I discovered the book Vote for Our Future by Margaret McNamara and Micah Player a few months ago. I was searching for a children’s book that I could read to my second and fourth-grade students that would be informative, yet steer us away from any contentious conversations. Given the age of my students and the controversy surrounding this election, I did not want to focus on the candidates and why you should vote one way or the other. I wanted a story that would excite my students about the idea of voting.
The first thing that drew me into this book was the colorful cover. (As much as we try, we always end up judging a book by its cover at least a little bit.) The cover is a group of young children of all different backgrounds. The title is made to look like a sign being held by one of the students and many have their hands up showing their excitement and the importance of what they are about to do.
As I looked through the book, it continues to represent many different types of children. It goes through and defines the important words surrounding an election such as Election Day and Polling Place. However, what I like most about the book is how it empowers children to think about how they can make a difference in an election even if they are too young to vote. The students in this story go out and talk to neighbors, parents, family members, and community members that CAN vote. It never mentions bringing up a certain political party or discussing politics with these community members. It talks about how children can help ensure that adults are using their voices to vote. The focus is on having a plan to vote and how children can use their voices to ensure everyone who is able to vote does just that. It culminates in a page that folds out to reveal a large picture of children and adults standing in line to vote on Election Day. Many of the people in the picture are ones that the children have helped register to vote. The ending goes on to talk about how some people win and some people lose and that laws change as a result of these votes.
After looking through the book and falling in love with every aspect, I decided that this HAD to be a book I purchased and read to my students prior to Election Day. I knew I had students with strong opinions (based mostly on their parents’ opinions) so I didn’t want to read it too close to the actual Election Day. To be honest, I also didn’t know that I would have the mental strength to read it close to Election Day without being able to express my opinions to my students! I didn’t want to upset students and have this lead to a conversation about candidates because I knew that my students are not at an age where they understand what candidates represent. Therefore, I chose to read this exactly a week before Election Day as a way to discuss why we had a day off AND give students time to make a difference in their own families.
I read the book and I was amazed at the depth of conversations my 7 through 10 year olds were having about change, laws, and politics. While specific candidates did come up, I steered them more towards thinking about how liking a specific candidate would make you want to vote even more. We also discussed that many people don’t just choose a candidate. They do a lot of research and have reasons why they are choosing a specific person. We then did a mock election where they could choose a President and had to write one sentence as to why they voted that way. They were allowed to write anything from, “I heard it on the news” to “My dad said he’s voting for this person.” It didn’t matter to me as long as they had a reason. We then added to the fun by having them “shoot” their ballot into a basket. (I just wanted to add to the fun, there was no particular reason!)
We then focused on having a voting plan. The majority of them were fired up that they could tell adults to make a voting plan and therefore make a difference even if they couldn’t vote. They all went home and came back the next day with stories about their family members and their voting plans. I was so happy to see them involved and having conversations with their families about voting.
I highly recommend this book. It is great for any election year!