The Importance of Teaching Civics to Our Children

What are our privileges, rights and duties as citizens in our democracy?  As a Christian, a lawyer and former judge, I believe that children should be taught more about civics so that they grow up with the knowledge of what our democracy entails and actively participate in our government. 

I have heard many judges from all over the United States lament the fact that people do not want to serve on juries.  It is like pulling teeth to have people serve. Yet, jury duty is a very important part of our civic duty.  Did you know that?

In an op-ed dated February 11, 2019 in the LA Times online, retired teacher Sandy Asper wrote about what she believed was the need to teach children not only social studies, but also a separate course about civics – what a good citizen should know and do.  She argued that just teaching children facts, such as when the U. S. Constitution was written and why it was written, is not enough to give them a full understanding of citizenship.   She wrote:

“It is incredibly important that students learn that what they think matters, and how to determine what they think by researching and learning.  It’s critical that they understand the importance of taking action and learning how to do it. It’s crucial to our country that students learn how to communicate; how to write letters, text, call, march, take part in elections, join, organize. In other words, they learn how to become an actual citizen.”

I couldn’t agree more with Ms. Asper’s view.  Moreover, I would add other subjects to teach within civics such as how our government is set up with 3 branches – executive, judicial and legislative - both nationally and locally,  and the important duty of serving on a jury. 

To raise children who are active in their community, we must teach them the importance of what it means to be a citizen.  Only then will we have more participation in what our government does and what it looks like.

Be Sure To Celebrate the Week of the Young Child: April 16-20, 2018

Every year, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrates young children and learning, and this week April 16-20, 2018 is dedicated to just that.  According to the NAEYC, the reason that a week is set aside annually is “to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs.”

Local communities throughout the United States hold events for the celebration.  Events vary from a fun hat day to an ice cream social, a parade in a school and even a trip to the mayor’s office.   Importantly, the focus is on young children learning.

In the U. S. Virgin Islands where I live, I always participate in some way.  This year, I will be visiting an elementary school.  I have been asked to read a local  story to children and join in a special hat parade. 

Where ever you reside, please consider volunteering your time and talents to make this a special time for children in your area.  Whenever I visit a classroom or school to participate in an activity, I find that the children are always excited to have a special visitor who thinks they are important.  I am certain that it will be a blessing for you too, as it is for me!

At the Beginning of a New Year, Start a Children’s Book Club to Promote Reading

Book clubs are usually regarded as reserved only for parents.  A typical scene is adults gathered in the living room, sipping on a beverage, and talking about that exciting scene in their last read.  However, book clubs can be much more than that, especially for children.  These clubs give their members the opportunity to encourage each other in reading (and  all the benefits that come along with it); collectively immerse themselves into their book’s reality, leaving their own behind if only for a moment; and make new friends along with strengthen existing friendships.

Children already have such vivid imaginations and what better way to develop creativity than through books.  The idea of a club may not initially seem exciting to them, but gear your ‘pitch’ toward one of their favorite things.  For example, if they love robots, suggest some futuristic novels about artificial intelligence.

Filling the club with your children’s friends is a surefire way of making it more enjoyable.  There are several issues that need to be taken into consideration in planning, such as book genres to read and discuss, as well as convenient schedules and locations.  Be flexible as book clubs are not obligated to center around one theme.  At the start of a new club, have your children choose one or two books of their liking and then discuss with the other members of the group and their parents what types of books they would like to read.

Hosting the club once every two weeks or more makes scheduling easier and gives the children the opportunity to make reasonable headway on their reading assignment. Remember - it is unlikely that this is the club members’ only extramural activity, so discuss their existing schedules with their parents to come up with the best schedule and time for the meetings. When there actually are meetings, have a plan as to what should be accomplished in each session. They can discuss their favorite characters, make chapter/book predictions, relate the novel to an aspect of their lives, or act out their favorite scene.  The possibilities are endless!  Be prepared and organized so that the sessions run smoothly and children are encouraged to return.

It is critical that you find a good location for the meetings. Club meetings should be hosted in a convenient location and have enough space to seat everyone comfortably, including parents who may want to sit at a distance and listen. Perhaps rotating among members’ homes would be acceptable.

A further encouragement for your children’s participation would be having another “fun” activity planned afterwards that they can all look forward to.  For example, they can participate in the book club meeting and then go to the movies together. 

Reading is fundamental and book clubs can make it fun, too! You can find many of suggestions on PBS.org and SheKnows.com.