The best books for young people about healthy sexuality and relationships

Who am I?

Shafia Zaloom is a health educator, parent, consultant, and author whose work centers on human development, community building, ethics, and social justice. Shafia has worked with thousands of children and their families in her role as teacher, coach, administrator, board member, and outdoor educator. She has contributed articles to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous parenting blogs. Shafia’s book, Sex, Teens, and Everything in Between has been reviewed as “the ultimate relationship guide for teens of all orientations and identities.” It is one that “every teen, and every parent and educator - and every other adult who interacts with teens - should read.”

I wrote...

Sex, Teens & Everything in Between: The New and Necessary Conversations Today’s Teenagers Need to Have about Consent, Harassment, Healthy Relationships, Love, and More

By Shafia Zaloom,

Book cover of Sex, Teens & Everything in Between: The New and Necessary Conversations Today’s Teenagers Need to Have about Consent, Harassment, Healthy Relationships, Love, and More

What is my book about?

Sex, Teens, and Everything in Between is written for teenagers, their parents, and other adults who are interested in understanding what teenagers fret about, desire, fear, and hope for when it comes to sexuality and relationships. The book is anchored in real-life teen experiences told by teens themselves about how they are navigating one of the most complicated and profound dimensions of their lives: healthy sex and love.

Each chapter offers guidance and conversation starters for engaging in meaningful dialogue about consent and the implicit and explicit messages young people are bombarded with daily. It features frequently asked questions teens across the country ask, not only about what consent is, but what it looks, sounds, and feels like in practice within relationship dynamics and the social landscapes they navigate.

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The books I picked & why

What Makes a Baby

By Cory Silverberg, Fiona Smyth (illustrator),

Book cover of What Makes a Baby

Why did I love this book?

Cory Silverberg’s book for children ages 3+ answers the question, “Where do babies come from?” It covers conception, gestation, and birth in a way that is inclusive and celebratory within a variety of family structures. Any child’s birth story may be recounted and affirmed during this read. The story creates space for adults to share as many or as few of the details surrounding where children come from as they like. The vivid, colorful illustrations represent the vast array of identities children see in the world, and the central message is that all kids and families are unique and special. Silverberg’s book, Sex is a Funny Word for the slightly older child of 8-10+ is equally inclusive and joyful. All of Silverberg’s books encourage and embrace a healthy sexuality perspective.

By Cory Silverberg, Fiona Smyth (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked What Makes a Baby as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Finalist for the 2014 Lambda Award for LGBT Children's/Young Adult

“What Makes a Baby is extraordinary! Cory is a Dr. Spock for the 21st century.”—Susie Bright

“A Truly Inclusive Way to Answer the Question 'Where Do Babies Come From?': The new book What Makes a Baby offers an origin story for all children, no matter what their families look like." —The Atlantic

"This is a solid, occasionally quirky book on an important topic."—School Library Journal

Geared to readers from preschool to age eight, What Makes a Baby is a book for every kind of family and every kind of kid.…

Book cover of Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls

Why did I love this book?

I love this book because it encourages body positivity among girls who represent a vast variety of identities, especially when it comes to size. I appreciate that Taylor honors the possibility that a female-bodied girl may actually feel like their body and sex assigned at birth does not align, sometimes or all of the time, with how they feel about their gender. Not only does this book include “fascinating facts” boxes of practical and medically accurate information—and empathetically assures readers that “you have company” and are not alone—it pays tribute to body diversity and encourages body pride with its inclusive and affirming approach. You will find everything in here from the wonders of puberty and all of its changes, to how we can take care of our awesomeness with nutrition and physical activity. In addition to empowering girls to take responsibility for knowing the incredible power within their bodies as well as how to take care of them, Taylor addresses mental and emotional health. She brings it all together in the spirit of holistic wellness that cultivates bodily autonomy and agency.

By Sonya Renee Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A body-positive guide to help girls ages 8 to 12 navigate the changes of puberty and grow into women.

Puberty can be a difficult time for a young girl―and it’s natural not to know who (or what) to ask. Celebrate Your Body is a reassuring entry into puberty books for girls that encourages them to face puberty and their body’s changes with excitement and empowerment. From period care to mysterious hair in new places, this age-appropriate sex education book has the answers young girls are looking for―in a way that they can relate to.

Covering everything from bras to braces,…

Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys

By Cara Natterson, Micah Player (illustrator),

Book cover of Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys

Why did I love this book?

This book, for boys 8+ years, is a great ice breaker and conversation starter in preparation for the change puberty brings, by providing practical information for growing up in a safe and healthy way. Natterson’s down-to-earth tone and illustrations create the right balance of facts and humor. Topics cover everything from hair care to healthy eating, bad breath to shaving, acne to voice cracking, pubic changes to moodiness, peer pressure to bullying, and everything in between. Many times, our society leaves boys out of the puberty discussion. It’s important to change this social norm and include boys in this dialogue about puberty, health, and wellness. This impactful book is full of age-appropriate, medically accurate information, as well as addresses the nuances of cultural messages about masculinity and how boys may deal with and express their feelings. Natterson recently embraced this topic further and in more depth with her latest book: Guy Stuff: Everything You Need to Know about Your Feelings. Another must-read!

By Cara Natterson, Micah Player (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Guy Stuff as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the bestselling Care & Keeping of You series! This book will provide you with the answers that will help you take care of yourself better, from hair care to healthy eating, bad breath to shaving, acne to voice changes, and everything in between. With tips, how-tos, and facts from a real pediatrician, it's the perfect book to help you learn about your body's changes.

Book cover of Wait, What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up

Why did I love this book?

This fun and approachable book is fantastic! A prime pick for any preteen or young teen. Inclusive of many different genders, orientations, and other identities, this book covers relevant and important topics like body and body image, the media and cultural messages (in particular around bodies and sex), sexual and gender identity, gender roles and stereotypes, crushes, relationships, and feelings, as well as how to be kind, empathetic, and mature. The characters, Malia, Rico, Max, Sam, and Alexis, support each other while figuring out confusing feelings and experiences. What sets this book apart is not only how beautifully inclusive and positive the authors’ approach is, but how it empowers young people with effective questions for reflection that serve all of us no matter what age. Corinna and Rotman are expert sex educators who “get it” and all that goes along with navigating growing up in today’s realm of healthy sexuality and relationships. An essential book to enrich any puberty education in school or at home. 

By Heather Corinna, Isabella Rotman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wait, What? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Heather Corinna, founder and director of, and Isabella Rotman, cartoonist and sex educator, comes a graphic novel guide that covers essential topics for preteens and young teens about their changing bodies and feelings.
Join friends Malia, Rico, Max, Sam and Alexis as they talk about all the weird and exciting parts of growing up! This supportive group of friends are guides for some tricky subjects. Using comics, activities and examples, they give encouragement and context for new and confusing feelings and experiences.

Inclusive of different kinds of genders, sexualities, and other identities, they talk about important topics like:…

Book cover of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties

Why did I love this book?

This is the textbook I teach from in my high school healthy sexuality and relationship class. Ideally, it would be on the shelf of every teenager and young adult. Corinna tackles all of the real and relevant, as well as trickiest, topics about healthy sex, relationships, and love. It provides comprehensive, medically accurate information on any and everything a teen and young adult needs to know about understanding sex and sexuality within this popular culture, it also addresses the nuances of cultural messaging and the complexities of human relationships. From how to sort out gender and sexual identities to updated information on safe sexuality practices to finding and cultivating meaningful and healthy relationships, to how to set and respect boundaries, communicate desires, and rock consent, this book is an all-in-one resource for empowering young people. The information and guidance it provides encourages the joys and responsibilities of healthy bodies and sexuality.

By Heather Corinna,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked S.E.X. as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a teen or emerging adult, dealing with all the changes going on in your life, body, and mind can be mighty overwhelming. When it comes to sex, everyone seems to have strong feelings and opinions about who you should be and what you should (shouldn't) do. How do you decide who to listen to? Heather Corinna and Scarleteen have provided sex education and information to millions of young people, parents, and mentors since 1998 S.E.X tackles all the big topics:Self-image and how to find and claim your own sexual selfHow to best protect and support your sexual and emotional…

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