Citizen Rights and Responsibilities in Democracy

Annotated Bibliography


Dr. Ava L. McCall

                              Children’s and Early Adolescents’ Books

                              Children’s Periodicals

                              Professional Books and Articles


                              Web sites

Children’s and Early Adolescents’ Books

Abramson, J. (2009). Obama: The historic journey (Young Reader’s Edition). New York: New York Times/Callaway.


Upper elementary/middle school. The text is liberally illustrated with photographs and reviews President Obama’s background, his Black and White family and their influence, his attendance at Harvard Law School, his first job in Chicago, and Michelle Obama’s background and influence. The majority of the text focuses on President Obama’s brief time as an Illinois State Senator and as a U.S. Senator representing Illinois, the primary race for the Democratic presidential candidate in 2007-2008, his run for the presidency against John McCain in 2008 and their distinct stand on issues, and his election in November, 2008. The text offers behind the scenes information about the campaign, the new First Family, and the January 20, 2009 inauguration. The text also defines such terms as primary, caucus, and delegate.

Alberto, D. (2004). Pete for President! New York: The Kane Press.


Early Elementary. The book follows Pete and Joey as they both run for president of their third grade class. Random facts about our past presidents and about the duties of the president are added to each page. The story follows Pete and Joey through their campaign strategies; putting up posters, giving out free food, and making promises they know they will not keep. On the day of the debate, the candidates come unprepared and another classmate steps in with a real ideas, called a “platform,” and is made a “write-in” candidate. Basic election terms are defined and readers learn interesting trivia about presidents.

Bardhan-Quallen, S. (2008). Ballots for Belva: The true story of a woman’s race for the   presidency. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.


Upper elementary. The picture book portrays the efforts of Belva Lockwood to accomplish very unusual tasks for women during the 19th century. Belva was the first woman to graduate from the National University Law School, the first woman to practice law in federal courts, and the first to argue a case before the Supreme Court of the U.S. In 1884, Belva was the first woman to run officially for president, representing the Equal Rights Party, even though women could not yet vote. In 1872, Victoria Woodhull also was a presidential candidate for the Equal Rights Party, but suspended her campaign before Election Day. Despite many obstacles to her campaign, Belva won 4,711 votes, although Grover Cleveland was elected president.

Barnes, P. & Shaw Barnes, C. (1996). House mouse, Senate mouse. Alexandria, VA: VSP Books.


Elementary. This picture book illustrates the process of how a bill becomes a law. A mouse classroom sends a letter to Congress asking Congress for a National Cheese. The proposal is written as a “bill,” then goes to a “committee” that discusses it and makes changes. From there it goes to the floor of both the Senate and the House where they debate which cheese should be the National Cheese. The book introduces the roles of the Majority Leader (the Mouse-jority Leader) and the Speaker of the House (the Squeaker) and illustrates that they are in charge of maintaining order. Each Senator and Congressman votes on the bill and then it is sent to the President for either an approval or a veto. The illustrations are based on the actual structures, rooms, furnishings, and artwork of the Capitol and the Oval Office. The story is followed by historical notes for parents and teachers.

Barnes, P. & Shaw Barnes, C. (1998). Marshall, the courthouse mouse: A tail of the U.S. Supreme Court. Alexandria, VA: VSP Books.


Elementary. This picture book describes the workings of the Supreme Court. It explains that there are nine “justices” that make up the Supreme Court, and that their job is to protect the Constitution – the laws that guarantee liberty and freedom. It Introduces Marshall J. Mouse as the Supreme Court Chief Justice. The book explains that every city, county, and town has their own court, and it describes the roles of the judges, lawyers, and jury. These courts make sure that our laws are enforced. It provides an example of the Supreme Court process when the mouse Senate creates a law that states only a certain cheese can be eaten on each day. The story goes through the process the Supreme Court must follow, from the “petition,” to the “opinion,” in determining that the new law is unconstitutional. The illustrations reproduce the architecture and look of some of the Supreme Court rooms, and other courthouses in the country. The story is followed by historical notes for parents and teachers.

Barnes, P. & Shaw Barnes, C. (1999). Woodrow for president: A tail of voting, campaigns, and elections. Alexandria, VA: VSP Books.


Elementary. Another picture book “Mouse Tail,” this book explains the process of voting, campaigning, and elections as Woodrow Washingtail runs for town council, mayor, state senator, governor, and then president. The book clearly illustrates the concepts of voting, elections, campaigns, and political parties. It places an emphasis on the importance of community involvement by volunteering, registering to vote, and participating in the political process by voting. The book goes on to follow the primary process, the campaign debates, and the events of Inauguration Day. The story is followed by historical notes for parents and teachers.

Barnes, P. & Shaw Barnes, C. (1998). Woodrow, the White House mouse. New York:       Scholastic Inc.


Elementary. This picture book follows Woodrow Washingtail to the White House and illustrates a few of the President’s responsibilities. It explains that one of the President’s main tasks is to work with Congress – the Senate and the House – in creating new laws for the Nation. The President can either approve or veto a proposed law. They show Woodrow as the “Chief Executive,” in charge of all government departments, the “Commander in Chief,” with the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines all reporting to him, and the “Head of State,” representing our country to foreign leaders. The book also illustrates some of the famous rooms of the White House and explains their use; the Oval Office, the State Room, East Room, Red Room, Green Room, and the Blue Room. The story is followed by historical notes for parents and teachers.

Bausum, A. (2010). Unraveling freedom: The battle for democracy on the home front during World War I. Washington DC: National Geographic.


Upper elementary/middle school. The author addresses the contradiction between the President's commitment to democracy and freedom in the world by going to war while at the same time limiting people's freedom within the U.S. During World War I, laws were passed which limited citizens' rights to question and criticize the government. In addition, the U.S. government built support for World War I by encouraging anti-immigration views leading to the burning of German-language books, closing German-language newspapers, eliminating German language instruction in schools, condemning German foods and drinks, and spying on other citizens with German roots, who composed about one quarter of the U.S. population. Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917 which called for harsh procedures for identifying and detaining spies, penalties for interfering with the war effort, censorship of the news media, and restrictions on the distribution of printed materials through the U.S. mail. In 1918 the Sedition Act was passed which punished anyone who publicly criticized the government. German-Americans, German-American brewing industry, socialists, labor unions, and those who avoided registering for military service were often the targets of the oppressive legislation. Congress also passed the Alien Act in 1918, which made it easier to deport aliens who appeared to possess radical or non-traditional beliefs. The author makes similar connections to repressive governmental actions during World War II with the internment of Japanese Americans, the challenges to freedom during the McCarthy era of the 1940s and 1950s, the secret investigations of Vietnam War critics during the 1960s-1970s, and the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001which gave the government the right to spy on citizens who might be potential terrorists.

Bernier-Grand, C. T. (2010). Sonia Sotomayor: Supreme Court Justice. Tarrytown, NY:Marshall Cavendish.


Elementary. This picture book is a biography of the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor. She was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, lived in a housing project while growing up, struggled to read English in elementary school, and struggled to write academic papers at Princeton. However, Ms. Sotomayor worked hard and graduated as valedictorian of her high school class and summa cum laude from Princeton. After graduating from Yale Law School, she served as an assistant district attorney and then as a lawyer in New York City. Ms. Sotomayor was appointed and confirmed as a federal judge for the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York and as a judge for the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York before becoming a Supreme Court Justice in 2009. The text illustrates the importance of parental support for education, hard work, and experiences to prepare one to serve on the Supreme Court.

Catrow, D. (2002). We the kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States. New York: Scholastic Inc.


Elementary and up. Political cartoonist David Catrow writes in the forward that he sees the Constitution as “a kind of how-to book, showing us ways to have happiness, safety, and comfort.” The book is made up of the words of the preamble to the Constitution, defined for kids in a glossary in the beginning – “Insure domestic tranquility: To make sure we can all have a nice life and get along with one another.” The pages that follow consist of a phrase of the preamble with an illustration that describes that statement. Catrow depicts a camping trip taken by a group of diverse looking friends, demonstrating the rights and responsibilities the Constitution places on all, young and old. The characters review a poster outlining rules for the evening ("establish Justice"); wearing a helmet and looking bored, the dog stands guard as the kids play in the tent ("provide for the common defense"), and everyone snuggles under a blanket ("and secure the Blessings of Liberty"). The pictures bring the text to life and would be a great tool to use for anyone looking to find more meaning in those “big words” and “big ideas.”

Cotugno, M. (Ed.). (2010). Kids' guide to government: Governments around the world. Chicago: Heinemann Library.


Upper elementary. The text provides a brief explanation of the meaning and purpose of government, then briefly describes several kinds of governments, including constitutional governments such as the United States and France, monarchies such as the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, and former dictatorships in Libya and Uganda. The text also explains how governments are classified according to how they manage their economic resources. Socialist governments (such as Sweden) give citizens an equal share in the country's products and services, such as health care, child care, and retirement income, although they require their citizens to pay high taxes to provide these benefits to everyone. Communist governments (such as Cuba) own all the economic resources, plan what resources will be used, who will use them, what products will be made, who will make them, and how the profits will be divided among the people. Communist economic systems are usually accompanied by an authoritarian or totalitarian government which recognizes only the communist political party and does not allow criticism of the government. Capitalist governments (such as Singapore and Japan) are not involved in the production of goods and services, but help private businesses prosper.

Cotugno, M. (Ed.). (2010). Kids' guide to government: National government. Chicago:Heinemann Library.


Upper elementary. The text begins with a brief explanation of the meaning of government, then focuses on various aspects of the U.S. government, including its Constitution, separation of powers, the three branches of government, and how the federal government is funded. The editor explains how each branch of government limits the other branches and describes the specific powers and responsibilities of each branch: executive (president, vice president, and president's cabinet), legislative (House and Senate) and the judicial (district courts, court of appeals, and Supreme Court). The text also summarizes the steps in creating a law.

Christelow, E. (2003). Vote! New York: Clarion Books.


Elementary. Using a town’s mayoral election as a model, this picture book explains the process of campaigns and elections, with an emphasis on the importance of voting and the history of voting rights. The story is told by Chris Smith, a woman running for mayor, her family, the family dogs, and the people of the town. The book illustrates the concept of voting to make a decision. It then follows the campaign process, including debates, volunteers and the campaign fund, and advertising. Election Day is covered, showing the different ways of voting. When one candidate loses by a small number of votes, he demands a recount to determine the winner. A timeline of the history of voting in the United States, a glossary of words associated with voting, a discussion of American political parties, and a list of Internet resources are included.

Cronin, D. (2004). Duck for president. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.


Elementary level. The humorous text helps young readers understand the process of running for and becoming elected to office, but also introduces the hard work in serving as an elected leader. Duck becomes dissatisfied with the way Farmer Brown runs the farm and decides to hold an election to determine who is in charge. The animals register to vote and duck wins the election by a vote of 21 to six. However, duck discovers leading the farm is more difficult than he thought, so he campaigns for governor. After narrowly winning this election, he again becomes disillusioned with serving as governor and campaigns for president. Readers can anticipate that duck is narrowly elected, but soon finds the presidential responsibilities are also not to his liking, so duck decides to return to the farm to write his autobiography. The text seems to imply that it is easier to criticize those in office than to serve in elected office.

DiPucchio, K. (2008). Grace for president. New York: Hyperion Books for Children.


Elementary. The author encourages readers to think about why there have been no women presidents through the main character Grace who questions women’s absence from the presidency. Grace then decides to run for president, as well as Thomas from another class. The text illustrates the campaign efforts by each candidate. The teachers cleverly introduce the role of the electoral college by having each student in class draw the name of a state with their electoral votes. When the students vote for either Grace or Thomas, they also cast their electoral votes for their candidate. The author’s note elaborates on the electoral college and its role in presidential elections.

Fink, S. (2002). The Declaration of Independence. New York: Scholastic Inc. 


Elementary and up. Author Samuel Fink set out to bring The Declaration of Independence to life by presenting the complete text phrase by phrase, each work precisely inscribed with hand lettering. He also illustrates each page, and phrase of the document, which helps in explaining the meaning and purpose of the Declaration. The layout and illustrations will help to deepen the understanding of the document that built our nation for readers of all ages. It would be interesting to reflect on some of the language choices, such as the word “savage” to describe Native Americans, and the term “mankind” and what it meant to the authors of the Declaration, to see how our thinking today has or hasn’t changed.


Fritz, J. (1987). Shh! We’re writing the Constitution. New York: Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers.


Upper elementary/middle school. The book documents the formation of the Constitution, starting with George Washington’s comments at the end of the Revolutionary War for the separate states of America to become one nation under one strong central government. It was he, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison who originally decided that their Congress should send delegates to a “Grand Convention” in Philadelphia, where they would revise the Articles of Confederation to make the government stronger. The book chronicles the four month period when the delegates locked themselves in a room to create a new form of government from scratch. It includes all of the arguments, disagreements, and compromises that were made, as well as other variables that might have discouraged the delegates to continue; such as the heat and flies. It illustrates how the basic components of our government began; the different branches, the system of checks and balances, even how the president, senate, and house would be elected and how long those people would serve. The long ratification process is also documented, and story ends with the July 4 celebration after the needed nine states all ratified. The book also provides the full length Constitution.

Gorman, J. L. (2008). What are your basic rights? Pleasantville, NY: Weekly Reader.


Elementary. The text reviews some of the rights in the Bill of Rights, including the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press, as well as limits on the government, such as the necessity of providing a good reason for searching someone’s home, stating the charges before arresting someone, providing a fair trial, and a trial by jury, and the necessity of considering someone innocent until proven guilty. The author claims that all people have equality under the law, which could be questioned. She also briefly reviews the right to a free education, the right to privacy, and the right to vote. Citizens’ responsibilities encompass obeying the law, serving on a jury, paying taxes, voting, and taking an active role in one’s community by getting involved in the city council or school board. Children can also show the qualities of a good citizen by helping others in need.

Gorman, J. L. (2008). Who leads our country? Pleasantville, NY: Weekly Reader.


Elementary. The author describes the president’s duties as working for all Americans, carrying out the laws, overseeing all government departments, serving as commander-in-chief of the military, as a world leader, and as head of state. The duties of Congress include suggesting bills for new laws, voting on bills, preparing the national budget, and solving the problems for people in their home state. Governors are the head of state governments and they select people to help run the state, spend the state’s money, and make sure that roads are safe and schools are operating. Mayors are the government leaders of cities and towns. They often work with city or town councils and pass laws to improve the community, run the schools, libraries, and parks. Judges are court leaders and should ensure equal treatment for all citizens under the law. The Supreme Court decides whether laws passed by Congress and state governments are fair while the courts of states, cities, and town deal with crimes or private problems.

Gorman, J. L. (2008). Why are elections important? Pleasantville, NY: Weekly Reader.


Elementary. The author explains why voting is important (a way of participating in government, caring for their community, and having a voice in how their community and country are run) and reviews the history of when different groups won voting rights in U.S. history. She clarifies the people voters elect (president, vice president, senators, representatives, governors, state legislators, mayors, city or town councils, and town/state court judges. The final chapter describes the process of how voters learn about and then vote for candidates, but laments that only 60% of voters usually vote in presidential elections.

Gorman, J. L. (2008). Why do we have laws? Pleasantville, NY: Weekly Reader.


Elementary. The author compares laws to rules in schools and classrooms and then explains that Congress writes the laws, the president makes sure the laws are carried out, and the courts decide if the laws are fair and follow the Constitution. She describes the process for how laws are made at the national level, the difference between state, city, and town laws and the necessity of state and local laws agreeing with national laws. The text also clarifies who enforces laws at the national level (the president) and at the state and local level (police officers), what happens to those who break the law, and how laws can be changed.

Grodin, E. (2007). D is for democracy: A citizen’s alphabet. Chelsea MI: Sleeping Bear Press.


Upper Elementary. The poetic format of the main text introduces important concepts, such as amendment, Bill of Rights, Congress, democracy, elections, and founding fathers with additional small-print text elaborating on the concepts. The book could be used to promote discussion about these concepts, but would be difficult to read aloud without discussion because of the challenging nature of the concepts for young students. The end of the text includes ways children and young adolescents can become informed, speak out, and take action regarding democratic issues.

Kennedy, E. (2006). My senator and me: A dog’s-eye view of Washington, D.C. New York: Scholastic.


Elementary. The book’s narrator is Senator Kennedy’s dog Splash. Splash informs readers about a day in the life of a U.S. Senator, including meeting with the Senator’s staff, speaking about a bill at a press conference, attending a conference committee meeting to resolve differences regarding the bill, and voting for the bill in the Senate chamber. The end of the text describes the steps in how a bill becomes a law.

Kowalski, K. M. (2012). Checks and balances: A look at the powers of government. Minneapolis: Lerner. 


Elementary. The author begins the text with an explanation of how and why the separation of powers came about: to create a stronger national government but protect people's and state's rights. She also explains how Congress keeps the president or executive branch in check, how the president keeps Congress or the legislative branch in check, and how the Supreme Court and other courts (or the judicial branch) keep both the president and Congress in check. Finally, the author reminds readers that the national government has specific powers (print money and declare war), but states also have the power to issue driving and marriage licenses and set rules for practicing professions and citizens have the power to elect the president and members of Congress.

Kowalski, K. M. (2012). Judges and courts: A look at the judicial branch. Minneapolis: Lerner.


Elementary. The author explains the main responsibilities of the judicial branch: to interpret the laws made by the government and the difference between criminal laws (statutes) and civil laws (statutes). In addition, the text briefly explains the difference between the state system and federal system of courts and shows the current members of the Supreme Court. The author also elaborates on the difference between criminal and civil law and the people and process involved for each. She carefully lists people's rights who are accused of a crime (right to a lawyer, fair trial, and to see/hear witnesses) and why children should know about the court system.

Landau, E. (2012). The president, vice president, and cabinet: A look at the executive branch. Minneapolis: Lerner.


Elementary. The text explains the qualifications for president and how a president is elected. It describes the president's main responsibilities (helps make the country's laws and upholds them, directs foreign policy, makes sure treaties are followed, leads the military, deals with national emergencies, chooses people for government jobs, such as Supreme Court judges and ambassadors, and grants pardons. However, the president has assistance in these duties from the vice president and cabinet. The president's power is also limited by other branches. For example, the president can suggest bills and approve or veto bills approved by Congress, but can't make laws on her/his own. The president also chooses Supreme Court judges and ambassadors, but the Senate must approve the choices. The president also can choose high-level military officers and decide to change the size of the military, but Congress must approve these decisions. Only Congress can declare war, but the president can send troops to fight in other countries without officially declaring war. Readers can develop an appreciation for the president's responsibilities, but also how the president must work with Congress in order to accomplish important goals.

Leavitt, A. J. (2009). The Bill of Rights in translation: What it really means. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press.


Elementary. The author gives the original text of the Bill of Rights and then provides a simplified version, which should be easily understandable to most elementary students. For example, the translated version for the first amendment is “You can say or write just about anything you want. You can follow any religion you choose. People can gather in groups. And if you have complaints about the government, go ahead and speak up. The government can’t stop you” (p. 7). Additional explanations about key terms are included in sidebars. The text also explains that the Bill of Rights came about because of concern that the Constitution did not outline people’s rights. A timeline of important events in the creation and approval of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and reasons that children should care about the Bill of Rights are included at the end of the book.

Leavitt, A. J. (2009). The Declaration of Independence in translation: What it really means. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press.


Elementary. The author gives the original text of the Declaration of Independence, then explains it in simple language understandable to children. For example, the opening of the Declaration of Independence is translated into “The 13 colonies in America have agreed as one to break ties with Great Britain. Both nature and God have given people this right. Now people will tell the world why” (p. 7). The author explains key terms in text boxes in the margins of the pages and gives a history of the relationship between the English colonies and Great Britain which led to the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. The author provides reasons why children should care about the Declaration of Independence and a timeline of events leading to Congress’s acceptance of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Maestro, B. & Maestro, G. (1996). The voice of the people: American democracy in action. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books.


Elementary and up. The book explains the American system of democracy with beautiful illustrations that depict likenesses of past and present political figures, images of key government buildings, the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision to integrate public schools, famous government documents, and campaign memorabilia. The book defines the word democracy, and shows how the writers of the constitution used the principles of democracy to create a unique form of government that made sure to protect the people from a “too-powerful government or too-powerful leader.” It describes the three branches of the government, the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial, their function, and the system of checks and balances. It illustrates the steps of how a bill becomes a law. The duties of the President are described using examples from past Presidents. The authors also explain the function of political parties, the process of campaigning, and how a presidential election works, including an explanation of the Electoral College. In the back of the book, there is a summary of the Constitution and Amendments to the Constitution, a list of United States Presidents, the order of presidential succession, the Oath of Office, and other interesting facts.

Meltzer, M. (1990). The Bill of Rights: How we got it and what it means. New York:        Thomas Y. Crowell.


Upper elementary/middle school. This book traces the history of the Bill of Rights back to 1215, when rebel English barons forced King John to sign a charter that defined the law and limited the King’s power – the Magna Carta. The author describes how that document set a precedent in the formation of the new American colonies, and their struggle to gain independence from England. He clearly shows the difficulty the newly independent states had in the forming of a Constitution that preserved the liberties of American citizens. He then documents the delegates’ need for a Bill of Rights that would guarantee basic rights of the people. The second half of the book examines the Ten Amendments of the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights. It explains in clear terms what each amendment stated and what rights it guaranteed. It also shows how in the 200 years since the Bill’s adoption, the rights outlined have been contested and how new interpretations have come about that have both expanded and contracted those rights. The book is easy to read and understand, although needs an older audience of upper elementary and above.

Nelson, R. & Donovan, S. (2012). The Congress: A look at the legislative branch. Minneapolis: Lerner.


Elementary. The text describes the two components that make up Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate and how each state is represented by only two Senators, but the number of representatives varies according to the population. It also explains the main job of the Congress: to write, discuss, and pass laws as well as to make laws to control trade, taxes, and borrow money. In addition, Congress has the power to declare war. However, after Congress approves bills to become laws, the president still has the power to approve, veto, or take no action on a bill. If a president vetoes a bill, the Congress can still pass it if two-thirds of the members approve it. The author selects a bill of interest to elementary students, cancelling school on Fridays, and explains the process it goes through in order to be approved as a law.

Pyatt, S. (2003). Call me madame President. Arlington, VA: Imagination Station Press. 


Early Elementary. Eight-year-old Amanda is the tour guide of this picture book, illustrating what it would be like to be the president. She takes us through the various jobs of the president, such as attending to the country’s major issues (school, seniors, jobs, health care, etc.), throwing out the first pitch for the baseball season, talking to the press, having State dinners with diplomats, kings, and queens, serving as Commander-in-Chief, and delivering the State of the Union Address. The illustrations are the highlight of the book, showing the famous places of Washington D.C. and the White House, including Chamber of the House of Representatives, the Smithsonian Institute, the statue of Albert Einstein, and the Lincoln bedroom. There is an index of the pictured places at the end.

Sisulu, E. B. (1996). The day Gogo went to vote. New York: Little, Brown.


Upper elementary. The story’s setting is Soweto, South Africa in 1994 when Black South Africans could vote for the first time. Gogo means Grandmother in the two main dialects spoken in South Africa, Xhosa and Zulu. Even though Gogo is very old and frail and never leaves her house, she insists on traveling to the polls and voting with other Black South Africans. Thembi, Gogo’s young granddaughter, goes to the polls with her grandmother and parents and witnesses the excitement about the oldest person in the township being able to vote for the first time. The text illustrates the importance of voting, especially for people who have been denied this right and privilege.

Skarmeta, A. (2000). The composition. Toronto: Groundwood.


Upper elementary. At the end of the book, the author describes a dictatorship, which lacks freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The author explains that dictatorships stay in power by controlling or eliminating anyone who opposes them. This is the focus of the text. It portrays various actions taken by a military dictatorship to learn about and arrest anyone who opposed them. The main character, Pedro, witnesses his friend’s father being arrested and taken to jail for being against the dictatorship. Later in the story, a teacher is also arrested. A soldier comes to Pedro’s classroom and requires the students to write a composition entitled “What My Family Does at Night.” He promises a gold medal and sash for the author of the best composition. Although Pedro understands his parents’ opposition to the dictatorship, he also recognizes the purpose of the composition. Readers are left in suspense until the end of the story to learn what Pedro writes.

Small, M. (2006). Being a good citizen: A book about citizenship. Minneapolis, MN: Picture Window Books.


Lower Elementary. The author suggests many ways young children can act as good citizens by taking action to help others, improve their community, and make the world a better place. Such actions include speaking out against pollution, shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk, picking up trash, encouraging parents to vote, learning about their country’s history, and keeping others safe. Some suggestions may need further discussion in order to encourage students to understand why particular actions are examples of good citizenship.

Smith, L. (2008). Madam president. New York: Hyperion Books for Children.


Lower elementary. The text reviews various presidential duties by humorously comparing them to children’s tasks. The president issues executive orders by requesting waffles for breakfast, negotiates treaties by ending a conflict between a cat and dog, attends a state funeral for a pet frog, vetoes tuna casserole for lunch at school, keeps the peace in the classroom by interrupting a kickball game with a globe, and deals with disasters, such as cleaning her room. The text can be used to introduce presidential duties in an understandable manner, but should be supplemented with factual descriptions of duties.

Sobel, S. (1999). How the U.S. government works. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series.


Upper elementary. The author clarifies the government’s three main jobs: to make the rules or laws for the country, to run the country, and to settle arguments, decide on the meaning of laws, and decide whether people who are blamed for not obeying the law should be punished. He then uses simple language to elaborate on the three branches of government, how the people in these three branches are selected, and their main responsibilities. For example, running the country means ensuring that everyone follows the laws, leading the military, and working with leaders of other countries. The author also emphasizes that the people of the U.S. also have an important role in government by voting, paying taxes, serving in the armed forces, and telling leaders how the government can help them. The text includes a glossary of the important concepts used in the book.

Sobel, S. (2001). The U.S. Constitution and you. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series.


Upper elementary. The author writes in simple language, but does not seem to fulfill the promise of the title by explaining to children how they are affected by the Constitution. The text begins with drawbacks to the Articles of Confederation, the first organization of the third original states following the American Revolution, which led to the creation of the Constitution. The author overviews the purpose for the Constitution (creates a national government, asserts that certain rights cannot be taken from people, and allows state governments to keep specific rights) and the intentions of the Constitution’s framers. The three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial) and how each controls the power of the others are explained as well as the powers given to people to elect members of the executive and legislative branches and limits how long governmental leaders can be in office. The author summarizes the process for changing the Constitution, the Bill of Rights or the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, other amendments which gave different groups of people voting rights, and the rights given to states (form militias or National Guard, run public schools, parks, and other public places, control business and property transactions within the state, and make traffic and safety laws). Finally, the author summarizes differences between the U.S. form of government and other governments and citizens’ responsibilities within our democratic republic.

Sobel, S. (2008). Presidential elections and other cool facts, 2nd edition. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series.


Upper elementary. The author explains the importance of presidential elections, the rules governing presidential elections, different aspects of presidential campaigns, and the rules for deciding who will become president if the president is unable to do the job. He clearly explains the role of the electoral college in presidential elections, the reasons for it, and examples of presidential candidates who had more popular votes, but were not elected because of the electoral college. Presidential campaigns begin when people announce their candidacy and try to convince others to vote for them. They continue through state primary elections or caucuses to select their party’s candidate in the presidential election to the large Democratic, Republican, or third party convention to decide on the candidate. During the final months of the campaign, the candidates use debates or meetings to explain what they would do as president. The text includes interesting information about presidents who were related to one another, the roles and accomplishments of first ladies, examples of vice presidents becoming president when the president either died or resigned, and the most predominant states from which presidents have come (Virginia, Ohio, Massachusetts, and New York).

Sobel, S. (2012). Presidential elections and other cool facts, 3rd edition. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series.


Upper elementary. The text is updated from the 2008 version and includes the nomination of John McCain for the Republicans and Barack Obama from the Democrats for president. It lists the accomplishments of Hilary Clinton as first lady when her husband Bill Clinton was president, as presidential candidate in 2008, and as Secretary of State in 2009. The author also notes that Barack Obama is the current president and thus far, the only president born in Hawaii.

St. George, J. (2004). So you want to be President? New York: Philomel Books.


Upper elementary. The author describes positive and negative aspects about being President, then offers common and unique characteristics about Presidents from the past. She focuses on Presidents’ first names, the type of house in which they were born, their physical size, age, personality, appearance, family members, the degree of frugality shown while living in the White House, pets they had, musical and dancing talents, participation in sports, educational achievements, military service, terms as Vice President, prior occupations, and degree of honesty. The author notes that we have not yet had a woman, person of color, or someone who is not a Protestant or Roman Catholic as President. After reviewing different reasons why former Presidents wanted to be President, she encourages readers who are interested in becoming President to “pattern yourself after the best.” The text is an excellent resource for opening discussions with elementary students about the possibilities of serving as President.

St. George, J. (2005). The journey of the one and only Declaration of Independence. New York: Philomel Books.


Elementary. This is the story of not only how and why the Declaration of Independence was written, but also of how it has survived despite all of the traveling it has done. The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson, and signed by each member of Congress. It was rolled up (as “parchment should never be folded,”) and taken to many different locations to avoid falling into the hands of the British during the Revolutionary War. The Secretary of State was named the safe-keeper of the document. It was hidden and transported during the War of 1812, and then the Civil War, World War I and World War II. In between, it was housed in many different locations, and attempts to preserve it were made, but in some cases, only continued to add to it’s fading and aging. The Declaration of Independence has traveled by horseback, ship, mail truck, railroad car, and military tank to end up safe and secure in the National Archives building in Washington D.C. This book tells a great story appropriate for all ages as it educates on the importance of this document to our Nation and the lengths people have gone through to keep it safe and well preserved.

Stier, C. (2007). If I ran for president. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Company.


Lower elementary. The illustrations show different children in the role of presidential candidate or newly elected president while the text describes the process from deciding to become a presidential candidate to being sworn in as president. It depicts the different questions people should consider if they want to become president and the sequence of events that follow announcing one's candidacy, including campaigning, winning the nomination at the political party's convention, debating, voting, waiting for the voting results, and being sworn in as the next president.

Thomson, S. L. (2004). What Presidents are made of. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.


Elementary. The illustrations by Hanoch Piven very cleverly depict aspects of former Presidents from George Washington to George W. Bush. A number of the illustrations are humorous and offer little known facts about the Presidents. For example, the illustrator shows George Washington putting out a fire, Thomas Jefferson greeting an official in dressing gown and slippers, Ulysses S. Grant speeding while driving his one-horse carriage, William Howard Taft taking a bath in a very large bathtub, Calvin Coolidge riding a mechanical horse, Franklin D. Roosevelt refusing to eat broccoli, John F. Kennedy saving a soldier’s life during World War II, Richard M. Nixon making a secret tape recording, Jimmy Carter building a house for the homeless, George Bush dancing with his wife Barbara, and Bill Clinton gobbling an apple (core and all) and an apple pie in a few bites.

Tucker McElroy, L. (1999). Meet my grandmother: She’s a Supreme Court justice. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press, Inc.


Elementary. The book is told through the eyes of Courtney O’Connor, Sandra Day O’Connor’s granddaughter, and features many photographs of the two of them at the Supreme Court and around Washington. The book introduces Sandra Day O’Connor as one of nine justices, whose job it is to “make sure that all people coming to the Court get justice and that the laws are interpreted and enforced fairly.” Day O’Connor’s history and appointment is explained, as well as parts of her job, such as writing “opinions.” The two visit famous sites around Washington, including the Constitution at The National Archives. The back of the book lists things people should do if they would like to one day be a Supreme Court Justice.

Travis, C. (2006). Constitution translated for kids (3rd ed.). Austin, TX: Synergy Books.


Elementary and up; teacher resource. This book provides a sentence-by-sentence interpretation of the constitution, in simple language meant for kids to understand. The first half of the book shows the original Articles and Amendments to the Constitution with the original wording and spellings on the left side the page, and on the right is the translation written in simple language. For example, in Article 1 Section 9. The Writ of Habeas Corpus is explained, “People who are arrested and put in jail have the right to make the government tell them why they were put in jail.” The second half of the book provides a glossary of terms, a more detailed description of each branch of the government, more detailed descriptions and some history behind each Amendment, some current proposed Amendments, including the prohibition of tobacco and the death penalty, and other “random” details of our government and how it works. This is a great source that will help any reader understand the meaning and laws of the Constitution more clearly.

Winter, J. (2009). Sonia Sotomayor: A judge grows in the Bronx. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.


The bilingual English/Spanish text describes Sonia’s years growing up with her younger brother and her mother and surrounded by the Puerto Rican culture in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Sonia’s family and friends ate foods, played games, and listened to music from Puerto Rico. Although Sonia discovered she was diabetic when she was a young child which required insulin shots every day, she decided to become a judge. She studied hard and won academic awards when she graduated from high school and Princeton University. Sonia became a very hard-working judge who understood life for people living in poverty and experiencing racial discrimination. When Sonia became a Supreme Court justice, nominated by President Obama, she was the first Latina judge on the Supreme Court.

Winters, K. (2004). My teacher for president. New York: Dutton Children’s Books.


Elementary. The text is narrated by a young student named Oliver who declares his teacher is an ideal candidate for president. She loves white houses, is used to being followed everywhere, others pay attention when she walks into a room, attends many meetings, signs important papers, acts quickly in emergencies, emphasizes health care, likes to take trips, deals with the media, wants to clean up the Earth, finds jobs for people, is a good listener, and believes in peace. The text could be used to introduce presidential duties and qualifications.

Children’s Periodicals

Chorlian, M. (Ed.). (2003, January). Balancing the power: The branches of government. Cobblestone, 24.


Elementary. The articles review different forms of government, including republics, democracies, monarchies, dictatorships, and oligarchies and descriptions of the three branches of government, including the legislative, executive, and judicial branches and how each branch serves as a check and balance for the others. Articles also review how the three branches of government dealt with monopolies, the issue of civil rights, a president’s efforts to influence and reorganize the Supreme Court, the executive branch’s attempts to censor the press, and the issue of a President accused of wrongdoing.

Chorlian, M. (Ed.). (2004, September). A closer look at the Electoral College. Cobblestone, 25.


Elementary. The issue focuses on explaining the Electoral College, what it is, and how it works. Articles explain the history of the Electoral College, reasons for and reasons against its existence, the current number of Electoral College votes for each state based on the 2000 census, and examples of controversial elections when the electoral votes did not determine who was elected President. One article features an interview with an elector from New Hampshire.

Chorlian, M. (Ed.). (2006, January). Congress: Government of the people. Cobblestone,   27.


Elementary. Articles explain the steps in a bill becoming a law; basic facts and powers of the House of Representatives and the Senate; ways Congress changed from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution; modifications in the U.S. Capitol building, where Congress meets, since it was built in 1826; an explanation of how lawmakers work in committees; and an interview with Congresswoman Linda Sanchez from California.

Chorlian, M. (Ed.). (2007, December). Our Constitution: The road to a more perfect union. Cobblestone, 28.


Elementary. The issue focuses on how the Constitution was created and how it has changed since it was first ratified in 1788. Articles clarify the weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation which led to the creation of the Constitution; who was involved in writing the Constitution and their diverse ideas for the document; an explanation of the ratification of the Constitution; the importance and meaning of the Bill of Rights or first 10 amendments to the Constitution, and where the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are housed. The issue also contains the original wording of the Constitution.

Chorlian, M. (Ed.). (2008, May/June). Citizenship: American—style. Cobblestone, 29.


Elementary. This issue reviews citizens’ rights and responsibilities. For example, citizens must obey laws, pay taxes, serve on juries, vote, males must register with the Selective Service when they turn 18, and often citizens volunteer to help others within their communities. However, citizens also have such privileges as free speech, free education for their children, the opportunity to earn a living, and the right to shape governmental policies. One article reviews the efforts of different groups to gain the right to vote, such as White men who did not own land, former slaves, women, Native Americans, and 18-year-olds. Other articles describe the rights of citizens to use civil disobedience to protest governmental policies; the different taxes citizens must pay to fund public programs and services; the responsibilities involved in serving on a jury; the steps in becoming a citizen; and examples of youth who contribute to their local communities.

Chorlian, M. (Ed.). (2008, July/August). Office of the President. Cobblestone, 29.


Elementary. The articles review the sequence of events for someone to become president, the different roles of the president (such as chief executive, head of state, national leader, chief policy maker, commander in chief, and chief diplomat), a comparison of the U.S. Presidency to other forms of government around the world (such as the UK’s and Japan’s constitutional monarchy, Russia’s republic, and China’s Communist government), changes in the White House during the past 200 years, and an interview with former President Jimmy Carter on his views regarding his service as president. The issue also lists the requirements for serving as president, all the members of the president’s Cabinet in the order they would succeed the president, the list of the 43 presidents and their terms of office, the numerous staff members who assist the president, and the various contributions of the first lady.

Chorlian, M. (Ed.). (2008, September). Hamilton vs. Jefferson: The rise of political parties. Cobblestone, 29.


Elementary. The issue reviews the relationship and different views of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson regarding the role of government in the new nation of the United States in the late 18th century. Hamilton wanted a strong central government while Jefferson preferred to keep most of the power at the state and local levels. Their differences led to the development of two political parties. Hamilton’s views were embodied in the Federalists, and Jefferson’s opinions were part of the Democratic-Republicans. “Tangled Party Roots” clarifies the evolution of the two major parties into the current Democratic and Republican parties. The Democratic party now supports a strong federal government role to improve the lives of citizens while the Republican party prefers a limited government role in citizens’ lives and supports big business. One article summarizes the role of third parties in national elections in providing an outlet for groups to express their views, even though their candidates do not win. The issue presents positive and negative aspects of political parties as well as the role of political parties in other countries, such as Finland, Singapore, and the northwest territories of Canada.

Chorlian, M. (Ed.). (2010, July/August). It’s all American! Cobblestone, 31.


Elementary. Articles explain the process of arriving at the final design of the American flag, rules for displaying and caring for the U.S. flag, the construction of the U.S. Capitol building, the White House, and other monuments, such as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Statue of Liberty, and the Crazy Horse memorial carved in Thunderhead Mountain in South Dakota. Readers also learn who the real person was behind the Uncle Sam figure, how the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights have been protected over time, how the Star Spangled Banner was written and became the national anthem, how Arlington National Cemetery was created from Robert E. Lee’s family home, and different uses for Ellis Island from its opening in 1892 until it was closed in 1954. New immigrants entered the country at Ellis Island, but prisoners of war, those being deported, and members of the Coast Guard completing training also used Ellis Island during the 60 years of its existence.

Professional Books and Articles

Alleman, J. & Brophy, J. Introducing children to democratic government. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 19, 17-19.


Teachers. This article for teachers describes techniques for introducing younger students to government. The article describes attainable goals for teachers as they introduce the principles of a democratic government. For example, to focus on their students’ understanding of why governments are needed and what they do for people. Modeling democracy in the classroom by developing a set of standards for the class that the children vote on and agree as a class on the consequences for ignoring the “class charter or constitution.” Teachers should have students select class representatives for certain tasks, be allowed to express multiple options for solving classroom problems and guide them in reaching compromises and settling differences peacefully. Overall, the article provides some good suggestions for teachers and gives them a more specific idea of what to expect from young children learning about government.

Alleman, J. & Brophy, J. (2003). Government. Social Studies Excursions, K-3. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Early Elementary Teachers. The focus of this chapter is to introduce students to some main topics, such as: what government is and how our government is different from other countries, who the head of our government is and how they gain office, who is allowed to vote, differences between the Democratic and Republican parties, where laws come from and how they are created and changed, the judicial system, and taxes. The chapter discusses what children already know about government and how they view it in their lives, for example, most children focus on the president, whom they view as personally running the country. The authors interviewed children in grades K-3 to see what their perception of government is, and how much more of an understanding children gain as they grow older. The chapter provides lesson plans on communities, local government and laws, state and national government, voting, the history of government and governments around the world, and functions and services of the government.

Bennett, L. & Mathys, L. (2006). Your voice, your vote: Lesson with website resources. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 19, 32, 27.


Teachers. This lesson plan is created for fourth grade students, but would work for older students as well. The topic is voting in America, and the teacher stresses the importance of every citizen exercising their right to vote. Students are assigned to research the history of voting in America and present their findings including how voting procedures have changed, how the right to vote has gradually been expanded, and how people have tried to manipulate the results of elections. The article also includes websites that are helpful for student’s research.

Hass, M.E., Hatcher, B. & Sunal, C. S. (2008). Teaching about elections during a  presidential election year. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 21, P1-P4.


Teacher Resource. The authors suggest activities to teach young elementary students about presidential elections. They focus on different activities such as taking opinion surveys to determine the kind of person who should be president, voting on class activities, discussing the presidential responsibilities, finding sources to learn about the presidential candidates, researching facts about each candidate, simulating a presidential election, watching a presidential debate, and learning about political platforms. The article recommends children’s books and websites for teaching and learning about elections.


Clement, S., Kasparek, J., Malone, B., & Oberle, K. (2006). Voices & Votes: How Democracy Works in Wisconsin Teacher's Guide and Student Materials. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society.


This teacher’s guide accompanies Voices and Votes: How Democracy Works in Wisconsin, by giving two or three lessons for each chapter to allow students to further explore the topics in the book. The first lesson of each chapter provides vocabulary words and summaries of the chapter that it covers. The activities are designed for both individuals and small groups, and cover a variety of learning styles. There are games, worksheets, scripts to read out loud that give students the opportunity to act out discussions and key people, and other creative activities to enhance student learning. The guide also features easily reproducible worksheets, maps, charts, and interesting illustrations.

Kasparek, J. & Malone, B. (2006). Voices and Votes: How Democracy works in Wisconsin. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society.


Upper elementary and up. This text gives students a thorough history of Wisconsin’s history and government. The first two chapters explain how American democracy works and Wisconsin’s road to statehood. The following chapters give a comprehensive overview of state, tribal, and local government in Wisconsin, including the history of each. The text describes how government works for the people, and also spends a chapter discussing who the voters in Wisconsin are, and the history of voting rights. Students will learn that citizens' voices and votes help government evolve to meet ever-changing societal needs. The last chapter emphasizes how young people can actively engage in their communities to bring about positive change. Each page highlights terms or concepts and defines these at the bottom of the page, as well as in a glossary in the back of the book.

Kofsky, J. & Morris, B. (2006). Symbols of Democracy: An introduction to icons and ideals. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 19, 16, P1-P4.  


Early elementary. These lessons are meant for students K-3 and focus on learning the history and the meaning of some well known symbols of our country: The American Flag, The Pledge of Allegiance, The Liberty Bell, and The Statue of Liberty. Each lesson discusses the history of the item, defines key vocabulary words, and proposes questions that would lead to discussion and thinking about what that symbol means to them in their own life. The article also provides “Recommended Literature and Websites.”

Martin, L. A. (2008, May/June). Examining the Pledge of Allegiance. The Social Studies, 19, 127-131.


Teacher resource. The article explains the history of the creation of the Pledge of Allegiance and offers activities for teachers to help their students understand the Pledge. The activities include using photographs of students saying the Pledge with the one-armed salute, analyzing the key words within the Pledge, comparing the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance to those used in other countries, and students’ writing about how they demonstrate citizenship.

Murray, N. (2006). Rights matter: The story of the Bill of Rights. Boston, MA: ACLU of  Massachusetts.


Middle school level and teacher resource. The text is also reproduced on the website and contains additional background information, short biographies, primary source material, cases, personal stories, films, slide shows, activities, and lesson plans. The author asserts that the Bill of Rights did not apply to all people (such as women and African Americans) until the middle of the 20th century. The document provides background information on why the Articles of Confederation needed to be replaced by the U.S. Constitution, who wrote the Constitution, and whom they represented and did not represent (the enslaved, indentured servants, Native people, and White women). The author clearly explains each amendment which is included in the Bill of Rights and the difficulties of implementing these civil liberties for all citizens until the 1960s. She reviews laws which infringed on these civil liberties, such as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the slave codes, the Executive Order leading to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and the Smith Act of 1940 which allows the government to interrogate “radicals” and their lawyers. The author explains that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was formed in 1920 to enforce the Bill of Rights and historical efforts to achieve greater equality during Reconstruction following the Civil War and during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The document clarifies the importance of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Bill of Rights, which states that constitutional amendments apply to state and local governments who cannot deny citizens’ equal protection of the law. Reviews of court cases pertinent to the Bill of Rights as well as the rights of students provide a very interesting closing to the publication.


Rodeheaver, M. D. & Hass, M. E. (2008). Who can vote? Social Education, 72, 230-235.


Teacher Resource. The article reviews different historical events which expanded voting rights in the U.S. For example, the Civil War (1861-1865) and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 allowed African American men and then both African American men and women to vote. The women’s suffrage movement of the mid 19th century and early 20th century led to all women gaining voting rights while the 26th Amendment allowed 18-year-olds to vote. The authors also review current constraints on voting for physically and mentally challenged citizens, those convicted of a felony, and U.S. citizens who live outside the U.S. The authors also raise the problem of the lack of representation for residents of Washington DC in Congress. The article also includes lesson ideas for teaching about voting rights.

Singleton, L. R. (1997). C is for citizenship: Children’s literature and civic understanding. Boulder, CO: Social Science Education Consortium.


Teacher resource. The author first reviews children’s literature which can help students develop understandings of government; rules and laws; democratic values and principles; citizens’ rights and privileges; and participation in civic life. In a second section of the text, the author offers specific titles of children’s literature and initiating activities, discussion questions, and follow-up activities which can be used to develop significant civics ideas in the texts. For the final section, the author suggests thematic units which can be developed through children’s literature. The thematic units focus on freedom of expression; what makes a good citizen; and equal and equitable: what’s the difference? Although the text is dated and some titles may be difficult to find, it is a valuable resource for teachers who want to teach about aspects of government and citizenship through children’s literature.

Yang, E. M. & Gaines, K. (2008). Ensuring access to the ballot box: Voting rights in the  United States. Social Education, 72, 223-229.


The authors review current constraints to U.S. citizens exercising their right to vote, including voter identification laws, felon disenfranchisement, and “English only” laws. Voting identification laws negatively affect the right to vote for the elderly, people of color, the poor, and the homeless. Felon disenfranchisement laws have a disproportionate impact on the rights to vote for people of color, especially African American men. If voting instructions and ballots are written in English only, recent naturalized U.S. citizens may not be able to fully and fairly exercise their right to vote. The article also includes teaching activities to explore the restrictions on voter identification laws.


Schlessinger, A. & Mitchell, T. (Executive Producers). (2002). American government for children: American citizenship [video recording]. Wynewood, PA: Schlessinger Media.


This 23-minute video explains how people become citizens (either born in the U.S. or become naturalized citizens) and how children can demonstrate good citizenship. At home children can help around the neighborhood and keep their promises, at school they can get along with others, be considerate of classmates and teachers, and follow the rules. The video also explains our rights as freedoms that belong to us, of which many are listed in the Bill of Rights and our responsibilities to think of the consequences of our rights or actions. It reviews some of our rights as the right to worship freely, to speak freely, to own property, to start a business, and to choose one’s own job. U.S. citizens who are 18 years old have the right and responsibility to vote. The video shows brief interviews with adults to explain why this right and responsibility is so important. Other notable adult responsibilities include paying taxes, serving on a jury, and serving in the military. A significant aspect of the video is a review of different groups who did not have voting rights for many years in our country, including African Americans, women, and Native Americans. It describes people who worked for voting rights for African Americans (Martin Luther King, Jr.) and women (Susan B. Anthony). The video closes with ideas for how children can influence their communities even though they don’t yet have the right to vote: write lawmakers, sign petitions, exercise their free speech, and do some of the work themselves to solve problems they see in their local communities.

Schlessinger, A. & Mitchell, T. (Executive Producers). (2002). American government for children: Federal, state, and local government [DVD]. Wynewood, PA: Schlessinger Media.


This 23-minute DVD explains the differences and similarities between local, state, and federal governments. The leader of the local government is the mayor who is responsible to and should understand the people in the city. The DVD gives examples of former mayors who made a difference in their cities as well as a current mayor who describes the importance of her job. Usually mayors are helped by the city council who listen to different opinions about issues related to the city. Governors are state leaders who must enforce state laws. The DVD briefly portrays four governors who became president (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush) to compare similarities between these two leadership positions. The governor must enforce state laws and respond to people’s needs within the state while the President is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, either approves or vetoes proposed laws, appoints Supreme Court Justices, and meets with other national leaders. The DVD clarifies that local governments provide such services as maintaining city streets and parks and providing local law enforcement and schools while state government maintains state highways and state parks and the federal government takes care of interstate highways and national parks and monuments. These services are funded by the taxes that people pay when they earn income and when they buy products.

Schlessinger, A. & Mitchell, T. (Executive Producers). (2002). American government for children: What is government? [DVD]. Wynewood, PA: Schlessinger Media.


This 23-minute DVD explains what government is, why we need it, and the importance of rules or laws to keep people safe, maintain order, and get things done. It portrays a class of students making rules to govern their behavior in the classroom as similar to the process and importance of laws for everyone. The differences between local, state, and federal laws are briefly explained and clarifies that local laws cannot conflict with state laws, which cannot conflict with federal laws. Brief excerpts of interviews with adults are shown with each explaining why we need laws. A significant aspect of the DVD is an explanation that sometimes laws must be challenged and portrays Chief Justice Ginsburg as someone who challenged laws which were unfair to women. Examples of monarchs and dictators are briefly portrayed, and these forms of government are compared unfavorably to our democratic form of government which derives its power from the people. However, the DVD clarifies that modern monarchies are usually limited in power.


The Library of Congress. (September 9, 2002). Elections: The American Way. Retrieved from


Elementary and up. The site provides information on the American Election system, including the requirements for candidates and voters, how the party system works, the election process, and past and present issues with elections.

National Paralegal College. (2003-2007). Constitutional law & criminal procedure. Retrieved from


The opening page includes an outline of components of the website. Of particular importance is the section on constitutional law, specifically the sections on congressional powers, presidential powers, and judicial powers. By clicking on each of these phrases, readers are taken to another section of the website which summarizes the powers of each branch of government, the origin of the powers within the Constitution, and examples of the powers of each branch. In the explanation of the presidential powers, the website explains the connections between the presidential powers and congressional powers regarding treaties and executive agreements. There is some explanation of how Congress limits the power of the President and how the Supreme Court limits the power of Congress in these sections of the website.

Public Broadcasting System (1995-2012). The Democracy project. Retrieved from


Elementary and up. The website has lesson plans for helping students decide on their point of view regarding issues, information about different presidents, and how the government affects children's lives. One interesting activity is a virtual tour of a town and when clicking on different buildings or places, information appears which explains how the government affects different components including roads, schools, and hospitals. There are other lesson plans dealing with how the government affects students' lives, different aspects of presidents' lives, and voting.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (2004). Vote: The Machinery of Democracy. Retrieved from


Elementary and up. This website provides detailed information on the history of voting methods in the United States. Uses pictures and drawings to illustrate old methods of voting and addresses what the future of voting will look like.

U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents. (February 7, 2007). Ben's guide to U.S. Government for kids. Retrieved from


Early Elementary and up. This site by the U.S. Government Printing Office teaches K-12 students how the U.S. government works. There are resources for teachers and parents as well.

U.S. Government Official Web Portal. (2007). Government made easy. Retrieved from


Elementary and up. In depth website on all U.S. Government functions, including voting and elections, state, local, and federal government, information on each department, information on how to contact government officials, link to the White House, etc. In depth, detailed resource addressing many topics related to the U.S. Government.

Annotated bibliography list