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Politics & History For Young Readers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Flannery Fitch   

 

It’s June, and that means it’s time for California’s Presidential Primaries, at last. I think that we can all agree that this has been a very long primary, and kids might have some questions about how our political process works. If so, here are some books that will help them understand American democracy and the complex history behind it.

 

First Mothers

Written by Beverly Gherman, Illustrated by Julie Downing

You might know all of the presidents, but do you know all of their mothers? I sure didn’t, until I picked up this picture book. First Mothers gives added depth to the story of each president by telling the stories of their mothers. I love this book.

 

Lillian’s Right to Vote

by Jonah Winter & Shane Evans

This is a beautiful, moving book that chronicles the long fight for African-Americans’ right to vote. Told through the point of view of Lillian, a “very old lady” (to quote the book), walking up a very steep hill on her way to vote. As she climbs, she walks through the history of African-Americans in the United States, watching the ghosts of the past. Highly recommended.

 

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out

by The National Children’s Book and Literary Alliance

This is a really interesting book. Mixing primary sources, such as speeches and letters written by the presidents, with historical pieces written by a wide variety of children’s authors, it tells our nation’s history from the point of view of the White House and its residents. Filled with illustrations by some of the best children’s illustrators, this is a unique way of looking at American history, and a beautiful book in general.

 

A Woman in the House (and Senate)

by Ilene Cooper

It took women a long time to win the right to vote, and an even longer time to hold positions in the government. This great middle-grade book tells the story behind the fight for voting rights, the journey into Congress, and the history of all the women who blazed the way for others. It introduced me to amazing women I’d never heard of, and will give any girl new heroines to look up to.

 

The U.S. Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation

by Jonathan Hennessey

The U.S. Constitution is undeniably an incredible document, but it can be a little tricky to read if you aren’t used to English from that era. That’s why this graphic adaptation if so great—it makes reading the Constitution much easier, and explains what every part means. For any kid who wants to better understand our nation, this is a fantastic way to get a grasp on the details of our Constitution.

 

Young People’s History of the United States

by Howard Zinn

Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is one of the best books on U.S. history ever written. It tells our history in the most thorough way possible—by critically examining it, and by telling the stories of those ignored by other history books. This young adult edition is a great way to get kids interested in the many aspects of American history. It’s fascinating, and will teach them all about the people overlooked and suppressed in history. Perfect for middle school or early high school kids.

 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World

by Penny Colman

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were the best of friends. They were also two of the women who did the most for the women’s suffrage movement, and their strong will changed the country. This book chronicles not only their fight for women’s right to vote, but also their friendship. Upon her death, Elizabeth Cady Stanton asked that Susan B. Anthony’s photo be placed on her coffin. Isn’t that the kind of friendship we should all aspire to?

 

It’s Your World

by Chelsea Clinton

Anyone who’s been paying close attention to the presidential primary might feel anxious about our world’s future (I know I do). A lot of teens feel like they can’t possibly change anything. If you have a teen or middle schooler who could use some encouragement, this is a good book about the challenges we face in the world today, how kids can participate in solutions, and what kids have done to help.

 

Flannery Fitch is a bookseller at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Her life has been about books since before she could read.

 
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