Recounts are in, votes are confirmed, and Pete the Cat has been voted as library patrons’ favorite character! For a month, from the beginning of October through Election Day, the Youth Department at the Knox County Public Library was the host of a closely-contested election between Pete the Cat and Peppa Pig.
As you might have seen on the library’s Facebook page, or here in the pages of the Sun-Commercial, this included a full voting setup for kids to cast their ballot. We had a large table wrapped in white floral sheeting — fittingly leftover from a July 4 parade float — and topped with material from both candidates. Voters could step into a homemade voting booth complete with levers and lights to select their choice. After voting, we had “I Voted” stickers for the kids and campaign buttons so that they could proudly display that they had done their civic duty.
This program was so much fun for us at the library. From the very first day, factions formed among the staff, and the front desk made sure every child remembered to vote. We heard so many amazing stories as parents and their children came in to vote. The voting booth offered kids a chance for in depth, hands-on learning unlike anything else. It also offered parents the opportunity to discuss voting with their children in a fun, natural way. We overheard so many stories of parents explaining how and where they vote on Election Day. Many visitors also mentioned how they had taken their children with them to vote.
Another major part of our election was our Explorer’s Club program. This program is a monthly event aimed at early elementary age children live streamed on Facebook. This month, we hosted a special guest, Vanessa Purdom from the League of Women Voters and author of “The Caramel Apple Election.” Purdom was a wonderful guest and discussed a number of topics with us for our families. We discussed the history of voting, mentioning that this year is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, in addition to describing how and why we vote in this country. It was an enlightening chat, and even Ms. Diana and I learned quite a bit during the program! You can see this program in its entirety on the library’s Facebook. Purdom also gifted the library with several copies of her book, and we still have some available. Make sure to stop by and pick up a free book if you haven’t already!
All in all, I am so proud of what we were able to create for these families. In the modern world, politics can be such a dirty word for families. This hesitancy results in children who don’t understand the enormous importance of free elections for our civilization. We were able to create a fun, engaging experience for kids that let them feel like they took part in this major thing. This election saw a record turnout of voters, and if we hope to see this level of engagement in the future, it is critical we teach our children to be informed voters.