Election 2012: Books and Activities to Give Kids a Voice
In the eyes of a child, this election could look a bit odd with donkeys, elephants, and adults pointing their fingers at each other until they’re red in the face and gray in the hair.
If you have a little politician in your home who is asking questions and is interested in the election, books and activities are fantastic way to start a conversation and share information about the issues, the process and history of our county. They are also a great way to add some humor during what is a very intense time of the year. Here are the books and activities we are choosing for our little ones this election season.
Woodrow for President, A Tail of Voting, Campaigns, and Elections by Peter W. Barnes and Cheryl Shaw Barnes.
Full of funny rhymes and “mouse-isms,” Woodrow for President explains the complexities of what it takes to run for president. Woodrow is a political mouse who is thankful for his blessings being a citizen of the United Mice of America. After being a successful governor of Moussouri, Woodrow decides to run for president and is thrown in to the race of campaigns, political parties, primaries, conventions and elections. He wants to be “The Big Cheese,” but he can’t do it alone! He calls upon his friends, family and community members to help him win the election.
Each page is full of colorful and amusing illustrations that will have any child (and adult) excited to learn about what it takes to run for office and makes up an election. Included at the end of the book is “The Tail End,” a resource for parents and teachers to refer to while answering questions about the election. The authors have also written more books to encourage the teachings of “the mice way to learn about America” and have many more resources available on their website, Patriot Press.
Grace for President by Kelly S. DiPucchino, Illustrated by LeUyven Pham
Grace has spirit and is full of questions for her teacher when the topic of presidents comes up one September morning. After looking at a poster her teacher has displayed, she makes and observation and asks, “Where are the girls?” In response, her teacher explains that our country has never had a woman president. Grace is shocked, but Grace is also inspired. She decides she is going to run for president in the school’s mock election and sets forth on her political career. But she is surprised to see her race will be a battle, especially when her opponent is popular and is claiming to be the “best man for the job,” and as a result, is gaining all the male votes. Grace stays focused and decides to concentrate on being the best person for the job.
This is a great book that no only challenges gender in the political arena, but also introduces the idea of an electoral college to young readers. The author has also included a note at the end of the book to further explain this complex topic in more detail, as it is even hard for veteran voters to understand. Grace for President is great for this time of year, but also an empowering book to have on the shelf all year long.
Duck for President by Doreen Cronin, Illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Doreen Cronin is famous or her barnyard stories with Duck who seems to have full run and control of the farm. Duck knows he has this control and gift to bring the farm animals together in times of need and distress (read Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type and Giggle, Giggle, Quack by Cronin for more information about issues facing Farmer Brown’s homestead). After doing tedious chores, Duck realizes he needs to hold an election and replace Farmer Brown. He quickly realizes running a farm is too much hard work, so he runs for governor instead. He moves from governor to president and with help from his feathered friends, Duck runs the country. Soon, Duck realizes he’s not cut out for such hard work and returns back home to the barnyard to write his autobiography.
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Duck for President is simple enough to be enjoyable for any age reader, but also lends itself to a bigger discussion if your child has questions. There is a reason these books are present in classrooms and home libraries across the country. Written with humor laced with life lessons and with illustrations that make you want to keep reading, Cronin and Lewin are a classic children’s book duo.
A powerful book for young adults, Declare Yourself is a collection of interviews, poems, and essays that encourage young Americans to make their voices heard. Contributors include Ugly Betty actress, America Ferrera, artists of Maroon 5, and Entourage actor, Adrian Grenier. Their main message using a range of styles is to persuade young people to vote, but also to research the candidates and know what they stand for. Helping readers take the message further, the book includes supplemental materials that include how to register to vote and how to get involved in the community. With the true stories, vulgar language and personal interviews of truly influential celebrities, this book will inspire teens to be active in not only this year’s election, but in future elections.
Ballots for Belva by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Illustrated by Autumn Martin
The year is 1884 and women are not allowed to vote, so the idea of a female running for President shocked the nation. Her name was Belva Lockwood and she ran for president not only once, but two times! Belva was an exceptional woman for the time with her college degree, graduation from law school and experience arguing cases before the Supreme Court. During her 1884 run, Belva actually received votes which was also much unexpected given women were denied to cast their vote. Although we know the turnout of the election without reading the book, you do gain knowledge about an understated historical figure and history into this country's battle for equal voting rights. Belva was committed to earing the respect of her fellow Americans and continues to teach us all about dedication, determination and love of one’s country 128 years later.
Fun and Easy Activities to do at Home
As ballots are being filled out and many states head to the polls in less than a week, this is a great opportunity to capture a “teachable moment.” Children will show more interest in what is happening around them when the content is broken into smaller and easily understood pieces. They will also be excited to join in if given the opportunity. Here are some ways you can include your child in this year’s election:
Family Fieldtrip to the Polls: If you live in a state where voters cast their ballot in a separate and secure location, take your family along. You might find it easier to just drop in after work, but take the extra time to grab your kids and head to the polls with them. They will get to experience the privilege and security that comes with voting such as showing your voter’s registration card, signing your name and watching you cast your vote. Make it a date and go out to dinner and explain what you did and how you were an active citizen. It might seem like just another thing you do as an adult, but to a child it is very powerful and something they will remember for a long time.
Mail-In Ballots Some states vote by mail which is can lend itself to an easy way to show your kids how you vote. Let them actually open the ballot, read it and touch it. Seems simple, but that ballot holds your voice and that is power. Explain what you are doing aloud as you read your voter’s pamphlet, compare names, connect your arrows and vote for what you believe is right. And don’t forget to sign it! Depending on the age of your child, explain what you voted for and why. This is a really great way to start discussion and teach children how to listen, agree and/or disagree with respect.
Vote for Dinner! If you have smaller children, but still want to teach them some simple lessons about the election and a democracy, give them the power to vote on simple household decisions. Find an old shoe box, decorate it with red, white and blue, cut a slit in the top and hand out ballots with a few choices. It’s up to you on what they can vote for, but some ideas can include dinner, movies to watch, dessert, weekend outing or who does the dishes. If you want to include the act of discussion and debate, have your children explain why they voted the way they did or even have them try and encourage other member’s in the family to vote for what they think is the right choice. As a parent, just be sure every option on the ballot is one you can live with.
How are you explaining and celebrating the election with your kids?
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