13 – 17 November 2017
Publisher CEP, July 19, 2017
People have been talking about the birds and the bees since Adam and Eve walked the earth. Yet the conversation hasn’t become easier! With so many messages about sexuality, gender and identity around them, our children need a safe space to learn about these topics now more than ever.
Designed for parents and carers to read with children aged 7 to 10, Birds and Bees by the Book has been created to help you to have these conversations at your own pace.
Written by renowned sex educator Patricia Weerakoon, the six books in this set are designed to be read in whichever order suits you and your child. They cover three foundational topics that help children to understand the family structures in the world around them, and how their body and brain are developing as they grow. There are also three extension topics that teach children what is involved in sexual activity, what it means to be a boy or a girl, and how to protect themselves against pornography if they stumble across it.
All of these topics are framed within the Bible’s message that children are unique creations of God, and that sex is a precious gift to be used carefully and wisely in the context of marriage.
About the Author
Patricia Weerakoon is a Sexologist and Writer. She trained in medicine in the University of Sri Lanka. She is an evangelical Christian. She is married to Vasantha. Her son Kamal is a Presbyterian minister. As a Sexologist she has translated her passion to bring good holistic sexual health to all people into practical sex education, sex research and sex therapy.
Her writing and speaking brings together her enthusiasm for sex and her love for the glory of God. The Christian framework of sex therapy she offers has enriched and empowered the sex life of couples and singles. She has a recognised media presence and is a highly regarded public speaker and social commentator in sexuality and sexual health.
Patricia retired in 2011 after a twenty-three year career as an academic with the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Sydney, the last eight years of which she was the director of an internationally acclaimed graduate program in Sexual Health.
Like it or not, sex is everywhere in our culture, and no one can escape the fact. Not Christians, not children, not even Christian children. As Christian parents, we need to raise our children to understand sex, and understand its place in our lives. The easiest time to introduce many of these concepts are when children are young, before it becomes the topic of playground discussion, and when they are young enough that they actually listen to us and respect our parental opinions.
Birds and Bees by the Book is a set of six books for children about sex. It is written by Patricia Weerakoon, an Australian Christian sexologist, and published by Growing Faith, an imprint of Anglican Youthworks. The books are beautifully illustrated by Lisa Flanagan. Penny Reeve, a popular Australian children’s author, served as an editorial consultant, and Alyson Officer was the Child Psychology Consultant.
The books are:
- Me and My Family
- Me and My Body
- Me and My Brain
- Learning About Sex
- Learning About Gender
- Learning About Pornography
I admit those last two gave me pause! However, I soon found the books are designed to be read in order, so each builds on the previous book.
Me and My Family
Me and My Family presents a traditional Christian view of marriage and family: that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. It is made clear this was God’s plan right back from the time of creation. Yes, it does include broad details of the sexual act, but I believe this is necessary. If a child knows and believes sex outside marriage is wrong but doesn’t know what sex is, how are they to truly know right from wrong? This lack of knowledge provides fertile ground for sexual abuse.
The book also recognises the practicalities of modern life, that “not all families have one mother, one father, and children who come from that mother and father”, and there are many reasons for that, including fostere ing and adoption. Me and My Family touches on same-sex relationships in a non-judgemental manner in that it doesn’t say these are outside God’s plan (although that could be implied). Instead, it emphasises the fact that God loves all children, no matter their family circumstances. It finishes with an invitation to join God’s family.
Me and My Body
Me and My Body tackles the inaccurate views on body image we subconsciously absorb from the media. Girls don’t have to be tall and skinny. Boys don’t have to be strong and muscly. (Yes, there are a couple of lessons here for adults as well). God made us, and we are special just the way we are. There is also a brief mention of cyber-bullying.
It moves on to point out that we cover certain parts of our bodies because they are special, and that no one should touch those parts. It’s bad touching, and children should always tell an adult if someone touches them in a way that makes them feel bad. Again, the book finishes with a brief gospel message, an invitation to become part of God’s family.
Me and My Brain
Me and My Brain manages to get into some heavy brain science in a child-friendly way, explaining that it is important to feed our brains in a good way, so we make good decisions. This means not playing lots of violent video games or watching TV programmes with adults having sex (again, probably a message for parents as much as for children). The book again ends with a promise that if we do make bad desicions, Jesus will forgive us.
Learning About Sex
Learning About Sex helps children understand why sex is meant only for marriage—becuase it binds us at a brain level (Patricia’s books for teens and adults explain this in medical terms). She goes on to explain that our bodies mature sexually before our brains, and that we have to grow up (literally and figuratively) before we are ready for marriage and sex (in that order!). It also reinforces some of the messages from the previous books in the series.
Learning About Gender
Learning About Gender talks about the biological differences between males and females, and the difference between sexual love and friendship love. It also introduces the idea that some children (very few) are born as intersex or transgender. This isn’t their fault—Patricia says ït’s just one way that our world has moved away from how God intended it to be. And this is why everyone needs Jesus.”
The key point in Learning About Gender is that it encourages children not to bully other children who don’t look or behave according to their view of “normal”, and especially not to call other people gay or lesbian or bi as an insult. Jesus never insulted or bullied people, and nor should we. He loves us as we are. I’ve come across more than a few adults who say they are Christians but have yet to learn this lesson.
Learning About Pornography
Learning About Pornograhy again builds on the previous books, using lanugage children will understand. It defines pornography as “pictures and videos that are bad and unhealthy for your brain”, and “sexual activity without love or marriage.” It takes us back to Jesus, the perfect example of how God wants us treat other people, and contrasts that with the way pornography treats people. It encourages us to use our thinking brain when we see these pictures, to like what is good, and to find something else to do so our brains don’t trick us into looking at more wrong things.
Overall, Birds and Bees by the Book strikes an excellent balance between being too vague and being too explicit. It explains some complex scientific concepts in language a child can understand, but without getting too detailed. That’s the mark of a true expert.
My one criticism is that the books occasionally feel as though they might be talking down to children, referring to “children of your age”. This probably won’t bother younger children, but it might feel patronising to older children. Having said that, the books are designed to be read to children rather than being read independently. That’s not to say they can’t be read independently. They can, and I suspect most 7 to 10-year-olds would be able to read these unaided.
But I loved the way the topics were dealt with in an age-appropriate manner, and the way God was woven in throughout. After all, God designed sex, and He made all things to be good. Including sex. It’s time we as Christians reclaimed that.
Yes, I get these are difficult subjects. I get that children shouldn’t have to know about these things. But they do—my son first saw pornography at the age of nine on a school computer that (obviously) had insufficient content controls. We need books like this to explain difficult subjects like sex and pornography in an age-appropriate and child-friendly way. And it’s even better that these books are written from a Christian point of view.
Recommended for all parents of young children.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a free set of the books for review.