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Helping Kids Write to Their Representatives by Brenda Ponnay for Alphamom.com

Helping Kids Have Their Voices Heard By Our Representatives

By Kelly Wickham Hurst

In the many positions in education that I’ve held I am supposed to hold opinions on things I didn’t know I was supposed to care about until someone would challenge me. That’s been the best part of this career since it challenges my own beliefs and, if I listen closely, brings me into circles where I hadn’t previously cared enough to know I should hold a position. The issues range from my feelings about tenured teachers and policies by which I was to abide (even when I disagreed with them) as well as over-testing students and serving myriad populations of students.

The one that came up while teaching my first year was Civics. Our staff was having a discussion about this now-missing course because we were under new regulations for No Child Left Behind and, since 2001, the assessments we were giving for social studies subjects drastically decreased. It became one of the first classes on the chopping block and if there’s no money for it, there’s no teacher for it and we gave it the axe.

My opinion on that has gotten louder and stronger and I still ask schools, when I visit them, where are your Civics courses? They are, I loathe to admit, still absent. Students aren’t asked to participate in civics education or discuss law or current government events. Instead, many high schools simply have an exit course in senior year for American Government that tends to look backwards and not include current issues.

Yet, we parents still have all the autonomy in the world to encourage our children to become involved. Whether you’re taking your son or daughter to a local protest event (safe for children, of course) or they listen as you contact your representatives, the best mode of getting them involved is using their own voices.

When my own daughter, a precocious and inquisitive 5 year old at the time, asked me what the word “politics” meant I told her they were rules. When I later told her she was too young to understand politics she made me eat my words when she said, “But, I understand RULES, momma.”

Children have an innate desire to be a part of things. (Adults call this FOMO – Fear of Missing Out) They don’t want to go to bed too soon lest they miss some excitement. They certainly don’t want to miss dessert, though they’d happily skip helping with dishes. In the case of being a part of communities, many families make this possible by asking their children to participate in scouts or religious services at their house of worship. Naturally, this begs the question: why aren’t we asking our children to contribute to civic education?

There are easy fixes to this and we have some ideas for you:

1. First, tell you children, in age-appropriate terms, some of the things they are noticing about the world around them, what they’re hearing when they’re away from you, and confirm your family’s beliefs.
2. Watch a trusted, calm, and non-graphic news source with your child that explains the news in a way that your child can handle.
3. Have your child write letters to representatives and those who make the “rules” to tell them how they feel about them.
4. Have your child help you when you contact local, state, and federal representatives so they can hear how adults tell their own stories and are heard.

To that end, we at Alpha Mom created some free postcards that we think are “kid-friendly” that you can download, print and the kids can use to write their representatives. We made them colorful (in message and design) so they’ll grab attention when they arrive in the mail!

Helping Kids Write to Their Representatives (supplies) by Brenda Ponnay for Alphamom.comDownload the Write To Your Representative Postcards by clicking here.

Then print and cut.  Just flip to the back, and use a ruler to divide the card down the middle and separate the address section from the message section since the cards will be blank on the back.

Helping Kids Write to Their Representatives (steps) by Brenda Ponnay for Alphamom.com
Parents, you can help your children find the names and addresses of their representatives online. Here’s a shortcut to find your federal representatives: Who Is My Representative. Personally, I prefer to contact my representatives’ district offices, rather than their DC offices, but that is a personal preference.

Let’s raise the next generation of great citizens!

Fantastic postcards illustrated and photographed by the talented Brenda Ponnay.

About the Author

Kelly Wickham Hurst

Being Black at School

Kelly Wickham Hurst is a social activist who does that work as an educator, as a writer, and as a speaker. After 23 years in the public education system as a teacher, literacy coach, guidance dean...

Kelly Wickham Hurst is a social activist who does that work as an educator, as a writer, and as a speaker. After 23 years in the public education system as a teacher, literacy coach, guidance dean, and assistant principal she launched Being Black at School, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to provide resources for both parents and educators, as well as the Black students themselves, about how they fit into American public education as a system.  Kelly has a combined family that includes 6 adult offspring. Her writing has appeared in Yahoo!, Huffington Post, TueNight and she’s been a guest on NPR. You can follow Kelly at her personal blog Mocha Momma and on Twitter at @mochamomma.

 

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