Book Review: Read Me, A Parental Primer for The Talk

Image description: The book cover features an illustration of a white rabbit reading book with little birds and bees on the cover. The text of the cover reads “Read Me, A Parental Primer for The Talk, Dr. Lanae St. John ACS” The book is facing out on a shelf with other sexuality books.

Your friendly Unlaced Librarian is not a parent. But a lot of people who are have had conversations with me about how to talk with their kids about sexuality in a way that is healthy and respectful.

Up until now I have offered online resources parents can look over and use as tools to have conversations with their kids. But now I have a fantastic book to recommend specifically for parents on the topic of having “The Talk.”

“Read Me: A Parental Primer For The Talk” by Dr. Lanae St. John is just not just a great book for learning how to talk with your kids about sexuality–it’s an excellent sexuality book for adults that covers so many important topics and discusses some concepts I have not seen emphasized in other resources.

I’ve read a lot of sex books here and I find the way the author outlines and addresses the topics in the book is accessible and sets the reader up well to do some meaningful reflection. On top of that, the text includes quotes and concepts from other sexuality books and educators. I added a couple books to my wish list from the notes section.

I never received sex education growing up and a big part of this book is acknowledging that insecurity and educating ourselves as adults. This book offers a multidimensional discussion about sexuality that serves to get us caught up and nurture confidence in talking about sex. We don’t have to be perfect and we can admit and work through mistakes. I hope more adults will do this and pass that skill on to their children.

The core of this book is the author’s approach to sex education by founding sex education on five building blocks to a healthy sexuality: Communication, Consent, Respect, Pleasure, and Fantasy.

Each building block gets its own chapter with information and scenarios to illustrate why the building block is important to incorporate into sex education. The author has daughters and often illustrates concepts using examples of conversations with her girls at various ages.

I was so very happy to see pleasure and fantasy included. All five blocks are important but I find pleasure and fantasy are so often overlooked in sexuality resources, especially those resources intended for sex education of children and teens. (I, for one, was interacting with aspects of my sexuality that centered on pleasure and fantasy by middle school, so I can relate to wanting more information and discussion on these things in sex education.)

As for having “the talk” the author advocates having many ongoing conversations with kids in an age appropriate fashion as they learn and grow. It’s not a one-time, done thing. The author models many conversations, gives advice on how to guide conversations, frames age appropriate phrasing, and gives insight into having conversations while not excluding older or younger siblings. The author tackles all kinds of curiosities kids might bring to their parents (the author had a friend whose daughter was interested in animals and looked up YouTube videos to see animal penises… your move!) as well as hot-button issues like sex toys, porn, and sexual assault. Overall I thought the book was a blend of funny and serious, meaningful and zen. A great combination for approaching any discussion about sex.

I did catch a few typos and as a whole the book had sections that were a touch repetitive, but nothing to warrant a quality issue. I also did not agree with everything the author said (I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where I agreed with everything the author said) so I will implore parents to not shut down if they read something that doesn’t apply to them or their family. The author does say that parents should teach their children the unique values of their family and explain to their children why they hold those values. But the author does outline conversations she has had with her daughters, like getting tested for STI’s or explaining in simple terms what a vibrator is when her daughter found a bullet vibrator on the dresser. Not all parents are going to agree with having those conversations, but can still garner many important tools from the book.

This book is insightful and, in my opinion, valuable. The final chapter “Practical Tips” is structured in a list format and is a perfect, concise handbook for navigating conversations about sexuality with your kids for quick reference.

This would be an amazing book to have in libraries and I’m looking forward to recommending this title to parents down the road.

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