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Elections, Voting in Words a Kid Can Understand

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The vocabulary and idiosyncrasies that surround voting and the election process are difficult for adults to grasp. In America Votes: How Our President is Elected, Linda Granfield explains the whole process in words any fifth grader will understand.

The vocabulary and idiosyncrasies that surround voting and elections -- who can run for president, how the electoral process works, the history of voting rights, and much more -- make it difficult to know for sure on what level many young students grasp the significance of the concepts.

Until now, that is.

In a new book, published by Kids Can Press just in time for this year's presidential election, author Linda Granfield (see her Web site) has broken down the election and voting processes into manageable chunks. The book, America Votes: How Our President is Elected, presents 29 two-page spreads that cover a wide range of topics -- from who can vote and the president's job to campaign finance and third parties.

Kids shouldn't have to wait until they're old enough to vote to get caught up in the excitement of presidential elections. From the first primaries, through the party conventions, to the final count at the polls, the race for the presidency is a whirlwind of passionate speeches, sensational campaigns, and new beginnings that every American can be a part of. All of this comes to life in this new book, America Votes: How Our President is Elected, written by Linda Granfield and illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. (Kids Can Press)

Education World recently chatted with Granfield about her motivation for writing the book, the special vocabulary that surrounds voting and elections, and her favorite teaching activities related to those important concepts.

Education World: Why did you want to write a book for kids on the subject of elections and voting?

Linda Granfield:I wanted a chance to really dig around in history and find the interesting tidbits that would make the concepts of voting and elections inviting for readers who are too young to grasp the technical aspects or even actually vote, but not too young to get involved. I still had questions myself about elections; for instance, I didn't understand the Electoral College and couldn't find adult friends who did. It was time for me to bone up on my own knowledge of how and why I could vote, and then pass that information along to my children and other future voters.

EW:America Votes does a nice job of presenting concepts tied to elections and voting by connecting those concepts to kids' everyday experiences.

Granfield:I really was surprised by and enjoyed finding the connections between food and voting. Elections may not be a part of a kid's daily experience, but food certainly is! Gigantic election cakes, candidates' favorite recipes printed at election time (the Bush family's chocolate chip versus the Kerry family's pumpkin cookies), and even "rubber chicken dinners" became yummy snapshots of history, candidates' personalities, and media relations that kids could identify with. Hmmfood for thought?

EW:Clearly, you had fun introducing the vocabulary that surrounds voting and elections.

Granfield:Until I was working on America Votes, I'd never realized how many animals were involved in election lingo! Not just donkeys and elephants, either. The barnyard imagery that came to mind with lame ducks and sacrificial lambs provided both information and chuckles I couldn't resist putting into the section called "Animal Farm."

I also enjoy imagining our candidates dressed in white Roman togas while debating the issues on television; the word "candidate" comes from the Latin word for "clothed in white." A Roman candidate's white gown let people know he was running for office. Only men could run for office.

EW:In writing this book, why did you feel it was important to include background information that puts an individual's right to vote in historical perspective?

Granfield:Different groups of people in our society have received the right to vote at different times in our history. It's hard to believe that some people in the world still do not have the right to vote. By including the background information about the struggle of each American group -- women, African Americans, our native peoples, and others -- I hope kids will see that much sacrifice and dedication have gone into making it so very easy and safe for us all to vote today. Like those who struggled to gain us our voting rights, we have a voice that can and should be heard by our government. We are all part of the voting-timeline of history.

"By including the background information about the struggle of each American group -- women, African Americans, our native peoples, and others -- I hope kids will see that much sacrifice and dedication have gone into making it so very easy and safe for us all to vote today."
      --- Linda Granfield

EW:Have you a favorite hands-on activity for teaching about elections -- an activity from your book or one that you'd love to share with teachers? An activity they can use to teach a concept, or one that's just for fun?

Granfield:Rap is so popular and a shared favorite activity of so many kids. Class musicians and poets can work together to come up with a rap that deals with one aspect of elections -- maybe the new look the kids think a candidate needs. A new hair style, more trendy clothes, a tattoo?

My favorite activity: posters for political parties and candidates blossom all over during an election, and then they disappear after Election Day. But it would be great if we drove down our city streets and saw posters in the front windows of homes that declare "Hooray, We're Voting Today" or "Yes, We're Voting -- Are You?" or "We're Proud to Say Our Family Voted!!" A super project for the budding artists who will be our future voters. This could be a family project as well.

This e-interview with Linda Granfield is part of the Education World Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.


Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World

10/07/2004


 

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