UPDATE 10/14 – As the upcoming election looms, I have been receiving this question more and more often. I have added a few new resources to the bottom of the list, especially targeted to parents and teachers who are interested in discussing tolerance with children, and helping them to work through fear caused by what they are seeing and hearing around them.
2016 is an election year. I thought I’d let you know, just in case you haven’t heard 😉
It’s no secret that the upcoming presidential election is dominating the media. From the strongly worded nightly news to the boldly printed newspaper headlines, we are constantly surrounded by the hyperbolic report of what’s to come; criticism, name calling, and aggressive drama are everywhere you turn. And odds are, your kids are hearing it too. Elections, democracy, and what it means to be president are all topics that students cover in elementary school, but it can be difficult to explain an election of this magnitude. And when you add in confusing language, mudslinging ads, and wild antics, it’s not always an easy conversation.
The point of this conversation isn’t to inspire a new generations of Republicans or Democrats – it’s simply to teach students about their government by letting them see democracy in action. Whatever your political affiliation, it’s important to let your child know that you take your civic responsibility seriously – and that someday, they will have the privilege of shaping the world with their vote. There’s no need to discuss parties or to share video footage of recent debates (eh hem, I personally suggest that you skip that one); but taking the opportunity to share this monumental moment in history with your student can bring you closer, provide a great opportunity for discussion, and plant a seed for community and democratic involvement.
With the overall tone of this election so far, it’s not a surprise that I struggled to find kid-friendly resources for teaching about the 2016 Presidential election. Media coverage of an election can be scary and overwhelming for a child – I was on the hunt for fun, friendly, simple resources designed just for kiddos. From books to digital games, consider using the resources listed below to open a dialogue with your child about elections, democracy, and government. These lists include fun and engaging books curated specifically for children that will allow you to broach the subject of voting and leadership in a casual way.
Parentmap.org’s We Vote for These! Great Books That Get Kids Election Ready and Civics-Savvy includes not only a thorough list of resources organized by age, but also great conversation starters and activities that you can try at home to really spark your child’s curiosity. From counting bumper stickers and yard signs to discuss community involvement to letting each member of the household play President for the day, this fun article is sure to get your family talking politics in a positive way.
EducationWorld offers a variety of resources in their list, Use children’s books to teach about elections: Ten books get our vote! This list provides both fiction and nonfiction resources for children aged 4-12. Explore the silly side of an election with Duck for President, share the great responsibility of democracy with The Day Gogo Went to Vote, or hook your fact-obsessed nonfiction reader with Presidential Elections and Other Cool Facts. Whatever title you choose, you can’t go wrong with the titles on this carefully curated list.
Targeted towards students in grades 3-5, Scholastic’s Books for Teaching about Elections includes a solid list of teacher-approved resources that are sure to get your student engaged. The heading Using These Books in the Classroom might seem intimidating, but you can find any of these books at your local library and enjoy them from the comfort of your own couch – no hall pass required!
Once you’ve read a few great stories, log on to check out some of these great digital resources:
- Election 2016 Resources from Teaching Tolerance provides a wide selection of resources ranging from debating respectfully to learning civic responsibilities to busting myths that cause intolerance. My favorite resource yet.
- Common Sense Media never fails, and in their article 14 Tips to Steer Kids of All Ages Through the Presidential Election they list ways to include your child and guide the conversation. Broken down by age group for easy browsing.
- PBSkids.org – ZOOM out the Vote: Election 101
- kids.usa.gov is full of resources to introduce kids to government. Educational without being overwhelming or intimidating.
- PBSkids.org – The Democracy Project (this outdated page still features info about the 2012 candidates – but the activities are still winners!)
- Scholastic’s Election Page boasts that it has “everything you need” to help students study elections and even run one of their own
No matter who you vote for in November, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to share the excitement of this uniquely American process with your family. Get readin’, chattin’, and votin’, my fellow Americans!