Kids Voting Minneapolis

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I spent Election Day afternoon handing out kids’ ballots and I Voted stickers to the kids at my polling place.  It was pretty quiet, but the kids who did cast ballots in the Kids Voting Minneapolis mock election seemed so proud to be voting just like their parents that I couldn’t help but be glad I was there.

According to Kids Voting Minneapolis, about 50% of young people grow up in non-voting households like I did.  I didn’t vote at all until I was in my late twenties, and, as someone who is new to voting, I can tell you that it is intimidating to vote for the first time.  That is exactly why I wanted to volunteer with Kids Voting.  The goal of the organization is to de-mystify the process for kids in an effort to foster an engaged electorate when they grow up.  I believe in this wholeheartedly.

It is important to me that my daughter knows that we are a voting household.  We pay attention to politics, and we participate in elections.  She is growing up in a household in which politics are frequently discussed and debated.  Even so, I realized this year that she had never accompanied us to the polling place.  We’d always voted while she was at school or otherwise occupied as a matter of convenience.  That changed this year.  All three of us cast ballots together this year, and I hope that this is a new tradition will continue for a long time.

voteI also took the opportunity to share more about the election process with my six-year-old with the book Vote! by Eileen Christelow, which I was delighted to learn was actually inspired by Minnesota’s high voter turnout and early voter education!  It is a fun picture book that follows a small town mayoral race from the dog’s eye view.  It covers a lot of information, and it would be perfect for a second or third grade classroom.  For fourth and fifth grade classrooms, try America Votes by Linda Granfield, which even mentions the Kids Voting organization along with the note that “Statistics show that the Kids Voting program actually increases parent voter turnout by nearly five percent.”

Increasing voter turnout? Getting to see the pride of participation?  Encouraging a new generation of civic involvement? These are all great reasons to make volunteering with Kids Voting Minneapolis an Election Day tradition as well.

Let’s vote for kids

Kids FirstI vote for kids.  I’ve seen the bumper stickers.  I’ve even wanted to sport one (though I am car-free), but I’ve also wondered what exactly it meant.  Then an ARC of David L. Kirp’s Kids First came across my desk.  I could not resist reading it.  And, I must admit, I could not resist being caught up in its vision.  Here is the kids first agenda as laid out by Kirp (who, by the way, is a professor at UC Berkeley):

  • Give new parents strong support.
  • Provide high-quality early education.
  • Link schools and communities to improve what both offer children.
  • Provide mentors to youngsters who need a stable, caring adult in their lives.
  • Give kids a nest egg that helps pay for college or kick-start a career.

Kirp points out so many success stories from Head Start to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I’d like to point out a a success story here in the Twin Cities.  Bright Water Montessori School is the only nationally accredited preschool in North Minneapolis, and the first on the northside to recieve a 4-star rating from ParentAware.  Bright Water is committed to North Minneapolis–to promoting peace in the, often very unpeaceful, neighborhood.  My daughter attended Bright Water’s preschool program for a year, and we were thrilled with the education she received.  I was continually impressed with the passion and commitment from the staff and the other parents.  They are doing great things there, and I am pleased that my family was able to be part of it.

Learn more about this great school, and what it is doing for North Minneapolis, in this video:

“Excellent education doesn’t just happen in the suburbs or in South Minneapolis.  It can happen anywhere.” –Ann Luce