There’s nothing like election season to help bring social studies up close and personal. From the founding of this country to the suffrage movement to the branches of government and civic duty, the curriculum connections abound, as does students’ excitement for the political process. In the lead-up to the big event, here are reading recommendations for every grade level.
Best for Grades K–2
The House That George Built
Written by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Rebecca Bond. $16.97.
If your students are curious about where the president lives, introduce them to the history of the White House through this fascinating picture book that explains how George Washington was actively involved in the construction of the president’s D.C. home.
Activity to try: Take an interactive tour of the White House at whitehouse.gov.
Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President
Written by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Steve James. $16.99.
Your students may not know that not every citizen in the United States has always held the right to vote, but this look at Susan B. Anthony’s illegal trip to the ballot box will introduce children to the suffrage movement and the history of voting equality.
Activity to try: Have students make posters encouraging the adults in your community to vote in November. Take pictures of the signs to create an online slideshow, too.
Best for Grades 3-5
Where Do Presidents Come From?
Written and illustrated by Michael Townsend. $14.99.
Chock-a-block with fun facts and trivia, this tongue-in-cheek, comic book-style guide to presidential history is the kind of addition to your classroom library that will have three or four students crowded around it during silent reading time. A must-have!
Activity to try: Invite students to learn more “secrets” about the presidents with this interactive tool from PBS.
Written by Beverly Gherman, illustrated by Julie Downing. $17.99.
Most moms would like to say that they played a part in their children’s success. Well this look at “first mothers” past and present explores the roles presidential moms have taken from George Washington to Barack Obama, giving students another peek into the lives of the presidents.
Activity to try: If your students were president, what would “First Mothers” say about their own moms? Have children write additional entries in the style of the book.
Best for Grades 6-8
The Election Book: The People Pick a President
Written by Carolyn Jackson. $5.99.
We like this introduction to the political process for its simple explanation of complex topics such as the electoral college and voter's rights. In addition to helping your students understand this year’s campaigns, it may inspire them to become involved in politics themselves.
Activity to try: Challenge students to stage a mock election between the real candidates or a pair of fun stand-ins (such as Coke and Pepsi or Harry Potter and Percy Jackson).
District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC
Edited by Matt Dembicki. $24.95.
This graphic guide to our nation’s capital has the feel of an insider’s tour, with features on the city’s music scene and Prohibition tangles in addition to its rich political life. Cool enough for middle schoolers, this appealing overview will be a win with teachers, too.
Activity to try: Invite students to make custom maps on Google that show key historical sites around Washington, DC.
Best for Grades 9–12
Written by Jim Lehrer. $16.
Students will gain a better understanding of the ins and outs of politics and speechmaking through this compelling account, newly updated for 2012, which describes what it’s like to be front and center as moderator at the presidential debates.
Activity to try: Watch clips of some of the debates Lehrer describes on YouTube.
The Idea Guide to the 2012 U.S. Presidential Debates
Written by the editors of IDEA. $19.95.
Confused about where the candidates stand on certain issues? This helpful guide explains Mitt Romney’s and Barack Obama’s stances on everything from immigration to gay marriage, in simple, unbiased language. It’s a great resource for your own classroom debates, formal and informal.
Activity to try: Have small groups each deconstruct a political attack ad based on the actual stances of the candidates as outlined in the book.
Question for you: What are you reading with your students in advance of the election?