With the battle for presidential nominations in full swing, it’s a perfect time to explore what it takes to become the President of the United States. Books are a wonderful way to engage our children and educate them about current events, and this election cycle is certainly an ongoing current event that has the nation’s attention (for better, or for worse).
My daughter Addie and I used Start with a Book (a site by WETA, the PBS station in Washington, DC) to find books about how our election cycle works and what it takes to become President of the United States. I then interviewed Addie and got a 5 ½ year old’s perspective on what she would do if she were President.
The interview sparked her imagination while also showcasing what she had learned from the books we read about leading and running our country. I also hope this activity opens up an ongoing dialogue with my daughter on what it means to be a leader, and how progress is made when people feel empowered to change things for the better.
What You’ll Need
- books about how our government works (We read “Grace for President,” “Madam President,” and “When I Grow Up: Abraham Lincoln.”)
- paper and pencil
- interview questions
As with any interview, preparation is key. In our case, preparation entailed an exploration of books about what it takes to be elected president, and the roles and responsibilities of a president.
Addie’s favorite read was “Grace for President.” I love that the book calls out that we have yet to have a female president, gives kids a sense of how hard you have to work to be president, and also explains our electoral system – which is not an easy system to explain.
“Madam President” is a fun picture book that helps younger readers relate to what it’s like to be president. Addie was interested in learning about Abraham Lincoln, so she chose “When I Grow Up: Abraham Lincoln.” For the older kids, I’d highly recommend “Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution,” a fascinating read on the history of our government.
I kept the interview simple for my 5 ½-year-old daughter. Here are the questions I asked her and her response:
- If you were president, what would you do? “I’d eat all the candy I wanted.”
- How would you help people? “I’d make sure that everyone has a waterslide.”
- How would you spend the country’s money? “I’d buy a home for everyone that does not have a home.”
- Why do you want to be president? “I don’t know if I want to be President. You have to work all day and all night. I think I’d rather be a teacher.”
If you have older children, try asking them additional questions such as:
- What are some of the issues or problems currently facing the president?
- As president, how would you try to fix those problems?
- What do you think is hard about being president?
- What do you think is rewarding about being president?
Record the interview (either audio or video, whichever you child is comfortable with). Also, for the younger ones, make it fun by adding a dress-up component. Addie loved looking presidential, and this interview was a great excuse for her to look like a grown-up (I let her wear a wee bit of make-up and my high-heeled shoes). She also liked using the microphone as a prop.
Ask your child to write down their own agenda if they could be president for a day. Then check online together to see the president’s actual schedule. You can also have your child interview you!
For additional ideas on learning about how leadership works in our government, check out Start with a Book’s Our Government section, as well as their Government Reading Adventure Pack. You can also read more details about my exploration of this topic with my kids in my blog posting, Madam President. Here’s to reading, talking about and exploring what it’s like to be President of the United States of America!