- Rebecca Purdy
I remember my first election. I was ten years old and there was a long line, but the reward was an “I Voted” sticker which I proudly wore. The next morning, I eagerly asked who won and was disappointed that it wasn’t my mom’s candidate. That was the first time I ever took an interest in politics and all of these years later, I still remember the experience. When you vote tomorrow, you have a chance to create similar memories. Take your young person and talk to them about the election process. If you’re not sure what to say, the library offers excellent resources some of which are featured below.
“Today on Election Day” by Catherine Stier captures the excitement of voting from the point of view of several young protagonists. On election day, one child waits to cross the street with construction workers, restaurant servers and a pilot, all of whom are heading to the polls. Another is going with his 18 year old brother to vote in his first election. Yet another joins his grandfather who, in all of his years of voting, has pushed down a lever, punched a card and even marked a paper ballot. Stier successfully relates the voting experience to an early elementary audience. Readers will finish the book with an understanding and sense of pride for our election process.
Another book by Catherine Stier, “If I Ran for President” is a wonderful introduction to the presidential race for early elementary students. A variety of children of all gender and races, have the starring role. The first begins the process by declaring his candidacy and creating the requisite buttons, t-shirts and television commercials that follow. The book progresses through the caucuses and primaries to the acceptance speech at the convention. Not only does it offer an accessible outline from start to finish, but the illustrations add fun. The fact that reporters ask many personal questions and publicize embarrassing photos is accompanied by an illustration of “Cool People” magazine with a picture of the candidate in his diaper. The young girl stumping across the country eating cereal in California, corn in Kansas, and apple pie and a milkshake in Delaware is accompanied by a drawing of a progressively green-looking candidate. The one page prologue, while easily skippable if it’s too much information, is an easy to understand description of the electoral college.
If you have a student in fourth through sixth grade, they will enjoy “See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House” by Susan E. Goodman which details both voting rights history and the election process. It can be read according to the level of interest; either cover to cover or by flipping through, reading only what catches the eye. Cartoon-like illustrations accompany historical photographs, including one of the first voting machine invented 25 years before its use. The importance of voting is emphasized, complete with examples of the power of a single vote, as in the case of the Constitutional Amendment that gave women the right. The “Kids to the Rescue!” section offers suggestions encouraging kids to become active in their community by speaking at a town meeting or writing a letter to a politician.
Once you cast your ballot, stop by your nearest branch and give your child a chance to vote too! We’re hosting mock elections and our children’s candidates are Ladybug Girl and Fly Guy. Teens can join in the fun by voting for either Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games” or Edward Cullen from “Twilight.” Once they’ve completed their ballot, they’ll get an “I Voted” sticker of their very own!
Originally published in the 11/5/12 Free Lance-Star.