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5 Books for Young Kids About Civics and the U.S. Government

Help your kids learn about democracy, civil rights and the Constitution

Published on: November 03, 2017

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If you're like most parents, the question of how to begin to teach young children about the amazing but complex set-up of their government might seem overwhelming (especially if the questions start coming up in the middle of a Congressional sandbox tiff and a U.S. government shutdown!). We've rounded up a starter collection of fun, accessible and inspiring books for the youngest readers (and listeners) to get you started with that all-important task of explaining democracy.

We the People: The Story of Our Constitution, by Lynne Cheney (Author), Greg Harlin (Illustrator); Ages 5–9

A fun and adventurously true tale about our nation at the time of the Revolutionary War, and the personalities behind the people who wrote the founding document. This is a great book to introduce children to the history behind the Constitution, with engaging facts, interesting vocabulary and lots of information (and the painted artwork is beautiful). The author, wife of former Vice President Richard B. Cheney, has also penned other excellent book on the U.S. history and patriotic theme, including America: A Patriotic Primer; When Washington Crossed the Delaware: A Wintertime Story for Young Patriots; and A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women.

We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, by David Catrow (Author, Illustrator); Ages 4–9

A humorously illustrated (Catrow is a political cartoonist) and very accessible book about the Preamble to the Constitution that will teach the youngest readers some history and provide inspiration for classroom and family conversations. This book helps kids actually understand what they learn to memorize at school through the adventures of three modern and amusingly drawn young kids on a backyard camping adventure. Fun from cover to cover. Another creative and beautifully illustrated approach to earning about the Constitution is A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution.

How the U.S. Government Works, by Syl Sobel; Ages 6–12

This is a clearly written and engaging book to supplement classroom learning or to start teaching the basics of government at home early on. Kids will like the clearly laid out visuals and accompanying drawings; parents will appreciate the useful kid friendly index and topical subsections. The book covers the Legislative body, composed of Senate and House Representatives, the Executive branch, headed by the President and consisting of Cabinet members and their agencies, and the Judicial branch, headed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and extending to federal courts throughout the nation. Understanding how our three branches of government work together will allow young kids to grasp the social and economic framework of our country without being overwhelmed.

The Bill of Rights: Protecting Our Freedom Then and Now, by Syl Sobel; Ages 6–11

Once they understand the Constitution, the kiddos will need to learn about the Bill of Rights, those important amendments that protect us still. This is a story of freedom and rights and this book makes it accessible to kids, describing each right and teaching important facts about U.S. history along the way. The book explores the reasons the founders had for adding the Bill of Rights and touches on the conflict between Federalists and Anti-Federalists, a good precursor to explaining political parties and differences today.

If I Were President, by Catherine Stier (Author) and Diane DiSalvo-Ryan (Illustrator); Ages 4–8

Take your kids into the world of the President of the United States with this imaginative and educational book, which explores the highest office through the story of six children of varied racial backgrounds who take turns posing as the president and talking about the rewards and responsibilities of the position. The book touches on life at the White House, the duties of Congress, the cabinet, how laws are made,presidential veto power, Air Force One, and the Secret Service, and the multi-media illustrations are light, rich and accessible to kids. Check out these other fun presidential books for young kiddos, too: Duck for President; Grace for President; Arthur Meets the President; and So You Want to Be President?

Editor's note: This article was originally published in Oct. 2013.

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