We Vote for These! Great Books That Get Kids Election Ready and Civics-Savvy
Written by Wendy Lawrence
Are your kids wondering why their favorite toy commercials have been replaced by talking heads? Do they ask you if they live in a red or a blue state? Or maybe they are already running for class president?
No matter where your child is on the political spectrum — from left to right, confused to savvy, from young to even younger, here are some of the best books to get them even more interested in the 2012 campaigns.
When you've turned the last page, continue the conversation with your kids:
Discuss. Some children will enjoy teaching you what they've learned. Or have a simple conversation by asking what your child would do if she or he were president.
Play. Make a game out of it: Count political signs or bumper stickers on the way to school. You could even keep score for who sees the most (or who sees the most of a certain candidate or party). Not only will that keep the busy in the car, but it shows kids how others in the community care about issues and elections.
Pretend. For the family who wants to go deeper, you could let everyone be President of the Family for the day. (Of course mom and dad, as Supreme Court justices, would be entitled to rule that ice cream for all three meals is unconstitutional!) This a great way to learn about checks and balances.
Write a founding document! Try writing your own family constitution, a great exercise to teach younger kids about the important values on which you base your own decisions. And they will get a good idea of what it takes to run a country (and a family). Who knows, maybe you'll earn a little respect.
Book recommendations by age:
Toddlers and Preschool
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Take Flight, by Kathleen Krull, Illustrated by Amy June Bates
This is a fun picture book that introduces kids to an important figure in an interesting way. I also love how it includes her dream to be an astronaut because it shows kids that even though she didn't become one, she used her dreams to inspire her and keep reaching for the top, even if the top was different that what she imagined. Since my son's plans are to become a knight, I like the idea that he can use that as a metaphorical dream.
Duck for President, by Doreen Cronin, Illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Who doesn't love Duck, that hero from Click, Clack, Moo, another favorite? He returns here, and he's running for President.
Preschool and Elementary school
If I Were President, by Catherine Stier, Illustrated by Diane DiSalvo-Ryan
This book is written from the perspective of children, which makes it accessible. Each one ponders what would happen if they were in the oval office. The book teaches about the presidency ("the people would be my boss", the president has a veto, etc.) in a really accessible way.
Woodrow for President: A Tail of Voting, Campaigns, and Elections, by Peter Barnes and Cheryl Barnes
Kids will enjoy this rhyming story of Woodrow the mouse as he runs for President of the United Mice of America. He goes from volunteer to local offices to his race to be the "Big Cheese". Interactive illustrations add even more fun.
Bad Kitty for President, by Nick Bruel
A nice addition to the awesome Bad Kitty series, this book will not only make you laugh, it will make beginning readers learn a little about elections along the way.
See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House, by Susan E. Goodman and Elwood H. Smith
Lots of pictures make this slightly text-heavy book great for the younger fact-seeking child. It isn't boring, though: instead of listing the requirements to be president, they explain why Arnold Schwarzenegger could be an actor, even a governor, but not a president. Boxes with "good news, bad news" sum up issues in easy-to-understand ways. For example, the good news is the US was the first modern democracies, but the bad new is that only white male landowners were allowed to vote. This thorough book includes information about history, politics, campaigning, conventions, election tricks, and even hanging chads.
Elementary and Middle School
Voting and the U.S. Government, a papersalt book
This colorful spiral-bound resource has visually-appealing diagrams and explanations of US history and elections. I like it's simple and well-organized style. Great for kids of all ages--even high school students will learn from this one.
So You Want to be President? by Judith St. George, Illustrated by David Small
Written in the second person, the book assumes that you, the reader, want to be president. In a conversational way, it sneaks in a lot of information. It points out that as president, you won't have to eat broccoli (like George W Bush) but that you might get a cabbage thrown at you (like President Taft). It suggests you might fare better if you were born in a log cabin or named "James". It reads like a picture book, but with more text and interesting information.
Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics, by Catherine Thimmesh, Illustrated by Douglas B. Jones
A fun and interesting read that will captivate girls and encourage them to think about their own leadership, whether in politics or elsewhere. And have the boys read it too--it's just as important for them to have female role models.
The Kid Who Ran for President, by Dan Gutman
A great story with a great voice, this will appeal to kids who like fiction more than nonfiction and they will learn just as much about the process.
Wendy Lawrence is a longtime educator and former middle school head at Eastside Prep in Kirkland. Lawrence blogs about parenting and books at thefamilythatreadstogether.com.