How can I choose a book about sex for my child?

Published:

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.

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.

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.

It's Perfectly Normal by Robie E. Harris is intended for young people ages 10 or older, this is a comprehensive book on sexual anatomy and general sexual practices. Unlike other books, it begins to address young people’s questions, fears, and curiosities about sexual intimacy. It’s a great book for both young people enthusiastically curious, or enthusiastically uninterested in the topic. A nice book to read with your young person, or just leave it lying around for discovery by a curious youngster.  This updated edition--revised for the 21st century--includes sections on sex, bodies, puberty, families, and staying healthy, as well as straightforward and factual information about STIs, sexual abuse, staying safe on the internet, safer sex & birth control, and abortion. 

Cartoon Guide to Sex by Larry Gonick and Christine DeVault take us on a fun, educational romp through the world of human sexuality. Sure, the whole book is cartoons. And what an intelligent, humorous, wide-ranging book on sexuality, romance, sexual orientation, reproduction, hormones, sex toys ... we love this book! It presents information in a visual, non-threatening way, making it a great way to explain sexuality to younger people (12 yrs. and up, depending on maturity) or to those with mild cognitive disabilities, when the need is for in-depth discussions without a lot of text. 

The Sex Counselor