When you see headlines warning that kids as young as 9 were exposed to an “explicit sex” book, you expect to find out a bunch of fourth-graders stumbled on a Fifty Shades of Grey paperback a teacher accidentally returned to the elementary school library or perhaps a dog-eared copy of the Kama Sutra.
But the book that has an Oregon town abuzz is neither of the above. Parents are furious that their sweet, young ones read a copy of Robie M. Harris and Michael Emberley’s It’s Perfectly Normal. Nay, that the school librarian reportedly “disseminated” this material to their 9-year-olds.
And gentle reader, what I’m about to tell you may cause your hands to fly up toward your throats, grabbing for your favorite strand of pearls. I gave my 10-year-old that same “explicit sex book” at least a year go.
And it wasn’t an accident.
Heck, while administrators at Hudson Park Elementary School have been quick to tell parents, “All questionable books have been pulled from library shelves,” I’m going the other route. I’m going to sit my 10-year-old down tonight and ask her if she’s ever bothered to page through the classic that I put on her bookshelf when she was 8 or 9.
If she hasn’t, I’ve got ask her: Why not?
I bought it to be read, didn’t I? And told her I was here to answer any and all questions it may create? If she’s not going to read it, I need to invest in something else that she will, although I’ll be hard pressed to find anything that’s as good at covering sex ed for kids without totally freaking them out.
Hudson Park isn’t the first school to whip the book from it’s shelves. At more than 20 years old, it’s been banned over and over and over again for covering — in cartoon form — everything from masturbation to homosexuality to abortion. In 2014 it was No. 5 on the “most banned” book list, with one allegation that it constitutes “child pornography.”
It doesn’t. What it does is offer kids no-nonsense information about their bodies.
It’s measured. It’s smart. It doesn’t talk down to kids, but it does break down complex topics in language they can understand. It’s also got simple, cartoony graphics that get the point across without looking like something you’d find on a porn site. The book even gets bonus points for the diversity of the cartoons!
Its comprehensive nature is exactly why I, and thousands upon thousands of parents like me, have bought It’s Perfectly Normal for our kids. Because all of these things are “perfectly normal,” and it’s pretty much guaranteed that our kids are going to have to tangle with them at some point in time, if not in their own lives then in their friends’. Even if you’re straight or have never had an abortion, you know someone who is gay or has. And don’t even get me started on masturbation.
I also bought it because my 10-year-old, like thousands upon thousands of other kids, is horrified that I want to talk about this stuff with her because OMG, it’s embarrassing and gross, Mom, while I’m more horrified with the idea of becoming a grandmother in my 30s. Which is exactly what could happen if I play ostrich for the rest of her childhood.
But don’t take my word for it. Take science’s.
A 2014 study out of Georgetown University found teaching sex ed to kids as young as 10 could decrease unintended pregnancies, abortions, maternal deaths and sexually transmitted diseases. Meanwhile, kids who get comprehensive sex ed are 60 percent less likely to be get pregnant during their teen years than those growing up with abstinence-only education.
Looks like it’s “explicit sex book” for the win.