Hello, 2020: the first year in a new decade, a leap year and also another year for elections. We talked with experts late last year who gave us advice on how to talk with our children about politics, particularly when elections are contentious. But we also wanted to share these 12 resources — eight books and four websites — for kids hooked on politics.
Here’s to our future politicians!
‘What’s the Big Deal About Elections’
by Ruby Shamir (2018), nonfiction, grades K-4
Did you know that Election Day is on Tuesday because that was the best day for farmers to vote? Or that George Washington was our only elected president who ran unopposed? Or that Native Americans were only given the right to vote in 1924? It’s all true!
In this kid-friendly, fact-filled book, young readers will find out how Americans choose their leaders, local and federal, and why elections should matter to them, even if they can’t vote (yet).
‘Your Own Worst Enemy’
by Gordon Jack (2018), fiction, grades 9-12
For fans of Andrew Smith and Frank Portman and the movies Election and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off comes a hilarious and satirical novel about the highs and (very low) lows of the electoral process, proving that the popular vote is the one that matters most.
‘Book Uncle and Me’
by Uma Krishnaswami (2018), fiction, grades 2-5
Every day, 9-year-old Yasmin borrows a book from Book Uncle, a retired teacher who has set up a free lending library next to her apartment building. But when the mayor tries to shut down the rickety bookstand, Yasmin has to take her nose out of her book and do something.
‘Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March’
by Lynda Blackmon Lowery (2016), nonfiction, grades 6 and up
As the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Albama, Lynda Blackmon Lowery proved that young adults can be heroes. Jailed nine times before her 15th birthday, Lowery fought alongside Martin Luther King Jr. for the rights of African-Americans. In this memoir, she shows today’s young readers what it means to fight nonviolently and how it felt to be part of changing American history.
‘Votes of Confidence: A Young Person’s Guide to American Elections’
by Jeff Fleischer (2016; 2nd edition coming in 2020), nonfiction, grades 9-12
Every two years, media coverage of American elections turns into a horse-race story about who’s leading the polls and who said what when.
Using real-world examples and anecdotes, this book provides readers with thorough, nonpartisan explanations about primaries, the Electoral College, checks and balances, polls, fundraising, and more. Updated with statistics and details from the 2018 elections, the revised second edition will prepare the next generation of voters for what is sure to be a fascinating 2020 election cycle.
‘The Great Greene Heist’
by Varian Johnson (2015), fiction, grades 5-8
Jackson Greene swears he’s given up scheming. Then school bully Keith Sinclair announces he’s running for Student Council president, against Jackson’s former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it — but he knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the presidency no matter the vote count.
‘Lillian’s Right to Vote’
by Jonah Winter and Shane W. Evans (2015), picture book, grades K-3
An elderly African American woman, en route to vote, remembers her family’s tumultuous voting history in this picture book publishing in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
‘Bad Kitty for President’
by Nick Bruel (2012), fiction, grades 3-5
It’s time to elect a new president of the Neighborhood Cat Coalition. Who will win the election? The candidate chosen by the kitties on the right side of the street or the candidate chosen by the kitties on the left side of the street? When election time rolls around, one candidate (guess who?) will discover that she never bothered to register to vote. What happens next?
— KEREN JOSHI, children’s librarian at D.C. Public Library’s Deanwood Neighborhood Library.
Websites to check out
From MPT’s Education Division — thinkport.org
- The Electoral College: a self-paced online lesson for students to examine the Electoral College system
- U.S. Government Inquiry Kits dive into select primary sources from the Library of Congress to research topics of interest that incorporate the three branches of our government, economic, domestic or foreign policy.
Resources from PBS Learning Media
- PBS Learning Media: “The Election Collection” This is a curated collection of videos and resources from FrontLine, PBS NewsHour, and PBS Digital Studios. Learn how elections work, our party system, voting rights and the examination of key issues leading up to the 2020 election.
- Teachers across the U.S. are invited to join the national initiative: KQED Youth Media Challenge: Let’s Talk About Election 2020. Middle and high school educators are empowering students to share their take on issues that matter to them. Learn how students can create and publish audio or video commentaries for a national audience. The Election 2020 media challenge is a free, standards-aligned program on KQED Learn, co-hosted by the National Writing Project and PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs.