As children we all get to that age where we become curious about just how we come into existence (that stork shit can only work for so long, after all). At that point parents need to decide how they’re going to tackle the topic.
When it came to my mum, she appealed to something she knew would work for me: She gave me a book.
That book was I Know A Secret.
Having handed it over she reassured me that, if I had any questions, we could look through the book together.
I have to wonder if she ever regretted that choice, because I was bloody addicted to that book.
I Know A Secret
I Know A Secret is a book written by Susan C. Baker, illustrated by Annie Kubler, and published by Child’s Play and is, essentially, a book to teach children about pregnancy and its ins and outs.
The book looks to be mostly out of print now but it can still be purchased secondhand at some rather reasonable prices. Besides, this is a book that had such an impact on my earliest understanding of ‘adult’ topics that I would be remiss if I didn’t give it the strong shoutout that it deserves.
The book is told from the perspective of a group of children – one of whom has been told about pregnancy, another of whom is highly skeptical and dismissive and is only convinced of the birds and the bees once more information is presented.
The other children involved are mostly in the book to provide the odd observation or to act as visual props for some of the story’s many analogies but this isn’t a bad thing. This is a children’s book, after all, and it’s main purpose is to explain pregnancy, not to make sure that each character is fleshed out with their own backstory and individual arc. The primary arc of the story is more than enough, and it’s presented incredibly well.
With one child unconvinced and, over time, curious about exactly how pregnancy works, the child in the know is given opportunities to present information to the reader while still being depicted as part of a dialogue, rather than just speaking at his friends, of the reader.
When I was younger this endeared me to this book because it matched my own initial uncertainty at what I was learning, thus guiding me along the educational journey that I needed alongside the skeptical child of the book.
One line that always stood out to me as a kid was that women have eggs inside of them that are ‘smaller than a grain of sand’. I never doubted this, but I was fascinated by it and for years afterwards I often found myself picking up specs of and when on the beach and trying to wrap my mind around just how minute this internal egg must be.
But one of the strongest elements of this story book, by far, is the way that the in-the-know kid responds to the sometimes snarky and often perplexing questions that the skeptic child presents.
When being asked questions by this child the in-the-know kid would often have to say ‘…actually, I don’t know how that works’ about an aspect of childbirth and this admission was always done without shame.
What a wonderful lesson to embed in children’s minds alongside lessons on pregnancy: the fact that it’s okay to admit when you don’t know something and to allow others to know that.
And, what’s even better, that child would then fill in the gaps in his knowledge by going to talk to his parents in order to gain the information he needed to then share with his friends.
A book that explains pregnancy, says it’s okay to admit your information may be fallible, and encourages you to then go and discover the information from a reputable source gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up from me (especially nowadays) and i’m just so happy that books like this exist.
This book came out in the 1980’s but still manages to present a lot of racial and gender diversity too. When the child goes to consult his parents at one point the mother and father are both presented in a domestic environment, with the father doing the ironing as opposed to indulging in conventional gender stereotypes. Looking back, I was shocked to find that this was the case, and it does kind of make me lament at the fact that such representations in children’s media can still shock me, but I choose to focus on the positive here.
In addition to the book (which I would say is suitable for young children) you also get a leaflet with this publication, which looks at childbirth from a more scientific angle. This involves anatomically accurate imagery with all of the information an older child might need.
Some mothers seem to find this booklet objectionable (when compared to the age range of the rest of the book) but I fondly remember it being one of my favorite parts of this book. It showed the growth cycle of a child inside the womb and that utterly fascinated me.
If you do consider this to be a downside, though, then you’ll be grateful to hear that this can easily be removed and presented as an add-on when your children get a bit older.
This leaves only one real objective downside to this book in my eyes, which is that this book deals strictly with pregnancy as the way that children come in to this world which, nowadays, doesn’t really reflect the many diverse ways that a family can start.
If you want a book that teaches about adoption, IVF, and other such processes then this is not the book to present to your little one.
But if you’re strictly interested in teaching your child/children about pregnancy then this book will do the trick.
The book is illustrated well and each character is easy to distinguish, and the font nice and big. Although, I do have to admit, the faces bet pretty gooofy in some places.
I may be a bit biased, but I absolutely adore this book. I love its diversity. I love its educational angle. And I especially adore the way it handles the discussion of new topics and the admission of information gaps among peer groups from a very early age.
If you can find it I think you should find it, as it presents all of the information that your child may want to know about pregnancy plus the research tools they need to learn more.
And, who knows, maybe your child will grow to cherish this book over the years, like I did.
Parents wanting to teach about pregnancy.
Parents who value instilling research-skills in their children.
Parents who want a book that offers age-adjustable information.
Do Not Recommend:
Parents who dislike anatomical terms being discussed.
Parents who feel it’s not age-appropriate.
Parents who don’t want a book that encourages their child to share their findings on pregnancy.