8 Great Picture Books To Help You Talk to Your Kid About Elections
This election is big. But for your child, future elections will matter even more. These books help.
Not only is it your civic duty to cast that ballot, but you’ve also got to make sure your kid realizes that voting isn’t just relegated to American Idol or The Masked Singer. Problem is, you’re probably too stressed to unfold your daily newspaper (election anxiety is no joke), never mind compile an appropriate reading list for your progeny. No worries, we’ve got you covered and hooked you up with a bonafide reading expert. Seira Wilson, Amazon Book Editor, has sifted through a Mount Rushmore-sized pile of election books for children, so you don’t have to. Here’s what she said: “I looked for books that are non-partisan and give kids relatable ways to understand the election process and why voting is important, but still have a sense of fun and entertainment to the reader.”
See! Despite the fact that your hair has turned gray, and you already had to disinvite your crazy uncle from Zoom Thanksgiving because he’s voting for Kanye––democracy can still be fun!
These books will help you spark a smart conversation with your family, but (hopefully) won’t start any political arguments at the dinner table. Although, you’re still on your own for the neverending battle between your kiddo and those Brussel sprouts. (No, you can’t be done yet.)
If You Go with Your Goat to Vote by Jan Zauzmer, illustrated by Andrew Roberts
Move over bunnies, bears, dragons, llamas, and all the other animals that hog the picture book spotlight. It’s finally time for the humble goat to have her day, making its goaty way to titular status. Of course, no other animal rhymes with “Vote,” but hey––that’s okay! The crux of this book is taking your little critter with you to the voting booth (and snagging that coveted, social-media-status-boosting “I Voted” sticker). In the age of social distancing, these illustrations might need a pandemic-revision because everyone is standing hella-close together. Otherwise, this is the perfect book to read to your kid, starring a kid.
One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote by Bonnie Worth, illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Matheiu
Suess to the rescue! This book of sing-songy verse nominates the Cat in the Hat to explain the ins and outs of voting as a responsibility and a citizen’s right, emphasizing the power of using your voice. This book covers a lot of ground, breaking down primaries, debates, campaigning, and more. It offers a super-brief history of voting rights and even gives a nice shout out to local elections. (Fun-factoid: did you know that Election Day was chosen because it came at the end of harvesting season? Cool, me neither.) Word-nerds rejoice: a mini dictionary in the back breaks down key terms (that aren’t always easy to define) such as citizen, political, and responsibility.
Future President by Lori Alexander, illustrated by Allison Black
In the context of the immaturity and childishness of the current election, this board book takes on a pretty funny and subversive undercurrent. (The super-cute illustrations only emphasize this cynical reading lens.) The gist is that the president and babies have a lot in common. POTUS works in an Oval Office, and baby does too––in an oval play dome with dangling mobile. The Prez has special travel toys via Air Force One, and the baby has all kinds of wheely gear, ala strollers, and bicycle sidecars. Luckily this book doesn’t get into all the other things that presidents and babies could have in common, ie. whining, name-calling, fibbing, temper tantrums...you get the drift. Kudos to the illustrator for the female-forward illustrations, putting a baby girl on the cover and representing even more images of women presidents than men.
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by LeYuen Pham
“Where are the girls?” Great question, Grace! Our ambitious protagonist is flabbergasted when her teacher rolls out a big poster of past presidents, and women are very obviously absent. Grace steps up to the plate to nominate herself as the next president––maybe not of the United States, but Woodrow Wilson Elementary is a respectable start! The thrust of this book is teaching kids the Electoral college, with a great Authors’ Note in the back. But the book also gets into the nitty-gritty of what it means to actually campaign, have a platform, and most importantly––believe in yourself and the possibility of a little girl’s biggest dreams.
Curious George Votes by Margret & H.A. Rey
Oh, the serendipity! Curious George hits up the classroom, of course with his yellow-hatted friend in tow, on the very day the kids are voting for a new school mascot. George is a model monkey citizen, listening to the kids' campaign for owls and tigers, covered head to toe in campaign stickers. George “accidentally” stuffs the lunchtime ballot box with doodles of animals not even on the ballot (Electoral Fraud, anyone!). Hijinks and monkey business abound, as you can never count out an ape to shake up election results. Fear not, the kids still learn a solid, civics lesson about “write-in votes” as opposed to choosing the selected candidates on the ballots. Swag bonus: there’s a sheet of Curious George “I Voted” stickers in the back. Anyone who’s been to Trader Joe’s knows: never underestimate the influence of stickers.
The President of the Jungle by Andre Rodrigues, Larissa Ribeiro, Paula Desualdo, and Pedro Markun, translated by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
When the power-hungry Lion abuses his King of the Jungle status by rerouting the river so it becomes his personal swimming pool, only flowing into his front yard, the rest of the animals are left quite parched and kind of pissed. So they decide to form a democracy, find a new leader, and create rules for their election, including the very sound: “candidates cannot eat their opponents” clause. Monkey, Sloth, and Snake join the race, each animal-candidate addressing the reader with a speech. They debate, hold rallies, take selfies with voters, and dip their paws into some negative campaigning (that never gets overly-nasty). I won’t give away who wins the race, but someone gets disqualified for a serious instance of peanut bribery. Ultimately, there’s a peaceful transfer of power, and it’s impressive how the winner seeks to bring the animal community back together, showing respect for his wild rivals. Let’s hope us humans can learn a thing or two about civility and coming together from these political animals/beasts.
Vote for Our Future! by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Michah Player
When Stanton Elementary School closes to become a polling station, a group of politically-enthused kids raise their voices and pitch in to become pint-sized voting advocates. That children band together to spread the word about the import and sanctity of voting, despite being too young to cast their own ballots. They hand out flyers and even show the luddite-adults in their lives how to register online. As un-woke adults offer excuses why they might not make it to the polling stations, the kids offer rational solutions and fact-filled comebacks, convincing even the most cynical grown-ups to get their butt to the booth. Backmatter includes facts about the Acts of Congress, including The Civil Rights Act and The Americans with Disabilities Act.
Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Magdalena Mora
A deeper dive into voting rights, addressing our country’s dark history with slavery, abolition, as well as women’s suffrage. There’s a great mix of history and heart here, reminding little (and big) readers to honor the people who came before us and worked so hard to provide us with a right that some of us can take for granted. The optimistic tone inspires present and future action, emphasizing that: “democracy’s dream must be constantly tended.” Momentum builds beautifully throughout the book, as the illustrations depict more and more people coming together to join Equality’s call, with the amen-worthy refrain threading throughout the pages: ”a right isn’t a right till it’s granted to all.” Gold stars for the terrific lists of Voting-Related Amendments & Legislation and Voting Rights Activists in the back, including the likes of Dolores Huerta and W.E.B. Du Bois.
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