We are forever being asked for puberty and sex ed book recommendations for tweens and teens. In fact, it was one of the reasons we started Anyway! And it all makes sense, because as kids are growing and blossoming, they have questions. Lots of them. Books are an easy way to deliver some answers. So, we’ve rounded up 11 of our favorites to share with you, plus a few extras for parenting adults.
If you've got a kid that only reads graphic novels, have no fear. This book has you covered, introducing five friends who are each navigating parts of growing up, including bodies, relationships, sexuality, and how to be a good friend.
You Know, Sex: Bodies, Gender, Puberty, and Other Things
Cory Silverberg has always been one of our favorite puberty authors, so it’s no surprise that this one made our list. It covers the usual topics of hormones, development, and reproduction while also delving into social justice, power dynamics, and pleasure. And if your kids haven’t read his other books or you have younger siblings who are also curious, grab these: What Makes a Baby and Sex Is a Funny Word.
Celebrate Your Body 2: The Ultimate Puberty Book for Preteen and Teen Girls
Growing Up Great: The Ultimate Puberty Book for Boys
We don’t normally gravitate towards resources with the words “girls” and “boys” in the titles, but we couldn’t write this list without including these books. Both do an excellent job of discussing not only the physical changes that happen during puberty, but maybe even more importantly, the social and emotional changes that tweens and teens face. Our suggestion, no matter how your kid identifies, buy them both books. We believe learning about the changes you are going through is just as important as learning about the changes everyone else is!
It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, Gender, and Sexual Health
This one's an oldie but a goodie. Now in its 25th year of print, the third book in Harris’ series about puberty, bodies, and sex has been updated to include gender neutral vocabulary, LQBTQ+ topics, and advances in sexual safety. (We love a resource that’s not afraid to make positive change!) Complete the family library with It's So Amazing and It’s Not the Stork, Harris’ books for younger readers.
In Case You're Curious
Did you know that for years Planned Parenthood has had a question and answer text service manned by experts in teen sexuality education? They do! And this book is a compilation of the best texts and answers from real teens and experts along with educational illustrations. Think of it as all the questions your teen would ask in health class if they weren’t too embarrassed to raise their hand.
The Every Body Book: The LGBTQ+ Inclusive Guide for Kids about Sex, Gender, Bodies, and Families
This illustrated LGBTQ+ inclusive book is great for younger tweens. Think of it as a kid's guide to puberty, hormones, consent, sex, pregnancy and safety that includes children and families of all genders and sexual orientations.
Consent: The New Rules of Sex Education
The importance of teaching tweens and teens about consent cannot be overstated. From teaching our younger kids that the adults in their lives should be asking for permission before coming in for that hug to teaching our older teens that they should be asking for and receiving verbal consent before any sexual contact, this is all new territory for most parenting adults. This was NOT part of our sexuality education, so it’s even more important to rely on the experts for these topics. Dr. Jennifer Lang does an excellent job of explaining what consent is, what it looks like, and who does and doesn’t have the capacity to give consent. This book will help give your teen the tools they need to navigate consent.
Sex Education for Teens
Let’s be honest, was there anything more cringe than when your parents tried to talk to you about your teen romance? While we like to imagine ourselves as enlightened parenting adults that our teens would feel comfortable talking to about anything (and that may very well be true) those conversations can still be hard for teens to have with us. This book delves into the always tricky topic of teen romance and relationships with practical advice written just for them.
This Book Is Gay
This book has been described as the book all gay adults would have killed for as gay kids. And by elequantly covering topics of coming out, where to meet people like you, and the ins and outs of gay sex, we could not agree more. This book should be in every family library, along with Juno Dawson's follow-up book What's the T?: The Guide to All Things Trans and/or Nonbinary
S.E.X., second edition: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties
This book title does not lie. It is essentially a 480-page book on all you need to know about sexuality for teens and young adults. This book is comprehensive and accurate while remaining nonjudgemental and straightforward. A must read for teens and adults alike.
Speaking of adults, here are a few ones we like specifically for parents or guardians, including two by Anyway contributors Ellen Friedrichs and Benjamin Davis.
This Is So Awkward: Modern Puberty Explained
Just released in 2023, this book quickly rose up the best-seller list, and for good reason. The authors, Vanessa Kroll Bennett and Cara Natterson, MD, are experts on adolescence and parents themselves. The get straight to the point about what kids are going through today and how you can help support them along the way, talking openly about physical and emotional changes. We're big fans of this book and we're also avid listeners of their awesome podcast, The Puberty Podcast, which has great tips you can grab on the go.
Sex, Teens, and Everything in Between
Covering topics like consent, sexual harassment, boundries, and healthy relationships, this book goes way beyond the usual puberty and changing bodies content to help you have meaningful conversations with your teens to help them gain the knowledge and skills they need to build healthy relationships. And with its pages full of practical guidance written in a non-judgmental tone, don’t be surprised if your teen picks it up to read as well.
Good Sexual Citizenship
If you're the kind of person who doesn’t just see the problems in the world, but sees that we are all in some way complicit and wants to know how to make it better, this book is for you. It provides tools to navigate “societal messages, sexually hostile climates, stereotypes, and outdated mentalities," and its author wrote the excellent article about consent in Anyway Issue 2, so we hope you'll check that out too!
Gender: What Everyone Needs to Know
This book is a great primer for anyone looking to learn more about gender, but especially for those parenting adults whose kids might be grappling with questions about their own gender identity. Written in a question and answer format, it's a great reference guide. And so is our awesome article about gender in Issue 1, also written by Benjamin Davis, one of this book's authors.
Top photo: Courtesy of MacKenna Lewis for Anyway Magazine
Keeley McNamara and Jen Swetzoff are the founding editors of Anyway Magazine. Friends since age 5, they did a lot of growing up together and now they're just trying not to embarrass their own kids too much!
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