Good morning, Readers and Writers!
When I moved to New Hampshire (more than fifteen years ago–I can’t believe that!), I have to admit, I came kicking and screaming.
I was a city girl. I didn’t ski. I was more than a wee bit concerned about living in a very small town with a long winter with very little diversity (and as far as I could tell, no hot and sour soup). This was a state with the motto: “Live Free or Die.” Before I put a bid on a house, I searched the neighbors for Pat Buchanan stickers! Fortunately, there were none!
The one thing I knew I would love was the up-close and personal look at the political process that graces New Hampshire every four years. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, if you watch every debate and ad or never turn on a TV. Over the years, I’ve met or heard almost every single candidate for President. I’ve also run into (and eavesdropped on) tons of political pundits. It’s fun seeing the political machine at the local diner, ordering coffee, making speeches and wooing the state.
Talking politics can also be a great way to engage middle grade kids. I’m not sure if our family’s avid discussions awakened my son’s passion for history or if his passion for history awakened our love of politics.
What I do know: the political process offers us parents (and writers) a great opportunity to talk about some pretty important concepts: rights, voice, and responsibility.
TEACH BY EXAMPLE: Forget the babysitter and take your kids to hear the candidates. Take them into the voting booth. Show them firsthand that each of us has a voice that can be expressed with one vote. Last week in Iowa, Mr. Romney beat Mr. Santorum by EIGHT VOTES. It is one of the things that makes our country great. (And in some states, it’s something that we need to fight for.)
VOLUNTEER! JOIN THE CROWD! There are plenty of political activities that welcome kids. My kids have stuffed envelopes. They have marched in parades. They have sported t shirts. They have baked cookies to serve at the voting booth.
Nothing was more fun than taking my son, Elliot, to hear Barack Obama. (I remember hearing Ted Kennedy speak in 1979!) My kids have also heard Bill Clinton, Joe Lieberman, and Joe Biden. (Bill Clinton called them “the most beautiful children.” And he seemed very sincere!) Once, when I was trying to eavesdrop on some pundits, Elliot insisted I finish reading Curious George. (Were they listening to me? They seemed to laugh at all the right places.)
DISCUSS THE ISSUES: Don’t be afraid to share your opinions with your kids! Talking to your kids about why you are voting for one candidate over another can show them what your values and priorities are.Talk to them about the ads they may be seeing on TV. Talk to them about how to tell the difference between fact and fiction. Show them the power of charisma!
TAKE A LOOK AT HISTORY! READ!!!! There are lots of great books about politics, the White House, and the Presidency. Here’s Elliot’s list of favorites. I can vouch for all of them. Reading these books has given us great sources for discussion…at the dinner table…in the car….and at the voting booth.
A Big Cheese for the White House: Based on a true moment in American history, this funny picture book celebrates the ingenuity and community spirit of one small New England town as it attempts to make the country’s biggest cheese for the nation’s greatest man.
Our White House, Looking In, Looking Out: Conceived and co-created by the National Children’s Book and Literary Alliance, this incomparable collection of essays, personal accounts, historical fiction, and poetry melds with an equally stunning array of original art to offer a multifaceted look at America’s history through the prism of the White House.
Secret Lives of the US Presidents: Murder, Adultery, Gambling, UFOs – And the White House?!? This book is Elliot’s ALL TIME FAVORITE. It sparked hundreds of great conversations. If you have a kid with a great sense of humor and a love of history and trivia, this is a MUST READ.
Almost President: Almost President profiles a dozen men who have run for the American presidency and lost—but who, even in defeat, have had a greater impact on American history than many of those who have served as president.
It’s a perennial pastime to compare U.S. presidents, but our current ranking systems are riddled with flaws. InThe Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn’t), Alvin Stephen Felzenberg offers logical categories of measuring presidential performance—character, vision, competence, legacy, and so on—while assessing, for each, the best and worst we’ve seen.
A fresh and imaginative look at how our presidents stack up against one another, The Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn’t) uniquely deliberates on the standard “greats” of our country’s history, giving them the critical consideration they deserve.
Elliot’s reading this now and didn’t want to leave it off the list.
Sarah Aronson first got involved in the political process making posters for George McGovern. Today is Richard Nixon’s birthday (you can ask her how she knows this). You can also ask her about Elliot’s favorite Presidential quotes or facts or read them in her middle grade novel, Beyond Lucky!