Happy Constitution Day! For those of us who live in the United States, it has been 215 years to the day since our founding fathers signed the U.S. Constitution. To celebrate, here are some fantastic picture books to share with kids to teach them about the U.S. Constitution. This entire week — September 17th through September 21st — is Constitution Week. I have selected a picture book or two to read aloud each day.
Monday: Why write a Constitution?
We the Kids by David Catrow. A solid choice for kicking off a U.S. Constitution unit. The text of We the Kids is simply the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. David Catrow’s illustrations are humorous and useful for initiating a discussion about what the words in the preamble to the Constitution mean. If I were using this book to teach kids about the preamble to the Constitution, I might begin by reading Catrow’s engaging introduction and then read through the book twice — the first time straight through and the second time pausing on each page to discuss the meaning of the words and illustrations. Ages 5+
Tuesday: The Constitutional Convention
We the People: The Story of Our Constitution by Lynne Cheney and Greg Harlin. We the People features beautiful illustrations and tells the tale of how the U.S. Constitution was written. Lynn Cheney explains why delegates gathered to write a Constitution, provides great character sketches of several of the founding fathers, and discusses the main issues the founding fathers grappled with at the constitutional convention. We the People includes some advanced vocabulary and is thus a better choice for upper elementary school kids or kids who have already been introduced to the topic. Ages 8+
A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy Maestro and Giulio Maestro. Here is a second, excellent choice for those looking for a picture book that tells the story of how the U.S. Constitution was written. A More Perfect Union provides a very clear introduction to the constitutional convention and the U.S. Constitution. The endnotes of A More Perfect Union include a summary of the articles of the Constitution, a summary of the first ten Constitutional amendments (i.e. the Bill of Rights), a timeline of important dates and more. Ages 6+
Wednesday: Events Surrounding the Constitutional Convention
George Did It by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain and Larry Day. In this wonderful and extremely engaging story, Jurmain describes George Washington’s reticence to become the first president of the United States. Jurmain sneaks in quite a bit of information about the events surrounding the writing of the U.S. Constitution without interrupting the flow of the story. Ages 6+
Thursday: Three Branches of Government
My Senator and Me by Edward Kennedy and David Small. In My Senator and Me, Senator Edward Kennedy tells a story about himself working to pass an education reform bill from the perspective of his dog Splash. My Senator and Me succeeds both in entertaining kids and introducing them to what Congress is and what congressmen and congresswomen do. It includes enough details about Splash’s antics to entertain and not too many to distract kids from following the story about what is happening to the education bill. Kennedy teamed up with a wonderful illustrator — David Small — whose illustrations of Kennedy, Splash and other congressmen and congresswomen are fantastic! Ages 5+
Friday: Constitutional Amendments
Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson. The true story of a man Henry “Box” Brown who, born a slave, had himself packed in a box and mailed North to freedom. The story of Brown’s life as a slave, brought to life by Kadir Nelson’s rich illustrations, is heartbreaking. Henry’s Freedom Box can be used to help teach kids about slavery and the 13th Amendment’s abolition of slavery. Ages 6+
Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone. The biography of an inspiring figure in the Women’s Suffrage Movement: Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In this biography, Stone describes Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s early recognition that women were not being treated fairly under the law and explains the origins of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Elizabeth Leads the Way can be used to help teach kids about the right to vote and the 19th Amendment’s prohibition against denying women the right to vote. Ages 6+
The National Constitution Center is a great resource for educators teaching kids about the U.S. Constitution.