Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Birds and the Bees and Other Recent Reads

As always, we've been reading lots of good books here, and I'll take these few peaceful moments while the kids are playing out in the sunshine to share some of them. Here are a few of our favorites from the past two weeks!

Bonnie loved Diane Swanson's book Nibbling on Einstein's Brain: The Good, the Bad and the Bogus in Science. Kelly and I are trying to raise our kids to be skeptical, and this book does a great job of teaching how to spot scientific fraud. Since reading this book, Bonnie's pointed out bad science in several commercials and other occurrences. It's so important to me that my kids expect evidence rather than believing things blindly, and this book encourages critical thinking in an entertaining way. Bonnie actually read this one in bed several nights in a row.

The boys enjoyed The Different Dragon, by Jennifer Bryan. The story features a little boy with two mothers, one of whom tells him a good night story about a dragon that doesn't do what "normal" dragons do, like breathe fire and scare little kids. The little boy lets the dragon know that it's okay to be different, and that he will still play with him. It's a simple story, but one with a lesson that many adults would benefit from as well. As I've mentioned previously, my kids are not likely to run across a lot of openly gay couples raising their kids here in our home town, but I want to make sure they know those families are out there, and that they deserve just as much respect as traditional families.

We've found another version of one of our favorites, The Emperor's New Clothes. The kids enjoyed the comical illustrations in this book, and I enjoyed the underlying skeptical message that we should not believe things simply because we are told, especially when our own eyes tell us differently.

Finally, we've been reading a book about where babies come from. Yes, I went there. My mother did not believe in sex education for kids, and refused to allow me to participate in the only sex ed class given while I was in school, which was in sixth grade. (I was the only student in the school not allowed to attend. That was fun.) Really, I wouldn't have had a problem with this if my mom had taught me about sex at home. But she didn't. At some point in early high school, my mom handed me some kind of Catholic book about sex, which I read cover to cover, multiple times. The only thing I learned about sex from that book was that "sometimes when a married man and his wife lay close together in bed, they start a baby" or something like that. The rest of the book was about not having sex if you're not married. There was no discussion with my mom and no more info, ever. Luckily, my mom didn't censor the books I read, so I picked up more info on my own in my teenage years.

As a consequence of this complete lack of dialog on the topic of sex with both of my parents, I find it awkward to talk about sex with my kids, even though I know logically that I shouldn't. The book It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends by Robie H. Harris has been a very useful manual for me in opening that dialog with the boys and continuing it with Bonnie. The book is age-appropriate for four-year olds and up, and I really can't say enough good things about it. Right now, the kids do not associate shame with their bodies, and I feel a huge responsibility to keep it that way while giving them truthful information about human anatomy. The book is full of good illustrations and pertinent facts. I let the boys flip through it and they ask me questions when something strikes their eyes. It's really geared toward younger kids, but Bonnie also read it. I'm currently searching for a good middle-grade sex education book to read with her next year. Would love to hear suggestions if anyone has some!

On that note, my peaceful moments have been shattered by hungry, tired kids.


  1. Robie Harris's "It's Perfectly Normal" is for ages 10 and up, but I read it with my eight year old. I vowed that when my kids turned 8, we would delve into the facts that were saved for me until 12. It deals with homosexuality, too, and as one way people are attracted to one another.

    The pictures made him a little squeamish--the cartoon version of genitals and one of a man and woman entwined on a bed. I didn't flinch at any of it, presenting it as matter-of-fact as any other science lesson.

    Thank you for the book referrals! I have inter-library requested a couple already.

  2. I'll definitely gt my hands on "It's Perfectly Normal"... I see it's the same author as the younger kids' book I'm reading with the boys. Thanks for the suggestion!