This book from a Maine author helps kids understand the importance of voting
Children won't be voting in the races happening across Maine and the country on Tuesday, but many will see this civic activity as it takes place.
To help them understand and appreciate voting, author Sonny Dean of Corea, Maine has written a book One Equals Many. It's aimed at youngsters from preschool age to about the third grade.
Morning Edition Host spoke with Dean, and she recalled a trip she made to the polling place with her mom, when she was about four.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Dean: And I remember vividly standing with her in the polling place, and me asking her why it was so important, you know, what does it matter, that we would take time out of our day and do this when I'd rather be at the playground or the library or somewhere else. And she had told me at the time, that she had a very dear friend who was killed in Vietnam. And she said those things are because people don't vote, you know, people aren't making their voices heard, people aren't getting out there and using this wonderful right that we have, that so many people have fought and died for. And because people aren't doing that, the world isn't the way that we want it. And we have no right to complain about how things are, if we're not actually getting out there and voting.
Gratz: Was it challenging figuring out how much children so young need to know about elections?
It was. I think a lot of very tough ideas can be made appropriate for children with a little. Children are a lot smarter than I think we give them credit for, and they can understand some very complicated topics if they're sort of distilled down into their very essence. And I find looking around that so many grownups don't fully appreciate the idea that if everyone stayed home and didn't vote, then the outcome could be decided by truly a single vote. So all of us together, that collective action, can make such a difference. And I think trying to figure out how to use some very simple examples from nature, from the arts, kind of help hammer that idea home to explain it to children, so that they're not going to vote now. But hopefully, this will sort of plant the seed in their mind and start making them realize that they have a truly powerful voice when they combine it with others.
You mentioned that this book has also been used as a springboard for discussions with older audiences, of teenagers, concerning elections. What have you heard from them?
One thing that I have been so heartened to hear is just the absolute passion that the younger generation today is bringing into voting, and even kids who aren't old enough to vote yet, they're counting down the number of days until they can register, until they can vote. And a lot of them are really realizing, looking at current events, if people are trying to suppress votes, or people are making it a crime to bring water to somebody who's waiting in a line, or they're getting rid of ballot drop off boxes, they're realizing that if they're going through such efforts to make it so they can't vote, that vote must be a really powerful thing. And I think that's something that we're starting to see in new generations. And that's just so heartening to me.
Have they thought about the idea that while their vote is important, and they should make it, it will not always get them what they want?
One thing that I tried to bring home the point of, is that there's a big difference between giving it your best shot and losing out in the end, and staying home and not even trying. Because when you stay home and you don't even try, as so many people have done in different elections throughout the years, you have had a hand in that result, whether you intended it or not. But you know, not voting and not having your voice heard is in fact making your voice heard, just in a different way.
More information about One Equals Many can be found at the website of publisher Little Lambda Books.