Why is it important for kids to learn about the Constitution?
In the words of Juliette Turner, former Youth Advocate for Constituting America and author of Our Constitution Rocks! “It is of utmost importance for kids, the future generation of America, to understand the relevancy of our Constitution, the law of the land. It is America's road map and guide, written without reverence, and without a working knowledge of it, we will lose our country.”
“The Constitution is a necessity to control the selfish nature of human beings,” offers professor of political science and author, Douglas A. Van Belle, in his book, A Novel Approach to Politics, Introducing Political Science through Books, Movies, and Popular Culture.
I rather prefer and have come to believe another viewpoint argued by Thomas Jefferson, that “humankind is ultimately good in nature.” Under the details set forth within the Constitution, it was determined that in situations where abuse of power should arise, no matter which branch of government, those holding positions of power would ultimately be “kept in check” by the people.
Creating a Government
In creating and debating the Constitution, America’s Founding Fathers had to find a perfect formula for freedom—a balance between democracy and a republic. The Founders wanted absolute freedom, they wanted the states to be united, and they wanted the people to have inalienable rights.
The Framers wanted a government with checks and balances that didn’t prohibit the people. To establish their purpose, the opening of the Constitution, known as the Preamble, summarizes what the Constitution is meant to accomplish, and also who we are and what we stand for as a country. As I write I’m singing the Schoolhouse Rock song in my head:
“We the People, of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.” -Preamble, US Constitution (and Schoolhouse Rock)
At the time, use of the words “We the People” was revolutionary and had never been heard before.
The Constitution also guarantees We the People a voice in government through Voting Rights. Our ability to vote serves as a way for us to use our voices as well as a “check” on government. Free elections are KEY to our established form of government, and children need to be taught from a young age, “Your voice matters,” and, “Never let anyone tell you that your voice doesn’t matter.”
Books on the Constitution and Revolutionary War:
Patriots, Redcoats and Spies, American Revolutionary War Adventures Series Book 1, By father son team, Robert J. Skead and Robert E. Skead, Knox Press BFYR, 2020, $13, 9781682619599
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction, Adventure, Based on Real Events, The Culper Spy Ring, George Washington, The Revolutionary War
I love knowing more on the stories behind the story, and the way these books came about, as a father son team, is truly inspirational. On writing the American Revolutionary War Adventure series, author Rob Skead says the best part about writing besides working with his father was “becoming a teenage spy living in 1777. I suddenly imagined being a child transported back in time and going on an adventure with George Washington,” said Skead. Based on the Culper Spy Ring, Patriot Lamberton Clark is shot by British soldiers while on a mission for the Continental Army. He has only two hopes of getting the secret message he is carrying to General George Washington: his 14-year-old twin sons John and Ambrose. Upon discovering their father is a spy, the boys accept their mission without a clue. All they know is the letter they carry is from Culper Jr., written in invisible ink, they must trust no one, and the letter needs to be placed in the hands of General Washington—fast. They set off from Connecticut to New Jersey to find him, but the road to the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army is full of obstacles. Also recommend for boys and reluctant readers.
Submarines, Secrets and a Daring Rescue: American Revolutionary War Adventures Series Book 2, By Robert J. Skead and Robert A. Skead, Knox Press BFYR, $13, 2020, 9781682619605
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction, Adventure, Submarines, The American Turtle
Fifteen-year-old twins Ambrose and John Clark find themselves in service of the newly forming United States of America. Their new mission is to help transport much-needed gunpowder to the patriots, but they end up in an even more dangerous situation—manning one of the first submarines—the American Turtle, a secret invention financed by General George Washington to give the Continentals an upper hand in the fight for liberty. What else could go wrong? Then they have to attempt a prison break to rescue their older brother…
Links to Liberty: Defending the Great Chain at West Point: American Revolutionary War Adventures Series Book 3
By Robert J. Skead and Robert A. Skead, October 2021, Knox Press BFYR, $13, 9781682619940
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction, Adventure, West Point, Revolutionary War
In this third book in the American Revolutionary War Adventures series, John and Ambrose Clark are hot on the trail of the spy who gave away the secret of their father’s mission, which ultimately led to him being shot by Redcoats. But when there is an attack on America’s new strategic defense on the Hudson River—the Great Chain at West Point—the twins must protect it. They soon discover things are not as they seem, and their friends have deadly connections. Discover how the boys’ faith in Providence and each other help the cause for Liberty!
The Drum of Destiny: Gabriel Cooper & the Road to Revolution, A Gabriel Cooper Story, Book 1, By Chris Stevenson, Knox Press BFYR, 2020, $13, Ages 8-12, 9781682619551
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction, Adventure, Revolutionary War
At the dawn of the American Revolution, twelve-year-old orphan, Gabriel Cooper, journeys from New York to Boston along the Post Road, to join the fight for freedom. He dodges Tories, overcomes sickness, and learns the perils of being a patriot. An orphaned patriot stuck living in a house of British loyalists, Gabriel Cooper finds a discarded drum in the East River, he sees it as a call to leave his home and join the American colonists’ fight for freedom. With details and descriptions that subtly show readers the time, perfect for boys and girls ages 8-12, as the adventure and difficult journey are sure to keep readers absorbed and wanting more.
The Cannon of Courage: Gabriel Cooper & the Noble Train of Artillery, A Gabriel Cooper Story, Book 2, By Chris Stevenson
Knox Press BFYR, 2020, $13, Ages 8-12, 9781682619575
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction, Adventure, Revolutionary War
As the Winter of 1775 approaches, the British have taken up residence in Boston. The fledgling Continental Army appears powerless to drive the redcoats back to England. Young Gabriel Cooper, a new aide-de-camp to General Washington, is learning the rigors of army life when he is called upon to journey with Henry Knox to retrieve Fort Ticonderoga’s cannon. Nearly sixty cannons must be sledded through New England’s winter wilderness back to Cambridge. The journey, filled with challenges, will be a daring trek across hundreds of miles to retrieve the one thing that can drive the British from Boston: a cannon! A survival adventure story guaranteed to keep readers turning pages, showing a courageous journey and yet another excellent showing of the time period as well as the Revolutionary War.
Our Constitution Rocks, by Juliette Turner
Zondervan, 2014, $15.99, Ages 8+, 9780310732415
Genre: Nonfiction, American History, Constitution, Founding Fathers, Humor
Written by a teen for teens, when Our Constitution Rocks! came to me, I said I was the perfect editor for this book. Starting out as a collection of 90 essays, author Juliette Turner instead wrote a book able to present the Constitution in an entirely new way, clause by clause, bringing it to life and explaining it for a new generation. In a nonpartisan approach, this book has succeeded in making the Constitution relevant to a new generation. As a teenager, Turner says, “I accept and understand that our attention span is about five seconds.” So she broke each clause into sections such as The Bottom Line, What Were They Thinking? Why Should I Care, and What Has It Done for Me lately?, plus fun tidbits on the Founding Fathers, quotes, and “Debates,” including actual words used during discussions, interpreted and explained by the author. As editor and contributor, I consider this book to be a career highlight.
The Constitution Decoded, A Guide to the Document That Shapes Our Nation, By Katie Kennedy, illustrated by Ben Kirchner, Workman Publishing, 2020, $19.95, Ages 10-14, 9781523510443
Genre: Juvenile Nonfiction, Constitution, Founding Fathers, American History
Another highly recommended, recently-released, graphically-illustrated book for middle grade and teen readers. With interactive pages throughout, this book is sure to engage readers as they learn about the ever-needed topic of the Constitution and its creation. This could technically be labeled as a picture book for older readers, and due to its graphic layout, use of sidebars, and callout boxes featuring quotes and fun facts, those who have grown up with devices in hand will want to continue turning the pages while absorbing the information.
About Kim Childress:
An award-winning editor and author of hundreds of books for children and their adults including Find Your Future in Art, Kim Childress is a product developer in children’s publishing, book editor for Girls’ Life magazine since its 1994 debut; former middle grade acquisitions editor for Zondervan, an imprint of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, who has maintained a successful career while raising a personal focus group of four children through diapers, doctors, broken bones, college, and plagues. Learn more and follow the adventures at ChildressInk.com.