No matter how you look at it, this year’s election has already made history. For the first time, a woman has been nominated as a major party candidate, and perhaps, in January, we will see the inauguration of the first woman president. If elected, she will also be the first former First Lady to hold that title. She’ll also be the first president who is a mother. The list goes on. But even if she doesn’t win the election, it will be an historic one.
What an important time to be a voter. What an exciting time to be a parent. We have an opportunity to help our kids understand what history really means. History is not about obscure dates and facts, but about important or memorable moments in people’s lives. We also have the opportunity to teach our children what it means to be an American. We are a free people with the right to choose our government. It is our responsibility to choose wisely. By not exercising the right to vote, we are accepting the status quo. By not participating, we are really voting for whomever everyone else chooses. And this year, not voting may have serious consequences, no matter which candidate you support.
But exercising our right to vote is more than just voting in the presidential election. Local and state elections matter too. It’s crucial that we bring our children, no matter their ages, into our political discussions and bring them along as we perform our civic duties such as when we go to speak to the City Council for or against an upcoming issue. Research shows that children whose parents “socialized” them to the political process tend to be a more involved and active citizens.
This election year is the perfect time to put these sentiments into practice. Here are some ways to make this year’s election more understandable and fun for your children:
Get to know the candidates. The more your children know about the candidates, the more they’ll be interested in the election and the political process. Luckily there are a number of online resources out there to help. Scholastic News, http://election.scholastic.com , has an excellent website to explore with your children, as does Time for Kids, http://www.timeforkids.com/minisite/election-2016 You and your kids can read about both of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates, read the latest election news, get inside the issues, review a glossary of election terms, learn about the path to the presidency and discover how Congress fits into picture. On the Time site, click on “Who Really Elects the President” to learn about the role the Electoral College plays in the process. Or, have some more fun by clicking on “What to Call Bill.” Just what do you call the husband of a female president who was also a president himself? Discuss the issue with your children and then see what the Time For Kids reporters heard when they placed the issue before convention goers.
Read all about it. There are many good children’s books that can help you and your kids learn about the election process. For 4 to 8-year-olds consider: The Ballot Box Battle by Emily Arnold McCully,If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier,If I Were President by Catherine Stier,Robin Hill School: Election Day by Margaret McNamera,My Teacher for President by Kay Winters and Denise Brunkus,The Day Gogo Went to Vote, by Elinor Batezat Sisulu, Duck for President, by Doreen Cronin,How Our President is Elected by Linda Granfield,
For older kids 8-12, consider: See How They Run, by Susan E. Goodman, Election!: A Kid’s Guide to Picking Our President by Dan Gutman, Class President, by Johanna Hurwitz, The Kid Who Ran for President, by Dan Gutman, NEATE to the Rescue! By Deborah Newton Chocolate and Wade Hudson, Presidential Elections: And Other Cool Facts by Sylvan a Sobel,
For upper-elementary and high school students the American Library Association recommends: Our White House: Looking in, Looking Out, by the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance, Ghosts of the White House, by Chery Harness, So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George, White House Q&A, by Denise Rinaldo, Dolly Madison Saves George Washington by Don Brown, The White House, by Joanne Mattern,
Arm yourself with knowledge. Kids ask hard questions. You don’t have to have all the answers. Admit when you’re in over your head then look it up. PBS Kids’ The Democracy Project has resources to help parents answer their children’s questions about the election.
Actually watch some of those political ads that are polluting the airwaves with your older children. Dissect them as you do other commercials. What are they really saying? What does it really mean? Decide together which slogans and messages the candidates are communicating in their advertising. Ask your kids whether the message is a positive one or a negative one.
Talk about why you vote and why it’s important to vote. Explain why you vote. If you have older children, talk about how you make a decision on who to vote for. Ask your children about opportunities where they’ve had a chance to vote such as in a school election. PBS Kids’ The Democracy Project’s page “Step Inside the Voting Booth” http://pbskids.org/democracy/vote/ has links to What a DIFFERENCE One Vote Makes, Step into a Voting Time Machine, Cast Your Vote, and How YOU Can Be Part of AN ELECTION. Explore these sites with your children.
Help your children recognize that our freedom to vote, to choose, was bought with a price and that men and women have fought and died to protect that right. But others live among us today. Learn about local heroes who’ve defended our right to vote and be free. If your family includes military veterans, encourage your children to ask why and where they served. Did anyone in your family die fighting for our country?
Remind your children that there was a time when women didn’t have the right to vote. Now there is a woman on the ticket. Talk about Women’s Suffrage. Check out About.com’s Women’s History page at http://womenshistory.about.com/od/suffrage1900/a/august_26_wed.htm. Print and read aloud Susan B. Anthony’s speech on the women’s right to vote (www.historyplace.com/speeches/anthony.htm )
Revisit the Civil Rights Movement. Even though we have an African American president, your children may not know that African Americans have not always had the right to vote. Although black men theoretically won that right with the end of the Civil War, white men passed laws that, in reality, prevented them from exercising it. Read all about it at History.com, http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/voting-rights-act . Watch some of the video’s with your children.
Peruse your local television guide and watch educational programs on the election, the United States presidents, election history and presidential history. Tie in to classroom lessons by finding out what your kids are learning about the election in school and expanding on those lessons at home.
Discuss who you are going to vote for and why. If you and your spouse each support a different ticket, talk about why and explain that here, in America, we have the right and the freedom to disagree.
Bring the election home. Talk about the difference between red states (republican) and blue states (democratic) and explore together why Florida is considered a pivotal state in this election. [To get ready for this discussion, read up on red and blue states at the Wall Street Journal’s http://graphics.wsj.com/elections/2016/field-guide-red-blue-america/]Then, ask why your children why they think the candidates are placing so much emphasis on Florida voters this election year. On election night, take the discussion further by coloring in the states on a map according to whether they vote red or blue or purple. You’ll find a map to color at http://www.theodora.com/maps/new5/usa_color.gif. Warn your kids that the results may not be all in by bedtime- remember the 2004 results debacle!
Discuss local issues. Check out the League of Women Voters of Collier County’s page on http://lwvcolliercounty.org/ . Share your sample ballot that comes in the mail with your children. Talk about the local voting process.
Take your kids to vote with you.
Have fun experiencing history in the making!
Read All About It!
Read all about it. There are many good children’s books that can help you and your kids learn about the election process.
For 4 to 8-year-olds consider:
The Ballot Box Battle by Emily Arnold McCully
If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier
If I Were President by Catherine Stier
Robin Hill School: Election Day by Margaret McNamera
My Teacher for President by Kay Winters and Denise Brunkus
The Day Gogo Went to Vote, by Elinor Batezat Sisulu
Duck for President, by Doreen Cronin
How Our President is Elected by Linda Granfield
For older kids 8-12, consider:
See How They Run, by Susan E. Goodman
Election!: A Kid’s Guide to Picking Our President by Dan Gutman
Class President, by Johanna Hurwitz
The Kid Who Ran for President, by Dan Gutman
NEATE to the Rescue! By Deborah Newton Chocolate and Wade Hudson
Presidential Elections: And Other Cool Facts by Sylvan a Sobel
For upper-elementary and high school students the American Library Association recommends:
Our White House: Looking in, Looking Out, by the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance.
Ghosts of the White House, by Chery Harness
So You Want to Be President? by Judith St.George
White House Q&A, by Denise Rinaldo
Dolly Madison Saves George Washington by Don Brown
The White House, by Joanne Mattern