This year’s presidential election is receiving unprecedented media coverage. Which means even if you’re six years old, you probably know about the two candidates vying for the most powerful position on the planet. But my oldest daughter Alexia is mainly focused on learning more about the outgoing president.
Alexia has known who President Barack Obama is for at least two years. Having two parents who watch a steady stream of news and spend a lot of time talking about current events no doubt had a hand in that recognition. I don’t remember the exact ‘when and where,’ but I do recall one day in our old apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side when she surprised us by asking us who Barack Obama was.
Now that she’s in first grade, she’s asked more questions related to politics. About Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, how we’re voting, what are debates, etc. This past Monday, the day of the first Clinton-Trump debate, Alexia even asked me who our first President was. And our second. And our third. And our fourth.
Good thing I paid attention in American History and Hamilton. Because while old George W. is an easy one, if I wouldn’t have Lin-Manuel Miranda’s epic soundtrack on my permanent jogging playlist, I probably would have forgotten Madison was Prez No. 4.
(Admission: She totally stumped me when she asked who our tenth president was. John Tyler. C’MON!)
That same day, she brought home two books from her class’s visit to the library: Max & Ruby: Treasure Hunt, and Who Is Barack Obama?
The book, by Roberta Edwards with illustrations by John O’Brien, is a nifty introduction to Obama’s incredible story. And regardless of where you fall on the political aisle, it is a remarkable story. While it’s a bit wordy for first-grade readers, it’s full of interesting tidbits that should captive young kids and more important, spark conversation with their parents.
Alexia is just working her way through the book; judging by the dog-eared pages, frayed spine and crinkled cover, she’s far from the only student at her school to check this one out.
Some of the questions I’ve been asked already: ‘Why was Barack Obama (she always says his first and last name. ALWAYS.) the first Black president?’ And, ‘What’s an Afro?’
I’m glad and more than a little proud that she’s already showing an interest in the news and politics in particular. It’s led to a few interesting discussions, even if it’s sometimes a challenge explaining to a six year-old why grown people are screaming at each other and saying horrible things.
I want my girls to learn how to form their own opinions based on facts and information, so I’m careful not to interject too much of my own opinion and beliefs into my explanations. I’m good at playing Devil’s Advocate. But there are certain topics and people that this is frankly impossible to deal with. The most important aspect is the most basic: honesty. Even if that leads to more uncomfortable questions.
Parents with young(ish) children, how do you discuss politics with them? Are your kids showing an interest? I’d be interested in hearing your takes.
And BTW, here’s a List of all 44 U.S. Presidents. I suggest you bookmark it.