Friday, April 3, 2015

Review! "The Family Library" series by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley

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Having Mad Natter in the house is often an exercise in mitigating what he's emotionally able to handle versus what he's intellectually ready for. Nowhere has this been more evident than in his determination to understand every single thing about how the human body works - including all its parts (both variants!), and the reproductive process. This is all well and good, and I encourage a whole lot of curiosity, but there's only so much I'm willing and/or able to tell my then-four-year-old about human reproduction. As a result, I turned to the children's book section of Amazon, did some flipping through of books, and went on to find what would work for us. It turns out, that starts with It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends (The Family Library).

Now, the first thing to point out is that this, with a great many other things, will vary by family. We are an extremely liberal family, with no compunction around explaining things like alternative families, sexualities, or gender fluidity to Mad Natter. I am also a tremendous supporter of a child's right to bodily integrity, and a firm believer in the concept of teaching these things to Mad Natter himself before he learns the slang and the "street" version from someone else. I'm not one who is willing to wait until he comes home asking questions about what the other kids mean by "dick" before I explain these things to him. He has always known the proper names for his body parts, as well as the names of the female-specific body parts, and I prefer it this way.

That said!  I bought It's NOT the Stork for Mad Natter when it came recommended to me via a homeschooling group I'm a part of. Mad Natter was looking for anything and everything he could find on the human body, and wanted to know what all the parts were, and how they combined to make a baby. He was four. While It's NOT the Stork was a little elementary for him, it covered the vast bulk of what he wanted to know about. The sections covered things like "boys and girls play with trucks" and "this is an elbow" as well as "intact penis / circumcised penis," and the changes of puberty.

The entirety of the section on sex boils down to one sentence, the crux of which is "tab A, slot B."It is entirely clinical, albeit elementary, and goes quickly onward to sperm+egg. Both cesarean and vaginal birth are covered, again in an extremely basic way (there are two ways a baby is born!), and family is called out for single parents, same-sex parents, opposite-sex parents, grandparents, fosters, and split custody. The basics of adoption are also covered. The final sections are on okay and not-okay touches. All very elementary, no value judgement attached, exactly what I was looking for,

All was well for quite some time. In fact, it wasn't until this year - now that Mad Natter is six - that he started asking for more information again. As he's also started showing an interest in privacy, I figured the best bet was to drop It's So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families (The Family Library) in his path, and see what he made of it. It arrived in his lap about two weeks ago. He's spent several hours poring over it already, and was ticked off when it got put on a shelf and he couldn't immediately find it for silent reading time. He pointed out to me that it says it's for ages 7 and up on the cover, so he shouldn't be reading it, but that doesn't seem to have stopped him, which is good, because it's probably also a bit below his knowledge and skill levels.

This book covers much the same things as the one before, again, entertainingly and clinically, without value judgement. The options are presented, and nothing is said about whether they are good, bad, blue, or plaid. They are, however, significantly more detailed. Which, as Mad Natter gets older, is exactly what is needed. He needs the information that yes, sperm come from testicles and leave the body via the penis. He is reading this himself, however, so whatever he wants to know about he'll learn, and the remainder will be covered when he is interested in it. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to know he's already pretty much scoured the entire book, though.  The other thing this book goes more into is the definition of homo- versus hetero- and the slang of gay, lesbian and straight. Further, miscarriage and abortion, feeding decisions, and chromosomes make an appearance as brief mention topics - relatively. Chromosomes and genes see several pages, but the other topics all are on a quarter of the page, respectively. Which is fine, as the topics are covered as is age-appropriate. There is also a chapter on HIV/AIDS - how it is transmitted, how it is NOT transmitted, and treating people with a disease as you would any other person.  All in, I rather like this book, and it's right about where we are in terms of the three options available to us.

Which, of course, brings us to It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health (The Family Library). I'm going to post on this book separately, largely because it is significantly more in-depth than the first two books, and may well comprise a full sex-ed curriculum on its own. I haven't had time to read the book in full as yet, and I want to do more justice to it than simply "this book is a continuation of the series, again moving along age-appropriately, with a good deal more information and lack of judgement" because since I haven't fully finished it myself, it feels a little too close to lying about the contents of the book, even though a cursory glance tells me just about all I'd really need to know. I promise, once I've finished it all up, I'll update the post and let you all know.




All in, the series as I've seen it thus far has been  good - solid information presented at age-appropriate levels, covering a large number of important topics. I've found it to be well worth the time and cost, and Mad Natter enjoys them as well.