Understanding Consent: How To Say No at Every Age

If kids aren’t given the right tools at a young age, they may find themselves doing things they don’t like. These books will teach them how to say no.

Fiction Recommendations Young Adult Young Readers
no is a complete sentence kids reading artistry in the background

Many people find saying no difficult at any age. If they aren’t given the right tools at a young age, they may find themselves doing things they wouldn’t normally do.

Trigger Warning: The mention of rape/sexual assault/domestic violence may be triggering for some readers. Please exercise personal care when reading.

Consent is a word that all ages should be well-versed in. It’s our bodily autonomy. It’s when we tell one another what’s okay and what’s not okay. Different ages face differing circumstances. The harsh truth is that kids aren’t always as safe as we think they are. We might not always be with them, and the people we trust the most may not have their best interests at heart. Introducing the word “no” and the context behind its importance in our society will set your children up for success.

Upon finding books to nourish children’s minds, it’s hard to negotiate which books are appropriate and which are not. Ultimately, it’s your decision as a parent, guardian, or educator to allow what your children consume. But these books hopefully will guide you in that direction.

Ages 0-8

We Listen to Our Bodies (We Say What's Okay), C is for Consent Body, and Boundaries Make Me Stronger

As little as two years old, toddlers are able to understand basic directions. Children’s books with whimsical stories involving illustrations and storytelling are the basis of teaching children lessons that could carry them off into the world. We Listen to Our Bodies (We Say What’s Okay), C is for Consent, and Boundaries Make Me Stronger describe what body boundaries are and why it is okay to feel uncomfortable by unwanted touch. It could be a hug from a distant cousin, a kiss on the cheek by your uncle, or even as small as a pat on the back. These books will help kids communicate their feelings.

Ages 9-13

Consent for Kids by Rahcel Brian and Can We Talk About Consent? by Justin Hancock.

There’s definitely a weird gap between kiddie-like stories and books aimed at adults. Where does it leave us for our preteen/tweeners? Fifth to eighth grade can be a confusing time. Consent (for Kids!) provides an illustrated way of displaying who’s in charge of their body. With light-heartedness, your younglings will be able to recognize the importance of body autonomy. In contrast, Can We Talk About Consent? has a more direct approach to discussing consent. Although the age group for the latter is 14 to 18, this book should be directed to a middle-ground group of kids who are not too young and aren’t considered too young. (Although it can be argued that older teens could benefit from reading all the books.)

Ages: 14+

What Does Consent Really Mean? by Pete and Thalia Wallis and I'm Saying No! by Beverly Engel.

At this age, this is where it’s expected high schoolers will be intermingling with each other more often. Whether you allow your teen to hang with friends outside of school or not, they should be well-informed from all angles. What Does Consent Really Mean? uses a comic-like narrative around what happens when a fellow teen is raped. It starts a discussion about what consent is in the first place. For a more direct approach, I’m Saying No! is a novel that talks profoundly about the body’s autonomy. It talks about the extremes and how easily it is for teens to be exposed at any age. Beverly Engel exposes her past to inform teens of the reality of being taken advantage of. However dark the reality is, kids (and adults) can say no and fight back when unwanted touch is introduced.

Peer pressure should be dismantled, especially in a sexual setting. Whether in a relationship or not in their teen years, whether they are a father, mother, uncle, aunt, sister, brother, or cousin, if a child feels uncomfortable being touched by anybody, they should be educated to tell a trusted adult that something doesn’t feel right. No is a complete sentence.

For more articles like this, click here.

Make sure to check out our Bookshop for more books about consent.

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance with anything similar to the books listed above please contact: 

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Click here to get help with human trafficking.

To feel safe at all times is a basic human right; let’s work to make this world physically and mentally safe for everyone.

If you or someone you know is battling with mental health-related distress, we urge you to be kind and hold space for them, and contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (confidential, free, available 24/7/365):

→ Call or text 988

→ Chat at 988lifeline.org

→ Connect with a trained crisis counselor

European RNCE +44 (0)141 331 4180 or www.rcne.com/

List of Hotlines in 46 Countries: https://wave-network.org/list-of-helplines-in-46-countries/

National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453 (4 A CHILD)