Talking to Kids About Voting – Columbus Parent

It’s never too early to teach children about democracy.

It was 2004, Democrat John Kerry had just lost the U.S. presidential race to Republican George W. Bush, and a group of students at Columbus Alternative High School was taking the news hard.

“We were demoralized,” remembers Shannon Hardin, who’s now president of Columbus City Council but then was a junior at CAHS and had worked to elect Kerry.

Social studies teacher Sarah Thornburg, however, wouldn’t let them wallow in their disappointment. “What can you do to make this better?” she asked them. Within months, they found a way.

They created Youth at the Booth, a plan to recruit 17-year-olds as poll workers to lighten the load at polling places and give high school seniors real-life experience with elections. Hardin and his classmates researched similar programs, gathered signatures of support and convinced Joyce Beatty, then a state representative, to introduce legislation to set the project in motion.

Youth at the Booth still exists, helping older Ohio students understand the importance of being engaged in voting and elections. But younger children need to learn that lesson, too, and it begins at home.

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Parents might wonder where to begin talking about civic responsibility and elections, particularly given the current political rancor pervading the country and social media. But it doesn’t have to be complicated—especially for younger children, who benefit more from understanding the right