“Monster” decides to run for president despite dubious eligibility. He makes wildly unrealistic campaign promises and has trouble catching on. Then he latches onto an issue that affects the common good — sparing libraries and schools from closure. Though he is found ineligible and must leave the race, his theme remains important in the election.
There’s enough grown-up political reality in the new children’s book “Monster Needs Your Vote” to hold the interest of both the Anwatin Middle School eighth-graders and the Bryn Mawr Elementary School first-graders who paired off to read and discuss it earlier this month in Minneapolis. The exercise included some civic participation of their own — letter-writing to elected officials.
That activity was the kickoff of the 2016 cycle of Kids Voting Minneapolis, which along with several dozen other Minnesota school districts is affiliated with the 28-year-old national civics education program Kids Voting USA. Commendably, the “Monster” books, campaign materials and teaching guides for the kickoff were donated by publisher Mighty Media Press, also of Minneapolis.
Their collaboration to familiarize K-12 students with the electoral process warrants both praise and replication. We suspect most educators would endorse Kids Voting’s slogan, “Vote young, vote forever.” But many elementary schools have struggled to find time for civics education since No Child Left Behind intensified their focus on reading and math, said Kids Voting Minneapolis President Judy Farmer, a former Minneapolis school board chair.
Her organization attempts to fill that void with an intense hands-on lesson: Students in participating schools actually vote. In Minneapolis, they cast mock ballots for real candidates at real polling places, and their votes are counted and results posted on a website by school and grade. Farmer said she knows youngsters from new American families who gained such familiarity with the process that they later aided their parents at the polls.
Kids Voting Minneapolis is donor-funded and volunteer-driven. It needs more help as it gears up to reach more students this fall. Learn more at www.kidsvotingminneapolis.org.