How can I choose a book about sex for my child?
posted: 01/15/2009 10:16 am
Dear Sex Counselor,
My child is growing up fast. Could you recommend some books that give good information and advice about changing bodies that would be appropriate, understandable and fun for a teen?
There are many different books available that talk frankly, openly and respectfully to kids, male and female, about what to expect as they grow and mature. Here are some of our favorites.
The Guy Book: An Owner’s Manual by Mavis Jukes is most appropriate for boys aged 12 to 17. Visually, it’s very fun and interesting, as it’s written in the style of a car manual with 1950s pictures as illustrations. The Guy Book has great information about puberty (including information on girls’ process through puberty), sexuality (including sections on reproduction, sexual orientation, contraception, and sexually transmitted infections [STIs] and their prevention), and self-care like shaving, bodily cleanliness, laundry, style, nutrition, general health and exercise, and mental health. This book is written with heterosexual boys in mind, although the issue of sexual orientation is explicitly discussed. It also covers social behaviors like dating, dancing, formal dining, meeting your date’s family, and breaking up with lots of practical and detailed information. Issues of sexual harassment, sexual consent, sexual assault and abuse are treated especially well, with sensitivity and intelligence rarely found in books for teens. There’s a great list of resources in the back, as well.
What’s Going On Down There? Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask by Karen Gravelle with Nick and Chava Castro is most appropriate for boys aged 10-14. With fun illustrations and a very accessible style, this book covers anatomy, body changes, puberty issues like acne, hair, and body odor, erections, masturbation, girls’ changes in puberty, reproduction, contraception, STIs, sexual activity, and pressuring others into sexual activity. It ends with a very helpful section in which the authors answer questions directly from boys. This book covers homosexuality only briefly, but with sensitivity.
The "What’s Happening to My Body?" Book for Boys by Lynda Madaras with Area Madaras is most appropriate for boys aged 9 to 14. It features a very thorough examination of boys’ progress through puberty and the questions boys have about changes in their bodies. It includes information about girls, too. This book is great if you want something with LOTS of information that is still very readable.
My Body, My Self for Boys by Lynda Madaras amd Area Madaras is a companion to The "What’s Happening to My Body?" Book for Boys and is appropriate for boys aged 9 to 14. This book features a lot of activities – a journal for charting testicle growth and development, suggestions for inventing your own puberty rite, exercises for guesstimating your future height, and instructions for self-testicular exams. It’s full of excellent information about boys’ process through puberty, and includes in-depth discussions of male anatomy, circumcision, masturbation and common questions about it, growth, body changes, exercise and nutrition, body odor, acne, facial hair and shaving. It’s written in a very enthusiastic, supportive style and includes quotes from boys.
Changing Bodies, Changing Lives is written by the Boston Women’s Health Collective, the same group that brings us the "Our Bodies Ourselves" series. It’s appropriate for both boys and girls of any "teen" age. This is probably the most comprehensive book we’ve found that deals with issues of teen health and sexuality in a frank, encouraging, non-judgmental, informative tone. Topics covered include changing bodies, relationships with parents, fitting in, independence, changing sexuality, emotional health care, eating disorders, substance abuse, living with violence, physical health care, birth control and safer sex, pregnancy, and more. It’s filled with illustrative narrative quotes from young people, which give the book a personal, credible feel. It also contains information on rarely mentioned topics like racism and community change, and offers extensive resources for every topic covered.
"Go Ask Alice" Book of Answers from Columbia University’s Health Education Program is most appropriate for young people (boys and girls) from age 15 to 20s. The content is taken from actual questions and answers on Columbia’s "Go Ask Alice" advice website (at www.goaskalice.com), and is informative and humorously written. It covers an incredibly broad variety of information including, but not limited to, masturbation, orgasms, reproduction and conception, STIs, stress, depression, abuse, grief and loss, fitness and nutrition, eating disorders, smoking, alcohol and drugs, and general health issues. Some less-expected issues get covered as well, such as procrastination, fear of public speaking, and learning disabilities. This book is a great reference for older high schoolers and college students.
Deal With It by Esther Drill, Heather McDonald, and Rebecca Odes is most appropriate for girls aged 11 to 17. It features an excellent design, with vibrant colors, appealing fonts, and fun illustrations, and also includes quotes for girls chatting online on the website www.gurl.com, with some very frank discussions of sexuality. The book is divided into four sections. The "Body" section contains information about breasts, genitals, skin, hair, body care, and body image. The "Sexuality" section examines sexual feelings, masturbation, protection, sexual decision-making, sexual preference, sex when you don’t want it, and more. The "Brain" section is mostly centered on psychology and self-destructive behavior. The "Life" section concentrates on issues like family, friends, school, beliefs, and being yourself. Information about boys is included, but overall the book is very girl-centered. It does have some wonderfully informative, sensitive, and non-judgmental discussions of sexual orientation, and is written by women in their 20s, making the book read as advice from a cool older sister. This is a great resource for girls to consult for answers to a wide variety of questions.
The Period Book: Everything you Don’t Want to Ask (But Need to Know) by Karen Gravelle and Jennifer Gravelle is most appropriate for girls aged 9 to 13. It is well-designed, with nice illustrations, and written with an enthusiastic and accessible tone. The book covers menstruation, changes of puberty (those you can see and those you can’t), menstrual problems and how to handle them, seeing a gynecologist, and talking with parents. It also has some fun extras like a menstrual record chart and blank pages in the back to write in. This is a good choice if you’re looking for something very girl-centered with the focus entirely on puberty and menstruation.
The "What’s Happening to My Body?" Book for Girls by Lynda Madaras with Area Madaras is most appropriate for girls aged 9 to 14. This book, like the corresponding title for boys, is an in-depth examination of girls’ process through puberty and its surrounding issues. It includes some information on boys’ process, as well. It’s very informative and straightforward, and an overall great reference book for girls to keep on hand.
My Body, My Self for Girls by Lynda Madaras and Area Madaras is a companion to The "What’s Happening to My Body?" Book for Girls. It’s written in workbook style, and offers some great information coupled with interactive activities like freewriting exercises, quizzes, and problem-solving exercises. It also includes suggestions and activities for interacting with parents – like discussions and interviews. This book is very girl-centered (with little information about boys’ bodies and puberty processes), and includes quotes from girls. The focus is mainly on puberty and related issues, and it includes some other extras like exercises to get rid of menstrual cramps, instructions for self-breast exams, and calendars for charting menstrual cycles.
My Feelings, My Self: A Journal for Girls by Lynda Madaras and Area Madaras is most appropriate for girls aged 11 to 16. It’s written as a workbook/journal, and provides VERY valuable information about feelings and how to sort them out. Topics include friendships, popularity, peer pressure, dating and relationships, parents, communication, listening, problem solving, and getting help when you need it. It’s filled with exercises designed to help girls explore issues and find workable solutions. This book is very heterosexually oriented, although the issue of same-sex crushes is covered. Overall, it’s written in an inviting, informative style.
Am I Weird or Is this Normal? by Marlin S. Potash, Ed. D. and Laura Potash Fruitman with Lisa Sussman is most appropriate for girls aged 12 to 17. Written by a mother-daughter team, this book offers a multi-generational perspective with advice that often differs from mother to daughter. It includes information about puberty, relationships and dating, parents, drugs, eating disorders, mental health, friendship, sexuality, birth control and abortion, divorce, work, cliques, self-esteem, school, and more. One caveat: there is a HEAVY heterosexual bias. While this book is written with a "girl power" attitude, it spends a LOT of time talking about boys and how to relate to them, handle dating dilemmas, etc. There are only two pages that deal with the possibility of being gay, and they don’t deal very well.
The Sex Counselor
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