Encouraging Early Political Engagement: I Have the Right to Be a Child

 

Early political engagement is a hot button topic for a number of us here at Politics ReSpun. As parents and/or political animals, we spend a lot of time  contemplating methods of public engagement that would draw youth into political culture, and foster both interest and comprehension of sociopolitical events. Apathy and disinterest are rampant in our culture, and the prevailing trend of co-mingling pop culture and celebrity in corporate controlled news media is daunting.

Is political engagement and activism a product of nature or nurture?

Are those of us who prefer to spend our afternoons yelling at CPAC or CSPAN indoctrinated as children, or are we simply born this way?

Why is the evening of a federal election even more exciting than Christmas Day for me, when my partner would rather that politics and all things that reek of them, simply vanish from the Earth?

In talking to people who are deeply interested in politics and activism, there are several key features in what ignites engagement at a young age:

      1. Development of empathy and concern: Helping the child develop a sense of oneness and understanding of an issue or event, and relating to it at their level of life experience, emotional maturity and comprehension.
      2. Assistance navigating political perspective: Discussing with the child what it is that you believe, and what others around you believe, and what various subjects involved believe.
      3. Alignment on the political spectrum: Explain the political spectrum, and what various ideologies exist and what they stand for. Encourage the child to find one they agree with. Identify where you fall on the spectrum.
      4. Tangible content/experience: Child-sized information resources, developed with them in mind {videos, books, activities } and active participation in events {elections, accompanying you in voting station, rallies}
While there seems to be a dearth of resources for kids that specifically focus on children engaging politically, I stumbled across a fantastic book at the Winnipeg Public Library a few weeks back.  “I Have the Right to Be a Child” by Alain Serres, is a beautifully illustrated and poetic take on the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. 
 

I sat down with my 5 and 7-year-old daughters, and we read through it together, and it sparked some tremendous discourse on rights, who has them, who doesn’t, and why. My eldest daughter was very upset when she learned that USA is one of  3 nations that are in the UN but have not signed off on the Convention, along with Somalia and South Sudan. My younger daughter couldn’t believe that there were places where girls don’t have the right to go to school, simply because they are girls, or that they often have to go to work daily, at a very young age. I was very impacted by the page that tackles human trafficking and child sex, which was written so simply, yet induced righteous indignation and tears. When we wrapped up the discussion, both of them were keen to write letters and actively lobby the US government to get on with it, and recognize the Convention.

I appreciate that Alain Serres was able to tackle a topic like the UN Convention of the Rights of a Child, and turn it into an absorbing and thought-provoking parenting exercise. Resources like this are too few and far between.

Should you have a little one, or simply want to have a quick over-view of the Convention, I Have the Right to Be a Child is available on YouTube. I encourage you to take three minutes to sit back, listen and watch.

 

 

 

 

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Tia is a mystery, wrapped in an enigma and covered in a crunchy candy coating of genuine British Columbian snark. She is currently exiled to Winnipeg for an unknown duration of time.

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