Offbeat kids books about sex and bodies

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Reader Kyle sent us this question:

"What are good sex and body education books for young children? My parents were always very open about such things so we never used books but surely there must be some kick ass ones out there to teach kids the differences between boys and girls!"

I think this is an AWESOME question, and was excited that Ariel inquired with Heather Corinna, publisher of Scarleteen and author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College.

Heather shot us back an email with a few suggestions for books for kids 7-and-under.

It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris
If you want a kid-friendly book that will teach your children about sexuality and teach them well, look no further. The book begins with a bird and bee who have different feelings about learning about their bodies and sexuality. The book also uses nudity frequently, and illustrates ejaculation, menstruation, pregnancy and birth. As a bonus, the illustrations are all done in colored pencil, which gives it (at least, to me) a light, "your-body-isn't-a-shameful-thing" kind of feel. Plus, it's $4 used on Amazon. COME ON.

Those are MY Private Parts by Diane Hansen
I had never realized (mostly because I never had a reason to think about it, I guess) that there are children's books about sexual abuse until I read about this one. The author, Diane Hansen, heard a convicted child molester describe his tactics on an episode of Oprah (of all places), and the molester said the children that were harder to convince were the ones that realized the danger of the situation. Hansen's solution? Write a book teaching children that their bodies are THEIRS.

Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
This is a great book for parents who like the ideas behind It's Perfectly Normal, but not the illustrations and obvious for-children nature of it. Where Did I Come From? is very straight-forward, precise, and written for children in a way that (hopefully) prevents them from becoming embarrassed when talking about sex. As the author states, "We wrote (the book) because we thought you'd like to know exactly where you came from, and how it all happened."

A Kid's First Book About Sex by Joani Blank
This is another book reviewed as "very clear and accurate." Unlike the others, you can't preview it on Amazon before you buy it, so I can't tell you exactly what's inside! I read that there are little to not mentions of pregnancy, but is more focused on being familiar with your body and what healthy forms of touching are.

Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi.
The newspaper and magazine reviews of Everyone Poops all seem hung up on one question–why do we need to KNOW everyone poops? My answer: Why not? Because you know what? Everyone does, and every single toddler I've ever met is riveted by the idea. Babies poop in diapers, toddlers use little toilets (we don't say the starts-with-p-rhymes-with-hottie word in my house), and adults use a big toilet. Animals poop, people poop, and, in short, there is a lot poop out there. The book is supposed to help children transition from diapers to toilets, and also supplies some pretty funny graphics (poop in midair, you guys) for the adults who are reading along.

Mamas, what are your favorite sex education books? For little kids, big kids, or even adults?

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  1. What ages are these books for? My little guy is 18 months old. I'd like to add some body books to his collection, but they have to be board books. Most of these (except everybody poops) look like they're more for kids 4+

  2. So That's How I Was Born by Brooks/Perl was how I learned. Haven't looked through the pages in years, but I never remember being surprised by science or sex ed, and it seems good for a younger (6 or 7) crowd than It's Perfectly Normal.

  3. I'm going to give mad props to "Where Did I Come From?" My parents gave that to my bro and I when we were young, and despite being MORTIFIED because the characters look dead on like cartoon versions of my parents, I liked being the kid on the block who knew whassup with sex and bodies.

    2 agree
  4. My mom was all about the sex ed books- I must've owned at least 6 by the time I got my period. It's Perfectly Normal is definitely one of the best ones out there, the little bird and bee character are super cute and funny, and the book is great about showing a wide range of perfectly normal bodies (various races, sizes, people in wheelchairs, etc) and perfectly normal families (single parents, same-sex couples, interracial, etc). For girls reaching puberty, there's a great one called The Period Book, which really needs no explanation. It's very informative and again has very cute, kid-friendly illustrations. I think all these books are a super way to teach kids about all the important things kids need to know that parents–even awesomely offbeat parents–might have trouble talking about.

  5. There is also a book called The Joy Of Socks. It explains sex to kids through Socks. It is truley hilarious. My favorite part is when they say that somes Socks that match love each other just like Mix Match Socka and that is okay too. I found that a good way to explain to kids that people of the same sex like each other too.

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    • Ha! My mother-in-law explained sex to my husband using socks. I wonder if she got the idea from the book?

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    • This sounds like a fun way to talk about it – Who is the author? I did a quick search on Amazon and only got The Joy of Sox – a book of knitting pattern! πŸ˜‰

  6. The only question i have is which of these books aren't hetero-normative? I want my daughter to grow up knowing that heterosexual relationships are not the only acceptable relationship.

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    • Hey! I'm sorry I didn't include that– It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health has a positive toward homosexual relationships AND non-nuclear families.

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      • Same goes for Joani Blank's book.

        And of course, "Heather Has Two Mommies" is a wonderful classic to add to this bunch if you like. So is "And Tango Makes Three" and "The Family Book."

    • I have the kids first book about sex. Being a strange 17 year old I picked it up as a coffee table book just because it was so awesome. I still have it luckily since I have a 3 year old now πŸ™‚ It's positive on homosexual relationships and bisexuality. It also talks about how everyone can look different, and about how it's all private.

  7. Exactly what Tara said, I adored "Where Did I Come From?" as a child. I also had "What's Happening To Me?" by the same authors and illustrator, all about puberty, and loved that one, too.

    Great list, thanks!

  8. Heather Corinna's S.E.X. is inclusively non-heteronormative. But mostly over the heads of the 3-7 year-old set.

    I'll second Choklit Chanteuse's recommendation for Peter Mayle's puberty book "What's Happening to Me." Despite the title it's suitable for anyone age three or older.

    figleaf

  9. The absolute BEST book for adults (or teens!) that are a little naive/insecure about sex is "Moregasms" from the folks at Babeland. It's not too clinical, not too vulgar. It feels like your best friend is talking through the pages.

    I gave it to a friend as a gag gift (we call her a "slutty prude"), and she LOVED it! She said it was so informative and straightforward and wel-rounded. I agree!

    • Oh, and a book I liked as a kid was from the folks at American Girls. Its called "The Care and Keeping of You". It explains puberty really well, including how to put in a tampon, how to treat acne, and how to deal with mood swings. They also have a sequel now called "Is This Normal?"

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  10. When I was working in a children's bookshop we ordered "Where Willy Went" and "Mummy Laid An Egg" by Babette Cole. I thought both were brilliant. Unfortunately, "Mummy Laid An Egg" is a story that only features a heterosexual, two-parent family. However, it's hilarious and informative.

    • My suggestion would have been 'Mummy Laid An Egg' (Babette Cole) too, with the option of discussing alternative families/lifestyles with children after, its one we've been recommended on my teacher training course!

  11. Yay! Thanks guys for finding this answer for me πŸ™‚

    As an aside, did anyone else go through the UU middle school sex ed program? I did it in 6th or 7th grade and remember after going through it thinking the other kids in my public school sex ed class were LOSERS because they would snicker whenever the words penis or vagina were said in the class heh.

    • My partner went through this, and his parents taught it (but they stepped down from teaching the year he did the program). I've heard it's great.

    • KK, I am in LOVE with the UU approach to sex ed. Our Whole Lives is just so utterly awesome that utterly awesome feels like it doesn't cut it. πŸ™‚

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      • Yeah I remember I think it was the 2nd lesson where they showed us a bunch of slides of different sexual positions and different ways to masturbate. By the time I was done with that program there was zero mystery to sex and I didn't feel the need to go figure it out on my own until I was in college lol.

    • YAY Our Whole Lives! It's super awesome. I'm super proud that my church has sex ed classes.

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  12. Thank you for these suggestions; I have been thinking about getting something like this for my kids. Another good one for the prevention of Sexual Abuse is "My Body Belongs To Me" by Jill Starishevesky. Teaches kids to tell a parent or teacher about inappropriate touches. It's a scary topic, but it's very important to teach your kids this lesson.

  13. Everybody Poops was one of the first books I bought for Jonah as a baby… I saw it and had to have it, forget about being educational for him, I WAS RIVETED πŸ˜€

  14. Has anyone come across any books for kids about reproduction that include ARTs (assisted reproductive technologies)? My partner and I are doing IVF (her egg, my womb, donor sperm), and I'm wondering how best to explain this in appropriate ways to our (potential) baby.

      • Is there a book like this for single parents? My cousin had a beautiful baby boy through IVF and she has been struggling with how to explain it to him when he gets older.

    • I recently flicked through the 'Where Did I come From' latest edition, and it includes an explanation about IVF πŸ™‚
      I'm not sure how much detail it goes in to about IVF, though – didn't read the whole book.

  15. Not being a mama yet, maybe someone can explain this for me … What is "Everybody Poops" doing on this list? I mean, I get it as a good book for potty training, but sex ed? How? What have I missed?

    • My rationale with this one is that bodily functions are a big part of bodies and sexuality, and there is a LOT of shame, culturally, around genitals, very much including bottoms. This is very age-apropos for wee ones, plus most of them LOVE the book (and to be funny about poop), so it has their attention very easily.

      Chill conversations about pooping can also be a good jumping-off point for equally candid and okay talks about functions like menstruation or erections, etc.

      1 agrees
  16. Thank you so much for posting these! My 3yr old is very familiar with birth and about to see me give birth any day now but we are having trouble explaining other things to him. Right now especially These are MY Private Parts is what we need. A (former) friend was recently arrested for molesting a child a few years older than mine, and after the shock and horror that abuse could come so close and from such a shocking source we realized we need to talk already…a lot, but without making our child feel shameful.

  17. Also for teens, Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen's Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body
    By Toni Weschler would be great. I wish this stuff was taught to me in junior highschool, I feel pretty certain I would have had a better sense of confidence and self respect, although if I had I would likely not have become a teen mother and I would much rather have my son now and have learned my lessons the hard way, but maybe I can help my future daughters understand their value from the beginning.

  18. I had "It's Perfectly Normal" as a kid, and although I LOVED it (and stole it off the regular bookshelf and hid it under my bed for several months) I have a couple caveats. 1) I was more like 11 or 12 when I got really interested in it. My 8 year old brother was totally uninterested. The drawings are fun, but it's really directed towards people who are starting to get interested in crushes and kissing etc. 2) Their "sperm meets egg" comic strip has a super feminized egg waiting around, twiddling her fingers and putting on lipstick, and super masculinized sperm coming out of bootcamp ready to fight their way to the egg. Not only sexist but inaccurate–the egg is as active in pulling the sperm in as the sperm is in penetrating the egg.

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  19. I got given a copy of Our Bodies Ourselves when I went through puberty. That book was scary to a 13-year-old!!

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  20. for adults or teenagers who seem ready for sex (or almost there) there's an amazing book called "the big bang" by the people who write the nerve. it's full of beautiful real humans and down to earth advice on having fantastic and safe sex, written the way you or i would talk, complete with really funny stories and jokes. excerpt from faq on masturbation: "Q:can i suck my own dick? A: rhinus monkeys can auto-filate. we'd bet some members of cerque de sole can too. you, my friend, cannot."

  21. When i was little (which wasnt THAT long ago – im 18) there was a book called 'Hair in funny places' in my school library, i spoke to my best friend recently and asked her if she remembered it and she remembered it instantly! It was a great book, mostly about hormones and the body, looks at wet dreams and things too if i recall correctly x

  22. I gave a copy of It's Perfectly Normal to my now 18 year old when she was little because it did a great job explaining why her uncircumcised friend had a penis that looked different from her dad's (I am pretty laid back about nudity until/unless it makes a kid uncomfortable).
    She told everyone she met for the next few weeks that when she grew up she would get to have sex. She now hates that story, but we still talk pretty openly about sexuality and she is the one asking her college human sexuality prof why the text book is so wrapped up in gender binaries. It is a fantastic start to years of great discussion.

  23. Another option to supplement the home library is joining a UU church that has an Our Whole Lives (OWL) program. A full curriculum begins at around 1st grade and is offered regularly as the kids progress through different stages of sexual development. There's even an adult class for those of us who didn't have such progressive upbringings.

  24. I remember learning the birds and bees very gradually whilst growing up. My parents, especially my mom, were always very open about bodies and frank about sex– mostly. They seemed to have a stroke of 50s conscience every few "teaching" moments, so I had a sort of knowledgeable interest combined with a sense that it wasn't something one discussed. However, I remember at about 11 my mom seemed to decide that it was time for the "official" talk. I don't remember how it began, but I DO remember being mortified that she was trying to talk to me about it and locking myself in the bathroom. She slid a couple books under the door and yelled at me through the door to read them. I found them interesting but pretended that I never cracked them at all and that she was being quite obscene to even suggest I look at such smut.
    I made it out better than my friend Kat though. Her mom invited her on a trip to the mall. She never made it to the mall. They drove around the city and there was NO WAY OUT.

    Basically this article reminded me of the good points of my parent's teaching style, and that fostering an environment where these things are discussed early and casually (but privately) is awesome. I;m glad to see that the books are so varied and seem pretty easy to come by.

  25. Oh man.
    I've never felt the need to comment before (in no small part because I'm an "off-beat nanny" not mama.
    But.
    I nanny for a 10 year old girl, and we have spent the last few months talking about sex, puberty, and adolescence in more detail than I ever have before.

    And we both LOVE "It's Perfectly Normal." It is fun, easy to read, and a great conversation starter. And, hey, Clover* may be the only 10 year old I know who can use the words penis and vagina in a sentence without blushing.

  26. School librarian here, late to the party…but I highly recommend anything by Robie Harris (It's Perfectly Normal for kids to find out about their own bodies, and It's Not the Stork for learning about where babies come from – so the stork title is good for younger kids).

    also: Lynn Madaras is excellent for puberty questions, with books about boys AND girls. I recommend having both available for your kids to browse on their own when they get to 4th or 5th grade – girls need to know about boys' puberty, and vice versa! http://www.newmarketpress.com/author.asp?id=250#Published

    also – her "Ready, Set, Grow" is a little "younger" so it's good for 3rd, 4th, 5th if your child isn't ready for her puberty titles.

    Basically, it's never too early to talk to kids about their bodies or how they came to be – and you should always use proper terminology, not euphemisms. Having books to help does two things: it takes the burden off of you to give correct info, gets you out of some of the SUPER embarrassing stuff, and also sends kids the message that if they want information about anything, especially human health/sex, books are the appropriate place to look – not friends' older siblings or questionable web sites.

    You may need to buy these books, even though your library SHOULD have them – because mine seem to get stolen every year, probably by kids too embarrassed to check them out. Fine with me, they are getting good info.

    In my opinion, once kids smell bad, they REALLY need puberty books. πŸ™‚ this tends to start happening in 5th or 6th grades. Believe me, I work with the little angels.

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