Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: We the Kids

The Constitution of the United States of America is one of the most important documents in our country’s history. It currently resides in a museum, people write books about it, and some of the most important people in our history helped write it and sign it. Why is it then that most kids do not understand a single word of the document? We the Kids by David Catrow has one line per page of the phrases of the Preamble to the Constitution and a full page at the beginning explaining each phrase. Catrow explains the fourth phrase of the preamble with short words in kid friendly terms: “Insure domestic tranquility: To make sure we can all have a nice life and get along with one another.”

Also serving as the illustrator, Catrow uses kids, as well as a dog, to illustrate the phrases. Catrow explains at the beginning of the book that the dog’s motions and gestures represent the phrases on each page. The pictures are beautifully hand drawn and exhibit exactly what kids would think of according to the definitions. It is a colorful book, with lots of diversity, fun images, and a cartoon feel that makes U.S. history seem more real and interesting than “an old, brown crackly-looking thing with curly handwriting that’s almost impossible to read,” according to Catrow.

Curriculum Connections
We the Kids
is a great source for learning about the preamble to the United States Constitution. It is a great introduction to the Constitution in general or any other ancient document that students may learn about (Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, etc.). It is a great introduction to the learning of government and primary sources vs. secondary sources. In Virginia this book coincides with SOLs CE.1, CE.2, CE.3, USI.1, and CE.1.

Additional Resources

  • The American Revolution is a great site that includes activities and quizzes through every step of the Revolutionary War, including the meetings of the Continental Congress and the construction of the American flag.

  • We the Kids is a site that includes a video about the preamble to the Constitution, activities for pre- and post-viewing as well as questions and objectives in learning about the preamble.

  • Constitution Day has a list of books, movies, and interesting facts for all ages about the Constitution for September 17 (which is Constitution Day).

Book:We the Kids
Author/Illustrator:
David Catrow
Publisher: Dial
Publication Date:
2002
Pages: 32 pages
Grades:
K-5
ISBN:
0803725531