a future president's first reading list

If your kiddo is going to grow up to be President, he or she is going to need to start laying the foundation ASAP.

Obviously, you'll need to sign your kid up for toddler "Squeaky Clean: I'm Talking About Your Diapeys AND Your Twitter" workshop, and is it ever too early for a "Working the Ropeline 101" Webinar?

But after a full day of memorizing Congressional face books and Constitutional flash cards, your sweet baby squirrel is going to need to go night-night. And you know what that means: Bedtime stories!

Here are my top picks of bedtime stories to prime your little future president.

Pop in the binky, snuggle up with Froggy, and enjoy!

Louis, King of the Sheep
by Olivier Tallec


One day Louis decides he is king of the sheep.

Louis is a tyrant and a sheep bigot, narcissistically wallowing in self-glorification, and excluding all the sheep who don't look like him. Where do these kids' book authors GET these kooky ideas???

Presidential Concepts:

- Exclusion IS a shortcut to power, and power is seductive... but that power only lasts as long as you're the one deciding who to exclude.

- Never trust a sheep.

Grace for President
by Kelly DiPucchio


Grace decides it is high time that a girl took the highest office in the land, so she runs for class president. Even though her opposition is a popular, athletic boy, she hustles like mad and... you guys, no spoilers. But this is a kids' book, so we know that Grace isn't NOT going to win, right?


Presidential Concepts:

- There is no substitute for hustle.

- People with good ideas who serve their constituents with grit and empathy can defeat people who just "look Presidential."

- Ability and passion are more important than race or gender. Girls can be President. Black girls can be President. The spark of Presidential service can glow within any person.

Red: A Crayon's Story
by Michael Hall


Red is supposed to be good at drawing Santas and strawberries, but no matter how hard Red tries, it never works out.

Teachers try to help, family members pitch in with suggestions about how Red can be redder, and everyone is worried.

Until one day a friend asks Red to draw an ocean, and suddenly we understand that a crayon's wrapper might not always be true to who that crayon really is.

Presidential Concepts:

- Trans people are people.

- Assume that the people you meet know who they are better than you do. Stay humble. Be loving.

- Sometimes a problem doesn't need a solution as much as it needs empathy. Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to stop thinking of it as a problem, and start looking at it as an opportunity to learn.

- One empathetic friend can change a whole life; one changed life can heal a community.

We're Different, We're The Same
(And We're All Wonderful!)
by Bobbi Kates


I mean, the title kind of wraps it up pretty tight.

that's what makes the world such fun.
many kinds of people, not just one!

Presidential Concepts:

- People (and furry monsters!) come in all shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and abilities! Diversity is a gift.

- Differences exist, and should be recognized; we can't ignore what makes us different.

- Differences should not be ranked or placed within the context of a power structure. One person's smooth black hair doesn't make that person better than a monster with shaggy blue fur, right??

- We all share the need for acceptance, self-love, and respect from others.

Yertle the Turtle
by Dr. Seuss


Yertle is king of his pond, but one day he decides he must expand his kingdom. In his pursuit of greater glory, he commands his turtles to form a tower under his feet. But there's only so long turtles can stand to be trampled.

down here at the bottom,
we too should have rights

Presidential Concepts:

- Successful leaders serve their people and grow strong communities; shitty leaders step on their people in pursuit of personal glory.

- The desire to be bigger, stronger, and more powerful is intoxicating, but check yourself. More isn't always more, and if you start writing checks that your kingdom can't cash, you might end up, like Yertle, king of the mud.

- Shitty leaders ask people to do things they don't want to do, using their power and bluster to make them ignore their hesitation.

- You have to speak up if you're being stepped on. Sometimes you might make a big mess, or topple a really big tower of turtles if you do, but you have to speak up.

Rosie Revere, Engineer
by Andrea Baty


Rosie is a passionate engineer, driven into the closet by an embarrassing cheese hat incident from her childhood. But when Great-Great-Aunt Rose comes to visit, Rosie learns that failure isn't the end unless you give up.

your brilliant first flop was a raging success!
come on, let's get busy and on to the next!

Presidential Concepts:

- If you're not failing, you're not reaching high enough.

- Failed attempts don't make you trash - they are opportunities to learn and grow.

- People might laugh at you when you take a big swing and miss, and it's okay to feel sad about that. But you can't let them bully you out of what you love. They'll stop laughing when you come right back up to the plate and knock it out of the park.

- Women do science, and in fact, women have participated in science and engineering since Great-Great Aunt Rose was a Rosie herself.

Everyone Poops
by Taro Gomi


Again, not a lot to elaborate on here.

Presidential Concepts:

- All living creatures share the same basic needs, and no person is above the laws of nature.

- We all execute those basic needs a little differently - you might go to church on Sunday, while your neighbor goes to her mosque every day. You might eat waffles for breakfast, while your friend eats miso soup. But nobody's way is better than anyone else's. We're all just making our way to the W.C. on our own paths here.

- Whenever you're tempted to judge someone else's stinkier side, just remember - kid, you do that, too. You might not have done it the same way, but you've dumped some pretty crappy loads in your day. Let he who is without turds fling the first turd, amIrite?

- Ain't nobody better than anyone else when you're on the potty.

- In other words, everybody poops.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
by Doreen Cronin


The cows find a typewriter and use it to initiate negotiations with Farmer Brown for electric blankets - it turns out, the barn is very cold at night. When Farmer Brown scoffs at the request, the cows have to play hardball.

Presidential Concepts:

- Union negotiations WILL be a thing when you're President, so just get used to it.

- Nobody else is going to take care of your needs if you don't advocate for them first and hardest. It  might be uncomfortable to make a demand for yourself, and you might disrupt the existing power structure in your efforts. People won't like it. There will be fighting and bluster. But stay loyal to yourself. If the barn is cold and Farmer Brown can afford it, dude, you're not crazy to ask for an electric blanket.

- Words are power. There's a reason Farmer Brown tries to negotiate the typewriter away from his animals.

- Know what your leverage is, what you have that the other party wants, what you can withhold to apply pressure to the nagotiations. In this case, milk.

- Compromise isn't the same as defeat - if your cows are warm at night and making sweet milk in the morning, everybody wins.

- Stick together.

Stone Soup
by Marcia Brown


Three hungry soldiers on their way home find a village and ask for some food and a place to sleep. Upon encountering a solid wall of resistance from the villagers, the soldiers convince them to make stone soup, and before they know it, every villager in the joint has added a little something to the glorious feast.

Presidential Concepts:

- People don't always help you just because you need help. Sometimes some light manipulation will help other people to see that if they scratch your back, you can scratch theirs. Also known as diplomacy.

- If you don't want to know how the sausage gets made, then you don't want to know how the stone soup got made, either.

- When everyone contributes a little something, the whole village eats like kings. When we help each other, everyone gets helped.

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns
by Hena Khan


It's a sing-songy book of colors, set to the context of various elements of Islam as it exists in this little girl's life. (When I say sing-songy, I mean literally - my children insist that I read them this book to the tune of "My Favorite Things." Try it. You're welcome.)

Presidential Concepts:

- Islam is actually a religion with a strong moral center, that has a long history and rich depth and intense cultural importance to billions of people around the world, as well as 3.3 million Americans. It's not just a scary thing that brown-skinned smokers do in the movies. (Talking to you, Mr. President.)

- Muslim kids like treats and dolls and shiny stuff. Muslim dads do stuff with their kids. Muslim grandmas read to their granddaughters. Whaddya know! Muslim families aren't so different after all!

- All empathy and acceptance and inclusion aside, let's talk shop here. If you want to run for office someday, you need to know that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. Do you want those 3.3 million American Muslim votes? Then you better know what Eid is, kiddo.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
by Simms Taback


Joseph has an overcoat that gets all worn out. Whatever shall he do with it? He makes himself a jacket that looks almost new! But when the jacket starts to wear, what shall he do then?

Presidential Concepts:

- You don't always have everything you want, and you can't always GET everything you need. (Cough cough budget, cough cough Senate, cough cough Medicaid) But that doesn't mean you stop trying, stop thinking, and stop finding ways to solve the problem.

- You can always make something, even out of nothing.

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DID I MISS A GREAT ONE??? Email me or comment below, and I'll post another list!

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