Last year, a kid at work asked me to buy Världens viktigaste bok (“The World’s Most Important Book”). I looked it up and promptly bought it. Since then, it has been constantly lended out or in reservations, and only now have I had the opportunity to take it home and share a few pictures.
Sex ed books always get a dual reaction from the kids: “Ew, that’s gross!” and “Can I borrow it?” - quite often both from the same kid. :-) This has proven more popular than any of the others, which gladdens me, because it’s so good. It’s not just “Let’s tell the kids the basics about reproduction so they don’t get a shock when they enter puberty.” It’s “Let’s tell the kids everything we wish that we had been told in middle school.”
As you can tell from the pictures, it takes care to include a variety of bodies and sexual orientations. It also questions gender roles, portraying both the “factory” where boy things and girl things are packed into neat boxes, and the kids outside the factory trading with each other. The text is much the same. Take this excerpt, for instance:
“Many people who have a vagina feel like girls, and many who have a penis feel like boys. But it’s not always true. Sometimes the body doesn’t fit with how you feel. You can have a boy body but feel like a girl. Or have a girl body but feel like a boy. Your body doesn’t decide who you are, you decide it for yourself. You’re the one who knows if you’re a girl or a boy. Some people don’t feel like they’re boys or girls at all. Maybe you feel like both, or something else entirely. Or you don’t want to choose. There aren’t always words to fit with what you’re feeling, but that doesn’t make the feeling less true.”
The kids at work are conservative, as kids often are. (They have questioned both the fact that I’m still single, and the somewhat androgynous way I dress.) But they’re reading this stuff, in the library, in the classroom, at home. The school nurse, too, has recommended it as reading. I have every hope that for at least some of them, the message will be received.