If there is any positive to be gleaned from this current administration, it’s that the American people are more heavily invested in politics than ever. I know this to be true amongst my peers and age group, and I hope it is the same with younger people too. I have voted in both presidential and midterm elections for the last decade of my life, but I don’t think I thought much about the midterms when I was in my twenties. I didn’t realize the importance until more recently.
This particular midterm election, it seems like quite literally— democracy could be at stake. So, I’m hoping that the young people of today aren’t as apathetic as we once were.
I know there are some readers who are nodding along with me and some readers who think I am overreacting. Believe me, I know both sides of this equation in real life too.
But even if you don’t think we are going down a dark and dangerous path, where more guns are in schools, where more rights are taken away from women, where more people of color are treated unfairly, where more sanctions are lifted that were trying to protect the environment, you can still VOTE.
You can still show your kids how to stand up for what you believe in, teach them about how our government works and help them be the kind of citizens who will ultimately protect it.
In addition to voting (and maybe taking your kids with you to the polls), children’s books are always a great way for parents to teach their kids about how our government is supposed to work. Since the midterm elections are tomorrow, I thought today would be an appropriate time to have Lauren Bercuson of Happily Ever Elephants share a list of her favorite books that teach kids all about democracy.
11 Books that Teach Kids about Democracy in Action:
By Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by LeUyen Pham
When Grace learns there has never been a female president, she takes matters into her own hands and decides she must be the next president of her school. Grace thus enters the race, only to find herself running against another student who claims to be the “best man for the job” and has already captured all of the boys’ votes. Instead of getting nervous, Grace buckles down and runs on the platform that she is the best “person” for the job – and she may have just what it takes to go all the way!
By Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Sara Varon
What makes a good leader? Is it the size of his house? The tie he wears? Having a book named after him? President Squid is satire at its finest, providing young readers with a keen look at the qualities needed to be the big boss. We use this book frequently at school to discuss the important qualities any leader must possess, whether in the classroom or in the White House.
By Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Duck isn’t happy with life on his farm, so he takes matters into his own hands and organizes an election for a new leader. Who wins? Duck wins! But Duck’s ambitions don’t end at his farm alone. He next makes a run for governor and then for president… and through it all Duck learns that being a leader requires quite a lot of hard work.
4) Vote for Me
By Ben Clanton
This is quite the satire on the current state of American politics, featuring a donkey and an elephant in the throes of an election. It is a witty take on the nomination process and the negativity that often prevails, showcasing how absurdities are made prevalent and how mud-slinging tactics are often utilized to make a candidate’s case. Is this the right way to campaign? Does it detract from the real issues? This is a fabulous picture book for prompting important discussion with your older readers.
5) What’s the Big Deal About Elections
By Ruby Shamir and illustrated by Matt Faulkner
I absolutely adore this non-fiction book. It is jam packed with information and is fabulous for kids of all ages – just pare it down for your younger kids, or go over every important word with your older ones. This book is as fun as it is informative, featuring not just information about voting rights, our branches of government and the role of the electoral college, but also wacky facts and trivia to delight readers of all ages. This is a must for every home and library!
6) Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
By Jonah Winter and Shane W. Evans
This is a powerful historical picture book about a 100 year old African-American woman who makes a long trek up a steep hill to vote for the very first time. As she walks, she remembers her family history — from the passage of the fifteenth amendment to her parents registering to vote, from the impossible tests given to prevent blacks from voting to marching in the civil rights protest from Selma to Montgomery. Moving, lyrical and tremendously important, this is a fabulous glimpse at American history.
7) So You Want to Be President
By Judith St. George and illustrated by David Small
Take a walk through the first forty-one of our nation’s presidents, including wacky “tips” to abide by if you want to make it to the White House and some of the zaniest characteristics exhibited by our leaders. A fun and funny read with some fabulous information!
By Catherine Stier and illustrated by Lynne Avril
What would it take for you to run for president? A lot of hard work, that’s for sure. This is a fabulous primer for young readers about how one runs for president. What is a caucus? What is a primary? What is a debate? Simple answers to these questions, with fun and humor inserted throughout the pages, make this book a winner.
By Catherine Stier and illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan
Whereas If I Ran for President talks about actual campaigning, If I Were President discusses what happens when you make it to the Oval Office. From promising to protect the Constitution to the perks of being president to the notion of creating laws for the entire country, this is a simple and fun overview of the presidency for young readers.
10) Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, A Kitten and 10,000 Miles
By Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Hadley Hooper
In 1916, two women set out on a mission— to drive 10,000 miles across America to make their voices heard. What message did they want to share? That women should have the right to vote, of courses! This is a fascinating look at a fascinating journey during the women’s suffrage movement, featuring two strong women who would brave all the elements to further one singular, critical cause: equal voting rights for women. Lively and vibrant, this book rocks!
11) When you Grow Up to Vote: How Our Government Works for You
By Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Markel and illustrated by Grace Lin
This is a phenomenal, updated reissue of a chapter book that Roosevelt first wrote in 1932 when her husband was elected president. The book talks about something many children don’t always recognize- the government works for the people! The book begins by talking about government workers, then moves through explanations of our local and national governments, thus providing young people an exemplary overview about how our government is designed to function. A wonderful, informative and easy to understand book for your tweens!
Do you plan to vote? Tell me your plan below!
Lauren Bercuson shares children’s literature reviews and other bookish fun on Instagram @happily.ever.elephants, on Facebook, on Twitter @KidLitLauren and on her blog Happily Ever Elephants.