t always made through sex.
This is where it gets uncomfortable because not only are we talking about having sex for fun, but an entire range of new ideas. Eventually, we will have to talk about rape, prostitution, how people have sex with strangers, or even how people have sex on their own. There are so many different definitions for sex, which is why books like this are so useful.
Cory Silverberg, a Canadian sex educator, has written books like What Makes A Baby and Sex Is A Funny Word. The third book to this trilogy is coming out soon, which apparently will be his book on sex. The book Tell Me About Sex, Grandma! Reminds me of his books as they are both very politically correct and open.
Back to Higginbotham’s book; it is not bad. After reading it with my thirteen and ten-year-old child, I realized it is not easy to read aloud. With a book like this, you cannot get away with just reading whatever is on the page. You need to start a conversation with it.
As book is very large and very expensive- about 30 AUD, I will take you through it so you know what you are buying. This book is a big expense but is one that I think most people should have on their shelves.
‘Sex is everywhere,’ is what the first page reads. Now, when I read this with my children, I asked what they thought the imagery meant. After all, sex is very heavily advertised, especially in the city.
We see half naked women and men on the side of buses, Honey Burdette shops in the shopping centers, and just lots of photos of women in sexy lingerie. If you go on YouTube, there are plenty videos about sex, and if you have dogs, you can see them humping each other quite often. Another topic might be how people from different cultures feel around these images, especially more conservative ones.
This is also a book you want to read on your own before showing to your children.
‘It is also hidden,’ the next page reads. On the page, I can see a child looking under the bed and around for information on sex, I suppose. So, she does not know where to look for information.
‘So, where do you look?’ For me, this is a great prompt to talk about pornography online. Kids are often too scared to ask for information, so they will go online for it. As the book says as well, ‘…and when you want to find answers, do you go to the iPad or the tablet to look for information about sex?’
The book then shows a drawing of a child who looks sad or frightened. This talks about how it is important to go to the right places for information.
So, after looking, the girl goes into the next room and asks her Grandma what sex is. Then, as we can see, Grandma puts her tablet down and turns to the girl. Grandma then says, ‘Curiosity about sex is your birthright,’ The book says it is completely natural to want to know about sex. What it is, how it happens, where babies come from, and why people have it. What sex is, what sex is not, and what is so bad about sex. Then the Grandma says,
‘Oh, who says sex is bad?’
Then, the conversation begins to start. ‘I'm not supposed to say it… it's like a swear or a secret!’ I love the wording. Comparing the word sex to swear words is perfect, since adults say swear words all the time. But we do not usually say they around children, or make children say them.
I also love the imagery in this book, the style is beautiful. It has a collage style with realistic photos and drawings together.
Anyway, in the book Grandma continues, ‘Sex is already a part of you. You were born with it.’ Sex educators, when talking about sex, usually say it starts from birth. Once the baby is born, the midwife holds the baby up and announces their sex to everyone.
The book continues to explain that sex is a grown-up thing. Which is a very important message to shove down your child’s throat. As Grandma says, ‘Sex is an adult thing, like coffee.’ So, the little girl says back, ‘Like coffee? Nobody cares if I say coffee. Why would anyone care if I drink coffee?’
Higginbotham continues to explain how sex is a private thing. I think the explanation of sex is great. As it reads, ‘It's a moving thing with our bodies. It feels good and you do it by yourself or with someone.’ Which, the girl then asks how she is supposed to know how to move, or how to feel good.
Which, now I will go on a bit of a vent; sorry this may be a longer book review.
With children, they could read information about sex. It might say something along the lines of, ‘The man puts the penis in the vagina. The penis then moves in and out, then sperm comes out and makes a baby.’ That is factual, but it does not tell me much about how it happens and what is it like.
As kids get older, they want to know more. So, they often go online to find more sources to give them better and more detailed information. This is often how kids find porn.
Now, back to the book. The girl asks, ‘How do I know how to move?’ The Grandma then says, ‘The feelings tell you.’ ‘Where will I feel them?’ So, the Grandma answers the girl’s questions.
The Grandma explains how those feelings are mainly felt in the crotch area. As a sex therapist and a parent, I would talk about how they are felt everywhere. Those feelings are all over your body, and especially in your mind. That is one thing I do not like about this book. It does not talk about the psychological part of sex.
But Anastasia Higginbotham is not a sexologist or professional sex education. She is just a feminist.
The two characters continue to talk about sex. Does sex always make a baby, how sex is not just a physical thing, and how learning about sex is also learning about yourself.
A part I like a lot is how the book also talks about masturbation. The girl says,
‘I have a sex thing I do in private; moving so it feels good. Is that okay?’
‘Yes, it is okay and best to do it only in private.’ I am glad it is in there since there are not many books that talk about it.
Then, we begin to get into safety which is important in modern times. Recently, more and more children are being exposed to porn which mean more of them act out what they see.
So, Grandma says, ‘No one's allowed to boss you into sex or to take it from you without your permission. You get to choose whether you want to or not. Sex is for everyone and you can choose.’
When you get up to this point, you should remind your child that sex is a thing for adults only. For example, let us say you are an eight-year-old and playing with your friend. Then, your friend asks to see your penis and maybe do something with it.
That might seem fun at first, but that can be very damaging for the children and is illegal. Remember adding your input into this book is very important.
The conversation then continues with the little girl, ‘Why do adults not want kids to know about sex?’ Which I think is very clever wording from the author.
‘It's about protecting children from growing up too fast.’
I agree and disagree with this point. I do think that kids can learn what sex is and understand sex without growing up too fast. What can be really damaging is the influences from outside home and safe sources.
So, what radio announcers say about sex, TV commercials, porn, people online, teachers, and even friends. This can be very difficult to manage.
Grandma continues to talk, ‘It's never okay for an adult to have sex with a child… and children shouldn’t have sex with children. It is harmful and against the law.’ I do feel like they should talk more about children having sex together as it is very brief. But I am glad it is spoken about.
For example, it is wrong for adults to have sex with children. It is just as bad for your child to have sex with other children. These are extra conversations that we need to add.
The book then begins to sum itself up at the end. The child and Grandma have a conversation about what she wants to do, what are the important parts of sex, and some more things like how to find information. So, what to do and who to go to if someone does not give you a choice, and what adults you can get sex-related information from.
At the back of the book, it has activities you can do with your child, and a little mantra about how only they can consent to having sex with their body.
This book is not perfect, but there is not a perfect sex education book out there. If your child wants to know more about sex or how sex is not just for making babies, this is a good book to go to. It has good information in there and lots of definitions of sex to talk about.
There is not any information about sexual assault, rape, or how rape can be used as a weapon. Prostitution also wasn’t covered; so, having sex for a job. These being left out honestly surprised me. I expected them to be at least touched on, but it was not.
It became another conversation that I added in myself. While reading this book with my kids, I asked them if they could think up of other reasons to have sex for this conversation.
But I did like this book enough to go buy my own copy. I don't regret having bought it and it is one of the books I recommended to other parents. So, I hope this helped you decide on whether to buy it. That is all for now, cheers.
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If you're looking for some ideas on how to talk to your child about bodies, How to Talk to Kids About Bodies, will help you to start naming the private body parts and to have shame-free conversations with them about bodies. It is filled with lots of different ideas on how to have natural converasations with your child about their body.
You'll also find some child friendly anatomically-correct cartoon illustrations of the genitals and internal reproductive organs that are appropriate for children from the age of 3 and up. Let's Look at Different Body Parts is a printable that will help take the awkward out of talking to your child about their body, so they grow up feeling educated, confident, and comfortable in their own skin.
If you're worried that talking to your child about bodies might lead to questions about sex, then you can relax. How to Talk to Kids About Sex, will help you to explain sexual intercourse to your child in a way they will understand. It breaks sex down into simple steps that take the stress out of explaining!
If you want a printed book to hold in your hands, then the The Sex Education Answer Book will give you age-specific answers to the most common questions kid's ask parents about sex. Which means you don't need to worry about finding a child-friendly explanation that your child understands.
If you want the answers to questions about a lot more than just sex, then Sex Ed Quickies is your best option. It has answers to 300+ questions that kids commonly ask parents, including how babies are made, sexual intercourse, body parts, puberty, relationships, pregnancy, birth, masturbation, sexual diversity, gender, pornography, STIs, contraception and much more.
I'm Cath, a sex educator living in Australia with my husband and 2 kids. I help parents to talk about sex (with less cringe and more confidence) and empower their child to make smart sexual decisions. To find a better way to talk about sex, you can join my community of parents and visit my shop for helpful resources.