3 Points To Cover When Talking To Children About The Importance Of Voting

As we enter the months leading up to the Presidential election in November, with caucuses, primaries, and debates in between, it is important to sit down with the children in our lives and let them know why it is important to cast votes for the candidates of our choice.

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The hope of every parent is that their children will have a better life than they had. Exposing them to the realities of history might instill in them a desire to change conditions through the political process. We must let them know that there was a time in this country when black people did not have the same rights as white people. Only by being frank with our children can the world change.

Life is meant to move forward. If children have no sense of history, mistakes of the past will be repeated.

This brings me to the three points:

  1. Talk about history – Until the late 1960’s the constitutions of seven Southern states had ‘educational’ requirements which were specifically designed to prevent black citizens from exercising the right to vote. Registrars had complete freedom to reject any answer as incorrect. Several Southern states also enacted poll taxes, which had to be paid before voting. These taxes kept many black people and poor white people from voting.

2.  Discuss tactics currently used to keep African-Americans and Hispanics from voting.

Some of these tactics are:

  •  Changing Polling Locations
  •  Eliminating Early Voting Days
  •  Reducing the Number of Polling Places
  •  Voter ID Laws
  •  Attacks on Groups that Register Voters

3.  Read and discuss a book for children that deal with voting, such as Granddaddy’s Gift. This is a story that teaches children that just one person with a little courage can change their world.

Granddaddy’s Gift takes place in the South during the 1960’s. It is the story of a man who is respected in his town and has a very good life. He owns his own farm, grows food for the family, and takes good care of his family. He raises livestock and harvests crops. But even though Granddaddy has a good life he realizes that there is something else to strive for, like having the rights that all citizens are entitled to, such as the right to vote.

One evening Granddaddy attends a meeting where people are asked to volunteer to register to vote. No one volunteers at first. Then Granddaddy raises his hand. He volunteers to be the first black person in town to try to register to vote, even though great harm can come to him.

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Although Granddaddy is not permitted to register to vote when he goes to the courthouse, bad things begin to happen. His name is printed in the newspaper as a warning to other black people who might try to register to vote. The local co-op will not sell him feed for his livestock anymore. In addition, his family is ostracized by other black people.

But Granddaddy does not give up. He studies for the test on the U.S. Constitution for several weeks. When he goes to the courthouse again, he passes the test and becomes a registered voter.

A big celebration is scheduled that night at a church to celebrate his accomplishment. As Granddaddy and his family arrive at the celebration they see big flames shooting into the night sky. Someone has set the church on fire. But instead of driving people apart, the fire brings the community together. And more people volunteer to register to vote.

The story ends with:

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“On my eighteenth birthday, when I went to register to vote, Granddaddy came with me. I didn’t have to take a test on the constitution. I just had to fill out a card with my name, address, and date of birth. Now I could vote and make my own voice heard.

Granddaddy had taught me to stand up for things, even if I was scared, and always to be proud. His gift never left me.

At the top of the courthouse steps, Granddaddy took my hand. We had come a long way. We still had a long way to go.”

Granddaddy’s Gift is loosely based on my grandfather and the importance he placed on voting. When I reached voting age, my grandfather took me to the courthouse to register to vote.

Open a dialogue with your children and share your experiences with voting. Discuss the voting process with them. Answer their questions. It will be a learning experience for them and a reminder to you about the importance of voting.

For further information: Granddaddy’s Gift

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Expanding Beyond My Comfort Zone

I jumped off the cliff!

Last year I did something I had always wanted to do. I published my first novel for adult readers, Woman In The Pulpit.

This decision was accompanied by much anxiety, fear, trepidation, and all other emotions that are present when we step outside our comfort zone.

Since my lane, so to speak, is books for children, I expanded slowly. First I wrote a novel for teens, which was published. As a result of taking this step into something new I was invited to appear on panels at book festivals. I enjoyed the experiences and open doors that my YA novel enabled me to enter.

I loved interacting with teens and getting their feedback. They completely identified with the characters in the book and the situations they encountered. They especially identified with the mask people show to the world that everything is okay. As the students in the book, real life students could name situations in their lives when they carried on as usual even though a crisis was occurring that turned their lives upside down.

After swinging my feet off the cliff with my teen novel, The People In The Park, I didn’t want to stop there.

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I had projects I’d been working on but kept tinkering and revising.

My novel, Woman In The Pulpit, was sitting on the shelf daring me to step out into the unknown. I picked it up and put it down many times.  My inner warring voices fought it out. “Put it out there,” said one voice. “No, don’t,” said the other. “Send it to agents and publishers,” said a voice. “No, not yet,” the other voice said.  Back and forth they went. The conversation usually ended with me putting it back on the shelf.

After looking at the manuscript way too many times, I finally decided I didn’t want to answer the  ‘What if?’ question years from now.

So I steeled my nerves and went to the edge of the cliff. I closed my eyes. And jumped! Into the unknown!

Oh my! It was scary!

When Woman In The Pulpit was published I had three weeks of travel scheduled with my other books.  My trips kept me busy and kept my mind from focusing on what was happening with my newly published book.

Imagine my surprise when I returned home and received a notice that Woman In The Pulpit was on the Hot New Releases list!

I exhaled. And opened my eyes. This was going to work.

During the months since the publication of Woman In The Pulpit many new doors have opened: Speaking to women’s groups, church groups, and book clubs.

I am especially delighted when women in ministry tell me that the book is spot on and illustrates their experiences.

I love all the reviews the book has received. I especially like this one:

“Woman In The Pulpit has it all – humor, drama, love, romance, suspense, tragedy, betrayal, redemption, and some incredible spiritual insights.”

Jumping of the cliff into the unknown reminded me that we shouldn’t be afraid to go after our dreams. In jumping off the cliff I sprouted wings to fly.

I still have other goals and dreams. I’m climbing a mountain this year! Another one of those ‘What if?’ questions. I’m not broadcasting what it is. But this time next year I’ll let you know what happened.

Until then… Don’t be afraid to jump off your cliff.

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To Purchase:  Woman In The Pulpit

The Voting Rights Act

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Today marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. Let’s not forget what life was like before President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. Various tactics, like poll taxes and literacy tests, were used to deny black people the right to vote. Following is an excerpt from Granddaddy’s Gift which demonstrates the problems  African-Americans encountered when they went to register to vote.

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The next day Granddaddy rode into town and parked his truck in front of the courthouse. He walked like he was going somewhere, the way he always did. As usual, I was right behind him.

He went into one of the offices and told the lady behind the counter that he wanted to register to vote.

The lady went into the back room and came back with a man. “Well now, Joe,” the man said. “You see, there is this test you have to take on the Mississippi constitution. It’s hard, real hard. You’re doing all right, Joe. Just be satisfied with what you have.”

Granddaddy left the office. I turned and walked after him, my head hanging down. I didn’t want to look at Granddaddy’s face, because I knew he felt bad, too.

He waited for me at the top of the courthouse steps. He took my hand. “Daughter,” he said, “Hold your head up high. We have done nothing wrong.”

Granddaddy told me there was something important to strive for in addition to the good things we had. There were some things that made a person feel good inside, like having the rights we were all entitled to as citizens of these United States.

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For more information about Granddaddy’s Gift visit: Granddaddy’s Gift