A page from Body Boom
Sex education can be a tricky problem for parents. Fortunately, finding the right teaching materials can help solve half the problem.
Reflecting on the poor sex education she received during her teenage years, 27-year-old Chinese artist Pang Danyang decided to design a pop-up book for parents and young girls going through puberty called Body Boom.
"Before I worked on this project, I carried out extensive research and wrote a thesis paper titled Let's Talk about Sex with Children," the now New York-based graphic designer and illustrator told the Global Times. "I feel that there is still a lack of sex education material in China and that many of those that are on sale are inappropriate... This is why I drew cartoon figures for the book. They have the right human scale, while also being easy for children to accept."
While sex education in China has improved over the past decades, there are still a large number of children and teenagers who lack proper guidance. According to a survey published in the Journal of Sichuan Vocational and Technical College, Chinese youngsters get 94 percent of their knowledge about sex from informal sources including friends, books they read on their own and pornographic websites, while 1.66 percent is taught at school and 1.32 percent is learned from parents.
The conservative nature of Chinese society is also a major challenge.
In 2016, when primary schools began using a new sex education textbook written by Beijing Normal University, some parents objected because they found the language in the book "too straightforward."
"Most books on sex education in China are imported and target pre-school children," Hu Jiawei, founder of sex education institution Soy & Pea, said. "There is a lack of books aimed at teenagers, and those that are aimed at teens are very theoretical and not interesting."
Though sex education is provided at schools, Pang said that her research shows that the best guides for children are their own parents or guardians, "because these topics are very private and each person has different levels of psychological acceptance," Pang explained.
"Family can provide long-term support while kids grow up and can help them choose the best solutions to the problems they face," she noted.
Compared to more traditional picture books, Pang explained that pop-up books are better able to grab the interest of today's children who are obsessed with video games.
Currently, Pang is working to publish both an English and a Chinese edition of her book. So far, she has had some success in getting the book noticed by publishers. The English version of Body Boom won Italy's renowned A' Design Award for Education and Training Content Design in April.
"Sex education has become a hot topic in recent years... I feel that the relaxed presentation and the cartoon figures will be easier for more conservative Chinese families to accept," Pang noted.
Pop-up books have become very popular among Chinese children.
The Chinese edition of The Human Body, a French book written by Pascale Hedelin and illustrated by Robert Barborini, became a huge hit when released in 2012.
On dangdang.com, a major Chinese book selling platform, 99.6 percent of reviews of the book have been positive.