Today in the UK we’re going to the polls… again. This election has been fraught with disagreements and accusations, as we’re stuck as a country still trying to sort out Brexit one way or another. My job on Childtastic is not to be political, so I won’t be, beyond encouraging those who are eligible and able to vote to do so; not everyone in the world is as lucky to live in a democracy, even if we at times doubt that some of our processes are very democratic.
Recently in the Library, we’ve had children interested in finding out more about politics, which is always an excellent thing! I’ve been putting one book in particular into their hands: Politics for Beginners by Alex Frith, Rose Hore and Louie Stowell, illustrated by Kellan Stover, and published by Usborne. Political experts: Dr Hugo Drochon and Dr Daniel Viehoff.
When I put this on the shelves, it was picked up immediately. Many pupils, seeing the cover, said that many of the adults and politicians in this country should be reading it to remind themselves of what politics is – and isn’t. I suppose in the frantic run-up to this election, we have had an excellent opportunity to open up explanations and debates on politics and to get children interested and that can only be a good thing.
In this book, the authors and experts have simplified the political processes and ideologies that exist now and used to exist. I found it incredibly useful in that it sets out quite complex ideas in understandable and interesting terms. There was no political bias in this, either: where the authors have talked about beliefs and rules, they have balanced these equally on their pros and cons. Additionally, they have looked at how and why people vote in certain ways, and this is very important. In a democracy, we might not like how some people think but we need to respect that everyone is entitled to an opinion.
Some of the most useful aspects of the book for me, especially today, were the pages on the UK’s system – the idea that the first past the post wins, and why some people think Proportional Representation (PR) is better and more democratic. This argument has been in the news a lot lately, especially since many people feel that their vote might not make a difference. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow holds for us and how this affects the future of politics. Some parties are campaigning for a change in the system to PR and I wonder if that could be on the cards in years to come.
Towards the back of the book, the authors have helpfully included a section entitled Big Questions. These are the more specific issues that often influence the way people vote, eg: war, foreign aid, terrorism, prison and immigration. Particularly relevant nowadays, too, is the spread on how the media affects politics. It’s always essential to remember that most people writing have a reason behind their words – we’re all human and it is hard to be impartial. In some media outlets, the bias is obvious but in others it might not be so evident.
The illustrations work well with the words to make the concepts easy to follow and understand. The layout is very user-friendly and helps guide the reader through the page and the ideas explored. I would say this could be a useful addition to any or every household – and encourage adults to read this as much as children!