5 Big-Hearted Books about Citizenship

Political season or not, citizenship is an important topic to explore with your kids. Here are just a handful of books we love that will help your family have a discussion about what good citizenship means.Take advantage of these stories to bring up some big questions, like:

  • What does it mean to live in community with others?
  • If we live in a free country, can we do whatever we want, whenever we want?
  • What should we do if we notice something that is unfair in our community?
  • What characteristics make a good neighbor? A good leader?
  • Is their something we, as a family, would like to change right now?
  • If you like, take a few minutes and complete our "If I Ran the World" worksheet as a family.
  • Consider writing a letter to your representative, create a newsletter, or sign a petition with your family.

Older readers may enjoy Calico Bush by Rachel Field. Set in frontier times, this award-winning book brings to life the bravery, hard work, honesty, and ingenuity that we all aspire to, along with the sad counterpoint of selfish cruelty that we all hope to eradicate.

Parents and older children might also enjoy taking a look at Pass the New Citizenship Test: 100 civics questions and answers, reading and writing exercises  by Angelo Tropea. I know I could use the primer! My second grader and I had fun with the online citizenship test right here.

Here are some of my favorite picture books that will start a big-hearted conversation about citizenship:

The Empty Pot by Demi. Simply told and beautifully illustrated, this story shares the beauty of telling the truth. Everyone wants to win the Emperor's competition: the grower of the most beautiful flower will become the next emperor. But when one boy's seed won't sprout, he learns that bravery and honesty are more important to becoming emperor than a dramatic presentation.



If Everybody Did by Jo Ann Stover. Inspire a thousand giggles while you show kids what a whole society of rule-breakers might look like; be sure to watch the fate of the cat! Citizenship is about everybody doing their part, and this book shows the damage that can happen if everybody did something like "drop tacks" or "make tracks." This is a joke that sticks with kids for a long, long time.




The Old Man who Loved Cheese by Garrison Keiler. Track this one down at the library if you can. This absurd book is about a man who loved stinky cheese so much that he became a public nuisance. Will he be able to change his ways enough to live in society with others? It's great for kids in that stage of loving "gross" humor, and it lends itself to all sorts of conversations about how personal preferences and behaviors can affect others.



Carl the Complainer by Michelle Knudson. As Carl learns to stop complaining and start making change, we are inspired to do the same. Why wait for someone else to fix problems we see in the world?




Woodrow for President by Peter W. Barnes. Woodrow starts his life in public service exactly where my family is starting: with an act of service in the community. From there he moves to a leadership position in his community, then elected office at various levels. Ultimately, he runs for president in a lesson that is good for kids of all ages.