Teaching kids how to vote

Today, I asked my fourth grade class what was going on in our country that would directly effect the future? Many hands, same answer: lots of people running for President. I affirmed that they were right, and today- we'd talk about voting.

You see, I'm counting on having kids who can think well and make wise decisions. They will be eligible to vote in the general elections when I am eligible to retire. I'd say I have a vested interest in teaching them to make wise choices~ to evaluate the candidates for themselves~ to base decisions on their preferences, not their friends.

Enter the candidates: the North Carolina Children's Book Award Nominees!
Each book chosen for its own merits. Each book has its own appeal. One book will be the winner in the state. We read three selections today, two written with a poetry feel~ the other: cave boy talk.

After reading each book, I asked students for their own private library vote: thumbs up or down, on their chest. Each time a student turned to see what their peers were voting for we stopped and talked:

Guys, remember when you vote it's about what you like. What you want. Not what your neighbor says. When it's time to vote for President, I want you to vote for who you believe is best- not what someone else tells you to do! I'm counting on you. So let's think about what you like. 

We chattered about the books- the rhythm, the pictures, the story, the audience. We talked about how their teacher could use the books to teach about writing. What was our favorite. And then, what if one of these was chosen as "The Best". Which would you choose?

S: But what if I don't think any of them are the best? What if I can't choose? 
T: Then, you have to evaluate what is most important to you. What do you value most in a nominee? Which one of the nominees hits the most of your likes? That's who you vote for. To not vote means you leave it up to someone else- and then: no complaining. No if onlys. 

While it may seem silly to think that learning how to advocate for the preferences in books may somehow enable them to advocate for their future presidential choice, I'll keep thinking it makes a difference. I believe in my kids. I believe they can think critically and evaluate. Furthermore, I believe I have to help them hone those skills.

Why? They're my future. While they may not need me then, they do now.


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