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Nurturing Early Experiences with Voting and Civic Engagement

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Elzeer, was fond of asking her students “Where’s the fire?” when we rushed through our schoolwork. We were in a hurry to learn to read, learn to draw and learn to write. We were eager to leave the classroom for specials – art, music, library and computers and gym – and especially for some of us, to go outside for recess after lunch. Mrs. Elzeer taught us to slow down and think while completing our work. This was an important skill that we needed in order to make an informed decision that November and cast our ballot for the United States president.

One of the most vivid memories from first grade was voting for the next U.S. president in the classroom mock presidential election. Prior to voting, we learned about elections and the candidates through worksheets and activities. We colored posters of elephants and donkeys, the symbols of the Republican party and the Democratic party, respectively. Everyone was able to participate. We learned every vote counts and were ready to make our informed decisions.

Finally, it was Election Day. Adding to the excitement, our student mock election was held on that year’s United States Presidential Election Day. When it was time, one by one we went up to vote and drop our ballots into the classroom ballot box. Then we proudly paraded around the school, raising our elephant and donkey posters up high, while the parent volunteers tallied the votes.

This November, perhaps the tradition of mock presidential elections will continue for young learners and elementary age students as a way to introduce voting. In addition, the public library offers additional resources to support the introduction of election concepts such as ballot, polling place and democracy.

This year the public library offers the community additional materials through the Life, Liberty + Libraries program. The Life, Liberty + Libraries grant has boosted the public library’s collections of children’s books in English and Spanish that can inspire children to learn more about democracy and civic engagement.

Check out the public library’s expanded collection of democracy and civics books for children in English and Spanish at

To make reading a family affair, there are also titles for young adults and adults. These books and eBooks are available to the community and can help spearhead civic discourse and community connectedness for all residents of Hillsborough County, including our youngest citizens.

Life, Liberty + Libraries offers an opportunity for adults to expand their understanding of the values that built the United States and to water the minds of a new generation so they may grow to value democracy and practice civic engagement within their own communities.

Early experiences with voting can be memorable for children who may have years to wait until reaching the voting age of 18. This fall, the public library can introduce little ones to civic engagement and the values of democracy and increase their knowledge and skills towards making a lifelong difference in the civic life of one’s community. Learn more at

Here are a few children’s democracy and civics books available from the public library at


  • “Friends for Freedom: The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass” by Suzanne Slade and Nicole Tadgell
  • “Sofia Valdez, Future Prez” by Andrea Beatty and David Roberts
  • “The President of the Jungle” by Andre Rodrigues and Larissa Ribeiro
  • “What’s the Big Deal About Elections?” by Ruby Shamir and Mark Faulkner
  • “You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World” by Caroline Paul and Lauren Tamaki

*All photos provided by Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library

Funding for the Life, Liberty + Libraries program was provided through a grant from the Florida Humanities with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Florida Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

About the Author: Cheryl Wolfe is an Administrative Librarian with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library. In her public library career she has held a variety of positions including managing a regional library and coordinating the library’s web presence. Cheryl also loves to spend time with her two daughters, husband, and puppy.



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