All right, everyone, we’re just under a month away from Election Day 2020! Does anyone else remember going to the polls with your parents as a kid? I have truly fond memories of Election Days as a child (and not just because we got the day off of school!). I learned so much through those days…
So, use this Election Day as a chance to teach your children about our election process. Remember to vote, and take your kids with you (or let them watch you fill out your ballot at home). While you’re at it, use this time to talk with your kids about America, our democracy, our various elected officials and their roles in our lives, and the issues important to you and those around you.
Below, I’ve shared a few of my favorite titles about our country and our democracy in action, and of course, our presidents and presidential elections. Check out the titles here, and try to get your hands on a few between now and November 3.
*** Affiliate links used. As an affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for considering making a purchase through my links! Most age ranges listed are publishers’ recommendations. Always remember that you know your child best!
If You Go with Your Goat to Vote by Jan Zaumer, illustrated by Andrew Roberts — Y’all, this new release is so clever! Perfect for those youngest audiences trying to learn wrap their minds around what will happen on election day, Zaumer cleverly uses 13 animal families to walk children through the whole day. From studying the ballot before leaving to vote to staying up late to see the results nad everything in between, this book covers it all. And with incredibly punny language, too. Though much may go over kids’ heads, adults will giggle reading about octopuses who ink in bubbles and porcupines who wait on pins and needles for results. Ages 2-5.
Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Magdalena Mora — With a repeated refrain of “A right isn’t right / Till it’s granted to all,” Equality’s Call walks young audiences through a brief, age-appropriate history of voting rights in America, layering in group by group of voters as they gained the right to vote. Diesen also connects the right to vote today to the hard work that went to get us here, a touching point for readers young and old to remember. Ages 3-8.
I Voted: Making a Choice Makes a Difference by Mark Shulman, illustrated by Serge Bloch — Shulman equates how children make choices every single day to the voting process, and reminds children that sometimes they’re the only one voting and they get what they want, but other times a group is voting and the results go the other way. He then lets children know that adults go through the same process to vote for local, state, and nationwide representation and laws. Shulman includes detailed back matter about voting, how our democracy works (including the 3 branches of government), and what children can do to be involed on Election Day. Ages 4-8.
What’s the Big Deal About Elections by Ruby Shamir, illustrated by Matt Faulkner — This one is chock full of information about elections, elected officials, government, voting, and more. Even adults are bound to learn something in this one, including the history of why Election Day is the first Tuesday in November! Be sure to checking out the Timeline and Author’s note at the back for more history on voting rights and the importance of elections. Ages 4-8, but lengthy. You might want to break this one into smaller pieces.
What Does It Mean to Be American? by Rana DiOrio and Elad Yoran, illustrated by Nina Mata — Yes, this is a simplified and idealistic take on what it means to be American, but it’s also a celebration of the best parts of being American, and that’s really important for kids to hear. I especially love the line “…Being proud of all we have accomplished, and humble about all we still need to learn.” The back matter here is extremely in depth and worth looking at if you want to pick and choose some facts and information to teach your children. Ages 4-8, but perfect for (and maybe even better for) younger audiences.
If I Were President by Catherine Stier, illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan — Though this was published more than 20 years ago, If I Were President covers a very diverse cast of children all imagining what it would be like to be president. From the silly (being able to go bowling without leaving your house!) to the serious (being in charge of all the armed forces), your kids eyes will be opened to all that comes with the job of President! Ages 4-8.
If I Ran for President by Catherine Steir, illustrated by Lynne Avril — Starting with some of the thoughts that go into deciding to run for president, Steir walks children through what it would be like to run for president. Covering declaring your candidacy to campaigning to cauccuses and primaries and more, you might think this sounds more like a textbook, but Steir presents this material in an incredibly engaging manner. Avril has also illustrated a few different children of various races and genders running for president, which adds a neat layer to the story and conversations you can have with young readers. Ages 4-8.
Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America by Lynne Cheney, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser — I love this one as a way to introduce young readers to the diverse states that make up our country. Inspired by a road trip her young granddaughters took from Washington, D.C. to Jackson, Wyoming, Cheney takes her readers from Massachusetts to Hawaii, filling them with history and trivia along the way. Ages 4-8.
Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts — From the creators of Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, and Ada Twist comes Sofia Valdez, a young go-getter who dreams of making her town a better place. How many times are children told that they can’t do something simply because of their age? This happens to Sofia, too, but rather than let others’ responses hold her back, she moves forward with a determination to create a better community. Doors are shut to her and people dismiss her, but she perseveres and reaches her goal (with the support of the loving community that is so important in resilience). Also featured on both our courage and resilience booklists. Ages 5-8, but also fun younger. (Fans of Sofia should also check out the newly released chapter book Sofia Valdez and the Vanishing Vote, an engaging and extremely informative book about a vote for a class pet).
Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Hadley Hooper — Women were granted the right to vote 100 years ago, in 1920. Four years before that, though, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke left New York City to drive 10,000 miles to talk to people about allowing women to vote. Bright, whimsical, and inspiring, this is one to read to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women being able to vote. Ages 5-8.
Grace for President and Grace Goes to Washington by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by LeUyen Pham — If you’re looking for a fun way to talk about elections and even the branches of government and balance of power, then DiPuccio and Pham’s Grace series is the way to go! With a Black main character and diverse cast of supporting characters, these books are filled with wonderful messages of making good on promises and using teamwork and cooperation to find compromises that not only make everyone happy, but foster inclusivity. You can read my full review here. Ages 5-8.
Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Shane W. Evans — Meet Lillian, who is 100 years old in 1965. Her great grandparents were slaves, but thanks to the 15th Amendment, her great grandfather can vote in 1870. The joy didn’t last long for her family, though, because her grandfather wasn’t able to pay the poll tax when he tried to vote, her uncle couldn’t answer the voting “test” questions, her mother was chased away from registering to vote by an angry mob… But now it’s 1965, and Lillian is ready to vote. Walk with her to the polls as she reflects on all she, her family, and her friends have experienced in her 100 years. Be sure to check out the Author’s Note. Ages 5-9, though I’d skew to the older end of this range and higher due to length and content.
Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, illustrated by James E. Ransome — Ooh, this one is so good and will be such a great conversation starter in so many ways for your classroom or family. Written in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, this is the story of a young boy accompanying his grandfather to vote for the very first time… Only, he’s not able to vote after all as a result of the imposed “literacy test.” Set prior to 1965 and potentially rife with complexity and struggle, Bandy and Stein have kept this very age-appropriate. Subtle details in Ransome’s illustrations serve as stepping-off points for deeper conversations about the historical context. Be sure to read the backmatter for more information about racial segregation, voting rights, and voter suppression. Ages 6-9, but appropriate slightly younger and powerful older, too.
Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote by Kirsten Gillibrand, illustrated by Maira Kalman — From the endpapers to the introductory story to the spreads, this one is just delightful! Senator Gillibrand has struck a terrific balance of well-known women’s rights heroes such as Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth, but she also includes women I personally had never heard of, such as Jovita Idár and Lucy Burns. The “Quick Walk Through American History: Exploring How Women Have Shaped Our Nation” also includes important contributions by women in a variety of fields across centuries, from Phillis Wheatley to Maya Lin and many, many more in between. Ages 6-9.
Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon — This has been one of my favorites since my classroom days. Opening with “What would you do if someone told you you can’t be what you want to be because you are a girl?” this is the story of Elizabeth Cady, a pioneer in the fight for women’s rights, beginning with women’s right to vote. She even ran for Congress more than 50 years before women were allowed to vote! Be sure to read the Author’s Note for fascinating information about Stanton’s life. Ages 6-10, but appropriate younger, too.
The 50 States by Gabrielle Balkan, illustrated by Sol Linero — If you want a beautiful book of United States maps that looks nice on your coffee table (or front-facing shelf) AND engages your children in learning about our country, then this is the book for you! Each of the 51 maps (including Washington, D.C.) includes facts about the state, as well as important people, dates, and events. Ages 7 and up.
So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small — This is one of my favorite “presidential” books to read with children, election year or not. Winner of the 2000 Caldecott Medal, you know these illustrations are going to be good. But the writing is terrific and entertaining here, too. St. George has filled this book with random facts about past presidents (such as, if you want to be president, it may be helpful to be named James… 6 of our presidents were named James!). Can you name the president who didn’t learn to read until he was 14 or write until after he got married??? Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated since 2004, but it’s still a fun and informative read. Ages 7-10.
The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents by Kate Messner, illustrated by Adam Rex — A neat companion to So You Want to Be President?, The Next President highlights the lives of our presidents through Trump before they were presidents. Readers learn what some presidents were doing during their childhood when Washington was inaugurated, that Herbert Hoover was managing a gold-mining operation in Australia in 1897, when William McKinley moved into the White House, and that when he was a boy, Dwight D. Eisenhower worked at his father’s creamery after school. Messner asserts that statistically speaking, there are probably 10 future presidents alive right now… What might they be doing? Ages 8-12.
What are your favorite resources to teach children about democracy? What books do you love reading with your little ones?