2019-2020 National Youth Activities Ambassador
Whitney Houston sang, “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way…” While these words may seem cliché to some, the fact is, they are also true, which is why the Youth Activities Program is so important.
Today’s kids won’t ever meet a Titanic survivor, sign the Declaration of Independence, march with Dr. King, demand votes for women, or hold their breath as Neil Armstrong takes his first step on the moon, but through books they can become immersed in the past, imagining themselves in place of those who lived decades or even centuries ago, which helps them to better understand the present and be prepared for the future. When children are exposed to these different time periods and walks of life via immersive fiction, they gain perspective, form invaluable connections, and feel invested. Whether they’re learning about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge or the Industrial Revolution, World War Two or 9/11, they are growing in their knowledge of what America is, how America works, who helped build America, and who serves America today.
This year, our new Youth Activities initiative, Patriotism through Literacy, seeks to help them with that! Our goal is getting historical fiction and creative non-fiction into the hands of students from pre-school through high school, which promotes both patriotism and literacy in addition to encouraging empathy and broadening perspectives.
How can this be achieved?
- Donate books to local schools, shelters, libraries, or youth groups
- Start a book club (members can participate with their children/grandchildren)
- Host a read-a-thon and award modest prizes
- Volunteer in the children’s room at your local library
- Invite an author to speak at your Post Home
- Encourage kids to write their own creative nonfiction and historical fiction
- Have students interview veterans at your local VA for inspiration and to share stories
In the children’s literature community, there is often talk of mirrors and windows. In books labeled ‘mirrors,’ kid readers get to see themselves reflected in the main characters. In ‘windows,’ they see into the lives of characters they’d otherwise never know. That is why the books on the Suggested Book List not only showcase periods in history from the Revolutionary War through post-9/11, they reflect a variety of character viewpoints: girls, boys, children, teens, and adults, of all different backgrounds, cultures, races, religions, and abilities/disabilities…plus a fuzzy red Muppet named Elmo. So many of these stories, including those about real historical figures, have gone untold for too long; it’s time we bring them to the forefront. These include those of Navajo Code Talkers, female fighter pilots from WWII, those who signed the Declaration of Independence, and the women who made it possible for man to land the moon. The kids who read their stories can feel pride in what those Americans accomplished before and feel encouraged to go on to do great things themselves.
As a former professor of mine put it, “You never forget a book you cried or laughed with.” Every book is an experience and every experience is a gift.
So let’s give America’s youth the gift of an experience.
Other ways to get involved in Youth Activities:
- Hand out R.A.P. coins
- Invite students to participate in Illustrating America
- Volunteer with local Scouts or youth sports teams
- Bring kid carolers with you to the VA at Christmastime
- Host family-friendly movie nights at your Post Home
- Get creative! And make sure to tell us about it!
Whatever you do, make sure you snap a few pictures and post them to Instagram with the hashtag #vfwauxyouth or tag us @vfwauxyouth (make sure you have permission before posting any images with children’s faces). Can’t wait to see your posts!