You may have heard a little something in the news lately about next year’s presidential election. You may already be tired of hearing about every thing that comes out of the candidates’ mouths. Regardless of how tuned in you are to political news or which party you agree with the most, this is a great year to study our presidents.
Over the course of 2012, my son is going to be learning about all of the presidents. My plan is to focus on one president a week and to learn about the election process as well. One of the books we’ll be using is So You Want to Be President, written by Judith St. George and illustrated by David Small.
What qualities make a good president? What traits or experiences did they have in common? Who didn’t learn to write until after he was married? (That would be Andrew Johnson, in case you’re wondering. He didn’t learn to read until he was 14!) So You Want to Be President goes through many characteristics—some important, some just interesting–of the men who have led our nation. If you want a complete biography of each president, this isn’t the book you’re looking for; if you want an engaging and sometimes humorous look at these people you’ve heard about all your life, this is it. I know this book will capture my seven year old’s attention!
If you’re concerned that the book is just fluff, don’t worry. Many of the anecdotes will be sure to spark discussion and at the end, St. George explicitly talks about what the good presidents have done. Also included at the end is a very short biography of each man. My edition ends with Bill Clinton, but there is a new updated edition that continues through Barack Obama. A few reviews I read were concerned about the accuracy of the statement that Clinton was impeached (he was impeached by the House, but acquitted by the Senate), but the book also touches on the importance of honesty in this section and would be a great discussion starter, no matter your feelings about the man.
David Small’s illustrations earned him the Caldecott Award in 2001. The caricatures remind me of political cartoons and in case you or your child don’t know for sure who is pictured, there is a list in the back of the book to help you out. I’m guessing Jesse Jackson and Geraldine Ferraro might be a little tough for kids today!
So You Want to Be President is a good book for kids in the second through fifth grade age range. Older students might enjoy it, too, but they would need something a little more substantial for information. I think what I liked most about this book as that it prompted me to really consider what qualities are important. In an age where we know so much about candidates and so many of them are career politicians, it’s surprising to see how different it was in the past.