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Civics and Our Government

Civics teaches kids about the rights each of us has as a citizen, as well as our responsibilities, such as voting or serving on a jury — and getting involved in our communities to make them better for all. Do you know any kids who are eager to volunteer in their communities? Or kids who are curious about the history of voting rights in the U.S., how a bill becomes a law, how we elect our President, and stories about life (and pets!) in the White House? We've gathered up a great collection of books for school and home. Find more books, plus activities, apps, and kid-friendly websites at Start with a Book: Civics and Our Government.

Because They Marched

By: Russell Freedman
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Fifty years ago well-known civil rights leaders came together with other lesser known but key individuals in Selma, Alabama. Events leading to breaking down the barriers to voting rights for African Americans are detailed through strong images and moving, well-documented narrative.

City Green

By: DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

There is a garbage-filled, vacant lot on the street where Marcy lives. Instead of growing flowers in coffee cans like they usually do each spring, she and her friend Miss Rosa decide to plant a garden there. Their enthusiasm and energy spread and everyone in the neighborhood joins together to create an urban oasis. (From School Library Journal)

Dear Mr. Rosenwald

By: Carole Boston Weatherford
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A 10 year old girl narrates this fictionalized story, based on real events and people, of how her rural southern town builds a new school for African American children with the help of Julius Rosenwald (then president of Sears Roebuck).

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble

By: Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated by: Matt Faulkner
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Women could not attend college, enter politics or vote when the United States was established. Over time, however, because of the work started by many women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her friend, Lucretia Mott, contemporary women can vote, work and more. Vivid language and dramatic illustrations present the early trailblazers and their work. Additional information concludes this slim but informative volume.

Grace for President

By: Kelly DiPucchio
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

An inspired teacher, the discovery of the fact that all U.S. Presidents (so far) have been male, and a tenacious girl provide the basis of a satisfying, surprisingly plausible story that explains the voting process in this country — including the Electoral College.

I Could Do That! Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote

By: Linda White
Illustrated by: Nancy Carpenter
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Hatmaker, wife, mother, pioneer, and activist, Esther Morris was instrumental in getting the vote for women in Wyoming, the first state to pass such a law. Whether brewing tea or learning to sew, from an early age Esther adamantly states, I could do that! — the mantra of her life.

Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation

By: Cokie Roberts
Illustrated by: Diane Goode
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Journals, letters and other primary sources were used to introduce "a few of the women who helped… make [the United States] a nation where everyone could pursue the happiness promised when America declared independence…" Line and wash illustrations enhance the brief entries of these intriguing but largely unknown women.

Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

By: Jonah Winter
Illustrated by: Shane Evans
Genre: Fiction, Biography, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

As the older woman, Ms Lillian, walks a steep hill to vote. While walking, she remembers the precipitous climb that those who preceded her made so that she could cast her ballot. The storyteller’s tone of the text and dramatic illustrations tell a powerful story.

March: Book One

By: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
Illustrated by: Nate Powell
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: Teen
Reading Level: Independent Reader

John Lewis, son of a sharecropper, grew up to become an activist and later, a U.S. Congressman. His life and crucial role in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement is dramatically presented in word and image in graphic format in three volumes (March: Book Two and March: Book Three). The story of the young John Lewis can be shared with children as young as four years in the picture book biography, Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis written by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

Maybe Something Beautiful

By: F. Isabel Campoy, Theresa Howell
Illustrated by: Rafael López
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Mira brings color and builds community through her beautiful art which she first gives to individuals and then has them contribute their own paintings. Based on an Urban Art Trail in San Diego, the animated illustrations evoke Mexican folk art while remaining child-like. 

My Teacher for President

By: Kay Winters
Illustrated by: Denise Brunkus
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Since Oliver's class has been studying about elections and voting, he decides to nominate his teacher for President, and contacts a local television station, clearly stating her many qualifications! Humor abounds as the teacher's assets are juxtaposed with U.S. presidential duties — and with a real sense of child-like appreciation for what the teacher does.

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out

By: National Children's Book & Literacy Alliance, Mary Brigid Barrett
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The large format of this collection of stories both factual and fictionalized has been created by about 100 notable authors and illustrators with an introduction by historian David McCullough. Ideal for sharing aloud at home or in the classroom, activities and additional resources are up-to-date at a companion website.

Shhh! We're Writing the Constitution

By: Jean Fritz
Illustrated by: Tomie dePaola
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Long ago in 1787, a group of men known as the Founding Fathers of the United States met in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. (It's now a national park.) There they discussed, argued, and finally agreed upon a document that still in use today — the U.S. Constitution. Their story is told with verve and humor in this playful book.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down

By: Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by: Brian Pinkney
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., inspired four students to protest in a way that ultimately changed the United States. Their peaceful dissent at the segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, would "combine black with white to make sweet justice." The "Greensboro Four" began their sit-in on February 1, 1960 and contributed to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The text suggests storytelling and is accompanied by light-lined but evocative illustrations; back matter completes this compelling portrait.

So, You Want to Be President?

By: Judith St. George
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Anyone can be president, whether fat (William Howard Taft) or tiny (James Madison), relatively young (Teddy Roosevelt at 42) or old (Ronald Reagan at 69). Hobbies, sports, virtues, and vices all get a tongue-in-cheek airing in this fascinating collection of presidential trivia.

The Flag We Love

By: Pam Muñoz Ryan
Illustrated by: Ralph Masiello
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Read this book aloud to young readers to teach them about the United States flag, its history, and meaning. The short verse, historical tidbits, and realistic illustrations result in a brief, moving, and patriotic look at this American symbol.

Vote!

By: Eileen Christelow
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The history of voting in the United States is presented using a town's mayoral election as the framework. Even the town dogs have their say in the whimsical, cartoon-like illustrations which provide additional information for the reader.

When You Grow Up to Vote: How Our Government Works for You

By: Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Markel
Illustrated by: Grace Lin
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1932 book on citizenship for young people now revised and updated for a contemporary audience. Beginning with government workers like firefighters and garbage collectors, and moving up through local government to the national stage, this book explains that the people in government work for the voter.

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