We spend a significant amount of time impressing upon our children those qualities we hope they eventually embody: kindness, respect, honesty, self-confidence. We do everything we can to teach them right from wrong, to be upstanders in their classrooms and to be selfless in their actions. Our goal is to create a generation of gracious, honest and generous leaders, children who grow into adults that want to both BE good and DO good. In light of our current climate, though, there’s something else we must strive for, something that holds equal importance.
We are privileged to live in a country where we can make our voices heard. We have inalienable rights, we have freedoms, and we have the power to elect representatives. So how do we make sure we raise children that understand these rights, participate in the democratic process and also take an active role in protecting and defending our freedoms?
You may think it’s way too early to talk to kids about the government, our political process, and the United States Constitution. But guess what? We can so easily bring these topics down to levels children understand by relating this subject matter to their everyday lives. Kids have school rules they must follow every day (just like real “laws”!) They have leaders that make decisions for them (school principals- who, in their young eyes, are virtually akin to the president!), and they even have their own version of elections (student government, starting as early as kindergarten!)
The point? Even young children can grasp the basics of our government and the importance of protecting the fundamental ideals our country was founded upon. Midterm elections are fast approaching, making it a perfect time to talk with your kids about how our government works, why we vote, how we got the right to vote and how we choose which candidates we want to represent our voices. This is not just important - it is essential if we seek to forever safeguard our constitution and the healthy functioning of our government. We’ve been reading a lot in our house, and from fun fiction picture books for your littlest kids to non-fiction works for your older children, Happily Ever Elephants has a new list to help provide you with some fabulous books to explain democracy in action. We sincerely hope you enjoy this list, share it widely, and, most importantly, vote on November 6!
Grace for President, 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!
President Squid, 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.
Duck for President, 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
If I Ran for President, 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.
If I Were President, 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.
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!
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!