Get Smart About Voting | Read Woke

Titles to inspire young and future voters at all grade levels.

In an effort to inspire voters at school earlier this year, I started Woke Wednesdays, with exhibits and a registration booth with “Future Voter” stickers on display. I shared our efforts in a grant proposal for MTV’s 2020 Prom Challenge (mtvprom.whenweallvote.org) and, along with 19 other schools, received $5,000 to increase our efforts. When Michelle Obama joined a Zoom call for grant winners, my students and I were overjoyed.

This fall, I’m focusing on books about voting, with virtual book clubs, reading challenges, and book giveaways.

With the recent passing of Congressman John Lewis, it is important that we honor his legacy and continue his fight for equality, much of which is beautifully reflected in the graphic novel trilogy “March” (Scholastic), created with cowriter Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell. The trilogy covers the civil rights movement from Lewis’s perspective on the front lines. Share these other books to empower students to vote woke.

Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter. illus. by Shane W. Evans. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. 2015.
Gr 1-4 –This is the story of a 100-year-old African American woman on her way to vote. She remembers her ancestors’ plight as they dealt with poll taxes, the burning crosses on the lawn of her childhood home, and her participation in the march from Selma to Montgomery. This is for little future voters or anyone who loves a grand picture book.

For Which We Stand: How Our Government Works and Why It Matters by Jeff Foster. illus. by Julie McLaughlin. Scholastic. 2020.
Gr 3-7 –“If you don’t participate, you can’t complain” is Foster’s motto. The AP government teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, shares information about how voting works, the powers of the president, and how young people can make a difference. With a foreword by Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as appealing illustrations, time lines, charts, and a glossary, this book equips young readers to vote knowledgeably.

We the People: The United States Constitution Explored and Explained by Aura Lewis and Evan Sargent. Quarto/Wide-Eyed Editions. 2020.
Gr 5-8 –The U.S. Constitution may be over 200 years old and full of old-fashioned language, but this vibrantly illustrated book shows how it is still relevant and confronts the challenges of interpreting it. The “Did You Know” sections makes learning fun with facts like which president had a pet alligator at the White House. Short biographies profile political women, from Patsy Takemoto Mink to
Ilhan Omar. The Constitution is explored, and readers are challenged with “What do you think?” activities.

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert. Hyperion. 2020.
Gr 7-10 –Marva Sheridan has always been interested in politics and has little time for anything else, until she meets Duke Crenshaw, a musician who just wants to get voting over with so he can get back to music. When Duke is told he can’t vote at his local precinct, Marva sets out to make sure he is able to cast a ballot. Tag along as they set out to make their votes count—while also discovering new love. This book is dedicated to voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.

Votes of Confidence: A Young Person’s Guide to American Elections by Jeff Fleisher. Lerner/Zest. 2020.
Gr 8 Up –Fleisher wrote this book in response to misinformation throughout the election cycle, low U.S. voter turnout among young people, and gaps in civics education. In this update from the 2016 edition, readers learn about the role of political parties in a chapter called “Party Time,” and in “Getting Past Fake News,” nonpartisan organizations explain “What’s complete BS.” The “Debate Zingers” section shares witty debate comebacks from presidents.


Cicely Lewis (Twitter: @cicelythegreat) welcomes suggestions.

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