Talking to kids about consent
There are a lot of potentially confusing terms whirling around in popular culture these days — bodily autonomy, bodily integrity, implied consent, explicit consent, #MeToo, #Time’sUp — and helping the children you care about navigate all of this can be scary and confusing. So we’ve created a round-up of books you can grab this holiday season (or year round!) to help you talk to the kids in your life about their bodies, respecting boundaries, standing up for themselves, navigating relationships, safer sex practices, and more! We’ve got books for children ages 2 and up — including a few aimed specifically at parents and caregivers to help them prepare to broach these tough subjects.
(If you decide to purchase any of these on Amazon, remember to use Amazon Smile and designate Bivona as your charity of choice!)
The Feelings Book
Age Range: 2-4 | By Todd Parr
The Feelings Book vibrantly illustrates the wide range of moods we all experience. With his trademark quirky intelligence, Parr pays special attention to the ever-changing, sometimes nonsensical emotions that we all feel. Targeted to young children first starting to read, The Feelings Book will help kids learn to discuss the gamut of their feelings in a kid-friendly, accessible format, told through Parr's trademark bold, bright colors, and silly scenes. Find it on Amazon.
C is for Consent
Age Range: 2-5 | By Eleanor Morrison
In this simple lesson about body boundaries, Finn goes to a party with family and friends. His parents encourage him to make his own choices about receiving and offering physical affection. At the end of the story, Finn waits for consent before holding the hand of his female best friend. C is for Consent teaches babies, toddlers, parents, and grandparents that it’s okay for kids to say no to hugs and kisses, and that every person has control over what happens to their body. This helps children grow up confident in their bodies, comfortable with expressing physical boundaries, and respectful of the boundaries of others. Find it on Amazon.
No Means No!
Age Range: 2-9 | By Jayneen Sanders
The empowered main character in No Means No! has a strong voice when it comes to her body and her personal boundaries. Through the book, children learn the importance of personal boundaries, consent, and respect. Discussions about touch aren't just about sexual abuse; they're also about respecting other people and their boundaries. Sanders uses this general idea to address age-specific examples, such as roughhousing play like wrestling or choosing whether or not to give someone a kiss, and encourages kids to exercise their voice when they don't want a touch — and tell people they trust when they're uncomfortable. Discussion questions at the end helps parents talk further with their kids about these issues. Find it on Amazon.
My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes
Age Range: 3-6 | By Dagmar Geisler
As a child, there are constantly people trying to pick you up, hug you, or tickle you. Sometimes, though, children fall victims to people who try to touch them inappropriately. How do you tell someone you don’t want to be touched? Or, if it’s already happened, how do you tell an adult you trust about what happened? Why would they believe you? My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes is an educational tool to help instill confidence in children when it comes to their bodies. The narrative of the story is led by a girl named Clara, who encourages kids to say “no” if they are uncomfortable with physical contact. Find it on Amazon.
A Terrible Thing Happened
Age Range 4-7 | By Margaret Holmes, Sasha Mudlaff, and Cary Pillo
Sherman Smith saw the most terrible thing happen. At first he tried to forget about it, but something inside him started to bother him. He felt nervous and had bad dreams. Then he met someone who helped him talk about the terrible thing, and made him feel better. A Terrible Thing Happened is a guidebook of sorts for children to help them process their feelings and find an adult they trust to talk to after they see something bad. Find it on Amazon.
Rex Finds His Roar
Age Range: 4-8 | By The CARE Center
This book is the perfect tool for parents and caregivers to read with their children and begin a conversation about how to be safe in tough or scary situations. Through the eyes of a cool lion named Rex, your child learns the Rules of ROARing: Remember, privates are private, it's Okay to say No, Always talk about secrets, and Raise your voice and tell someone. Children learn body safety and empowerment through the easy to remember acronym. The child abuse and neglect experts at The CARE Center in Oklahoma City developed the ROAR program and recommend it for children as young as three. Keep the children in your life safe from abuse by purchasing Rex Finds His ROAR today! Find it on Amazon.
I Said No! A Kid-to-Kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private
Age Range: 4-9 | By Zack and Kimberly King
Using a simple and direct approach that doesn't lessen the importance of the issues involved, I Said No! creates an easy-to-use system to help kids remember appropriate responses when they find themselves in situations that make them uncomfortable. Find it on Amazon.
Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect
Age Range 4-10 | By Jayneen Sanders
Teaching young children about body boundaries—both theirs and others—is crucial to a child’s growing sense of self, their confidence and knowing how they should expect to be treated by others. Growing up knowing they have a right to their own personal space, gives a child ownership and choices about what happens to them and to their body. It is equally important a child understands, from a very young age, they need to respect another person’s body boundary and ask for their consent when entering their personal space. This book provides familiar scenarios for children to engage with and discuss, and it is through these vital discussions that children will learn the meaning of body boundaries, consent and respect. Find it on Amazon.
Do You Have a Secret?
Age Range: 6-9 | By Jennifer Moore-Malinos
Kids have secrets. But how do they learn to differentiate between fun secrets, and secrets that make them feel bad? Do You Have a Secret? helps children differentiate between these things, and helps them learn when they need to share their secret with a parent or another trusted person in their lives. Part of the Tell Somebody series, this book encourages children to talk about things, even—and especially—when they feel ashamed or worried. Find it on Amazon.
Sex is a Funny Word: A Book about bodies, feelings, and you
Age Range 7-10 | By Cory Silverberg & Fiona Smyth
Helping open up conversations between young people and those who take care of them, Sex is a Funny Word allows adults to convey their beliefs, while providing children information about joy, safety, the importance of consent, and what boundaries mean. A comic book for kids that includes children and families of all makeups, orientations, and gender identities, Sex is a Funny Word reimagines the "sex talk" for the twenty-first century. Find it on Amazon.
Age Range: 8-12 | By Lizzie Cox
From puberty to relationships, social media to school, this essential guide for boys growing up covers everything you have always wanted to know but were afraid to ask. Growing up can be hard and, at times, embarrassing. This funny yet sensitive book offers practical advice and helpful information to help make growing up just that little bit less scary. Written by a former teen magazine editor and with funny illustrations and diagrams, Guy Talk covers daunting but important subject such as personal hygiene, different types of bulling, relationships, and how to stay safe online. Find it on Amazon.
What is Consent? Why is it Important? And Other Big Questions
Age Range: 8-13 | By Yas Necati and Louise Spilsbury
What is consent? Why does it matter? How does it affect our daily lives? Why is it such a grey area, sometimes? The concept of consent is easy to oversimplify - yes means yes, and no means no. Often, though, it isn't that black and white. Have you ever said 'yes' to something when, really, you wanted to say 'no'? Or have you ever tried to convince someone to do something they don't want to? What is Consent? explores how consent works, and why it matters. It encourages children to think about what consent means to them, and about the importance of personal boundaries—both knowing your own, and respecting other people's. Find it on Amazon.
Let’s Talk About S-E-X: A Guide for Kids 9-12 and Their Parents
Age Range: 9-12 | By Sam Gitchel and Lorri Foster
First created by Planned Parenthood/Mar Monte in the late 1980's, this well loved, updated guide ensures children get accurate, age-appropriate information about sex. This read-together book helps to start an open dialogue in families. The book is filled with sound information, illustrations and diagrams, appropriate body terminology, information on STDs and more. The changes all preteens go through are explained in a simple, straight-forward manner. In the Parent's Guide in the back of the book is information on approaching the “BIG TALK” in a comfortable and positive way. Find it on Amazon.
S.E.X: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties
Age Range: 12-18 | By Heather Corinna
This go-to sex ed guide for teens and young adults, tackles everything about sex, from consent, safe sex, emotional health and more. As a teen or emerging adult, dealing with all the changes going on in your life, body, and mind can be overwhelming. S.E.X. tackles all the big topics: self-image, protecting and supporting sexual and emotional health, Sorting out gender and sexual identities, contraceptive methods and other reproductive choices, sexually transmitted infections, safer sex, finding and managing healthy and happy relationships, setting and respecting limits and boundaries, and Identifying, preventing, or healing from abuse or assault. S.E.X clearly spells out what you need and want to know—no shame, no judgement, just comprehensive and accurate info in a clear, straightforward language. Find it on Amazon.
What Does Consent Really Mean?
Age Range: 13-18 | By Pete Wallis, Joseph Wilkins, and Thalia Wallis
Following the sexual assault of a classmate, a group of teenage girls find themselves discussing the term consent, what it actually means for them in their current relationships, and how they act and make decisions with peer influence. Joined by their male friends who offer another perspective, this rich graphic novel uncovers the need for more informed conversations with young people around consent and healthy relationships. Accompanying the graphics are sexual health resources for students and teachers, which make this a perfect tool for broaching the subject with teens. Find it on Amazon.
Consent: The New Rules of Sex Education — Every Teen’s Guide to Healthy Sexual Relationships
Age Range: 13-18 | By Jennifer Lang, MD
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to sex education―anatomy, communication, safety, and more. In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Jennifer Lang delivers a frank, compassionate, and evidence-based guide to healthy sexual relationships, focusing on the crucial role of consent in sex education. A board-certified OB-GYN, Dr. Lang breaks down confusing concepts into factual and clear guidance. She outlines not only what consent looks and sounds like, but the importance of recognizing when a person has the capacity to give consent, and when they don’t. Written for all teens, and inclusive of all sexual identities and orientations, Consent is a reference guide to healthy sexual expression and relationships. Teens and young adults will find the sex education information they need to make empowered choices about their bodies, their desires, and their boundaries in Consent. Find it on Amazon.
Girl Made of Stars
Age Range: 14-17 | By Ashley Herring Blake
The only novel on this list, Girl Made of Stars tells a complex story that is an intimate look at consent, PTSD, believing victims, and more. Bisexual high school junior Mara has always had a close bond with her twin brother, Owen. After a traumatic experience caused her to withdraw from friends and family as a coping mechanism, Owen was the only one able to draw her out of her shell. When Owen’s girlfriend, Hannah—one of Mara’s best friends—accuses Owen of rape, however, Mara’s world is turned upside down as the brother she thought she knew begins to trigger the very PTSD she’s been trying to hide. Mara has never wavered in her conviction to always believe survivors. But as many of her classmates and family, including her fiercely feminist mother, publicly side with Owen, the school’s feminist club rallies around Hannah, and Mara feels forced to choose—between her friend, her family, and coming to terms with her own past. Find it on Amazon.
GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You
Age Range: 15-19 | By Karen Rayne, PhD
Welcoming and inclusive of all self-identified girls, GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You is an uncensored, unbiased, and fantastically relevant guide. A growing-up guide for the 21st century, GIRL covers what everyone is talking about—healthy sexuality, loving relationships, and gender fluidity, as well as thornier subjects such as STIs, consent, and sexual assault. Additionally, there are self-reflection quizzes, resources, and real-life stories. Find it on Amazon.
Ask: Building Consent Culture
Age Range: 15 and up (a good read for parents too) | By Kitty Stryker
Violating consent isn’t limited to sexual relationships, and our discussions around consent shouldn’t be, either. To resist rape culture, we need a consent culture—and one that is more than just reactionary. Left confined to intimate spaces, consent will atrophy as theory that is never put into practice. The multi-layered power disparities of today’s world require a response sensitive to a wide range of lived experiences. In Ask, Kitty Stryker assembles writers, journalists, and activists to examine how a cultural politic centered on consent can empower us outside the bedroom, whether it’s at the doctor’s office, interacting with law enforcement, and other many other situations. More than a collection of essays, Ask is a testimony and guide on the role that consent plays in our lives. Find it on Amazon.
Body Safety Education: A Parents’ Guide to Protecting Kids From Sexual Abuse
Age Range: Parents/Caregivers | By Jayneen Sanders
This short guide contains simple, practical and age-appropriate ideas on how to teach children about body safety, as well as important information for parents and caregivers on how abusers groom victims. Body safety knowledge empowers children. It goes a long way in keeping them safe from sexual abuse, and ensuring they grow up as assertive and confident teenagers and adults. Help stop child abuse by teaching social and physical boundaries to kids. A child needs be able to proclaim loudly and with conviction “I am the boss of my body”. Find it on Amazon.
Beyond Birds and Bees: Bringing Home a New Message to Our Kids About Sex, Love, and Equality
Age Range: Parents/Caregivers | By Bonnie Rough
A provocative inquiry into how we teach our children about bodies, sex, relationships and equality—with practical takeaways from the author's research and eye-opening observations from the world-famous Dutch approach. Award-winning author Bonnie J. Rough never expected to write a book about sex, but life handed her a revelation too vital to ignore. A job change relocated her family to Amsterdam, where she witnessed the relaxed and egalitarian sexual attitudes of the Dutch. There, she discovered, children learn from babyhood that bodies are normal, the world's best sex ed begins in kindergarten, cooties are a foreign concept, puberty is no big surprise, and questions about sex are welcome at the dinner table. In Beyond Birds and Bees, Rough reveals how although normalizing human sexuality may sound risky, doing so actually prevents unintended consequences, leads to better health and success for our children, and lays the foundation for a future of gender equality. Down to earth and up to the minute with our profound new cultural conversations about gender, sex, power, autonomy, diversity, and consent, Rough's careful research and engaging storytelling illuminate a forward path for Americans who want clear examples and actionable steps for how to support children's sexual development—and overall wellbeing—from birth onward at home, in schools, and across our evolving culture. Find it on Amazon.