Tuesday, January 21, 2014

5 Ways to Increase Kids' Civic Engagement

Keep holiday/event appropriate books, music, and art around the house so they can explore it.  For Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I pull out some books specific to MLK and then a few books with broader information about Civil Rights to give my kids' context.  A wonderful picture book on Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech is the picture book illustrated by Kefir Nelson.  The illustrations are beautiful, and the excerpts chosen from the speech are easy for little ones to understand.

Talk about history and relate it to them personally. Talk with kids about what was going on in history during certain events and how that would have affected their lives if they had been living at that time.  A great example in our own family is that I am biracial. So, when sharing with my kids about Civil Rights, I talk about the difficulties they might have faced because of discrimination against black people, and also specifically how that might have affected someone multiracial.  This gives kids context and helps them to understand the significance of history as it relates to them personally.

Embrace your own culture and community.  Talk with your kids about your heritage and why you participate in certain traditions or routines as a family.  In my family, my great grandfather was part of the Civil Rights movement and took direction from Dr. King in communicating with his congregation about the latest boycott.  In Lucas' family his grandparents were children of the dustbowl and experienced considerable economic hardship and discrimination.   Telling kids stories of your heritage and how their ancestors overcame hardship helps them to recognize they, too, can be a part of a bigger story and, that they can make a positive difference in their community if they choose to.

Talk about history and how it relates to current events.  What civil rights struggles are ongoing?  What would Dr. King think of our nation and our world if he were living today?  What is justice?  What is injustice and what are some examples you can see of each in our nation and in our world?  These are questions that even young kids can think about and answer.  They may not answer with information about wars or international conflicts, but you'll be shocked to discover that they can recognize bullying and hatred on their own schoolyards.  And, they can relate those experiences back to summoning courage and doing the right thing.

Engage in learning activities.  For MLK day I took my older daughters to assemble disaster relief packages to be distributed to families in need around the world.  While we were there, we discussed how service and helping others were two important messages of Dr. King's.

Celebrating a special person in history on a national holiday is just one of the ways you can increase civic engagement in kids.  So, get started today.  Educate yourself and your kids about all the wonderful ways they could be contributing to their neighborhood, their community, and their world.

And on the subject of how even children can make a big impact on their community, I love this video.  Which shares the story of how just a small group of children can change an entire community and the course of history for their small town.  I love it and you will, too.  Watch in NOW.

No comments:

Post a Comment