Presidents’ Day 2017 is not at all like Presidents’ Days of years gone by – much less like the long-past celebrations of President’s George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. As seasoned grownups we face the challenge to adjust to the reality of the 21st Century presidential role; we have the advantage of historic perspective, life experience and the bit of wisdom that comes with age.
For children, today’s events are confusing, threatening, disruptive to their lives and, just as important, to the lives of their parents, teachers, grandparents, friends and neighbors. It’s a tough time to be a kid caught in this time warp.
My thought – hope – is that President’s Day offers chance – even an excuse – to talk about some big issues, including the role and power of the President, the checks and balances that shape this democracy, what it is to be a nation of laws, the ways in which other people have met tough times – and how they have survived because of their sense of interdependence and commitment to the common good.
There are big issues that just might help troubled young minds cast their concerns in a broader framework. Parents and teachers are in the front lines of helping children to learn. And yet elders, including but not limited to grandparents, have even more relevant life stories to share with impressionable young friends.
When faced with the challenge to understand, much less explain, difficult ideas, books can help. Though I’m far from qualified to judge the value of a resource, and I know better than to judge a book by its cover, these are some possibilities to be found in libraries and bookstores.
One conversation starter might be Catherine Stier’s If I Were President, (https://www.amazon.com/If-I-Were-President-Catherine-Stier/dp/0807535427)
The book is a read-aloud for young pre-readers. In fact, the proposition, even without the book, could start a meaningful conversation…
This is just one of the books named on this Presidents’ Day list: https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/top-ten-childrens-books-about-presidents-and-politics-by-rachel-ruiz/
And that is simply an idea generator – your fingers can do the walking through the wealth of books and guides posted on the web – a bit of advice, look for suggestions from teachers, booksellers and/or librarians…
This could lead to a more substantive discussion of just what a President does, how he or she plays a specific role in the mix of people who are elected by all the people, including family members and adult friends, to do what’s best for the people in this country. Some easy online conversation starters that deal with the power and responsibility of the President:
The idea is to suggest that kids need to talk and stories, personal memories, stories in books and online guides can ease the way into a conversation that matters.
Booksellers, librarians and teachers who know far more than I do about good reads and resources have compiled reading/discussion guides on every conceivable topic. Here’s just one of the infinite examples – with a title that caught my eye. Though the range of topics explored here are beyond the Presidents’ Day theme, these are the things that are troubling young minds these days: http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2017/02/books-for-trying-times-a-resource-list-complied-by-members-of-kidlit-resists/
Usually Presidents’ Day is a time to remember and honor the leaders of this democracy. This year may call for something a little different, a serious conversation between a caring grown-up and a special child about what’s happening in this nation today. Kids hear the buzz; they hunger for the stories and the facts. Presidents’ Day 2017 is what is known as a “teachable moment.”
Presidents’ Day sales will wait – Kids can’t.