Children’s medium gets political reading

By WilliamPrentiss

The political divide between Republicans and Democrats can be seen and heard daily on cable networks and talk radio, but now it has spread into a much more unlikely place: children’s books.

Each political party has its own authors. Former professor Jeremy Zilber is the writer of Why Mommy is a Democrat and Mama Voted for Obama. For parents looking for reading material for their own little Republicans, there is author Katharine DeBrecht. DeBrecht has written two books, Help! Mom! There are Liberals Under my Bed! and Help! Mom! The Radicals are Ruining My Country! The latter features caricatures of several Democrats and perceived radicals including Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama.

Zilber said he was motivated to write after he read a study that showed the majority of young children who called themselves a Democrat or a Republican didn’t understand what the labels meant. He said he saw the same ignorance in the college classes he taught.

“I thought about that and many students I’ve had in my classes over the years when I was teaching college-level American government classes at prestigious schools across America,” Zilber said. “I thought about how many of them really lack any basic understanding of politics, the party system or what these political parties do.”

James Yuniss, professor of psychology at The Catholic University of America, said studies have shown that discussing politics at home will get children more involved later in their lives. Whether or not parents’ party affiliation influences their children isn’t as conclusive and is determined by a complicated mix of factors both inside and outside the home, he said.

“The data that is clear is that if the parents talk politics, those kids tend to be politically interested later on,” Yuniss said. “That’s a good finding and pretty solid.”

Zilber wrote on his Web site,, that he became interested in politics at a young age when his parents hosted a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern.  McGovern lost the election, but Zilber went on to teach American government in several colleges after getting a Ph.D. in political science at Ohio State University.

Yuniss said experiences like McGovern’s fundraiser are often how people develop their interest in politics.

“When people went to college and got involved in the anti-war movements in the 1960s and ’70s, they didn’t necessarily come either from a conservative or liberal background, but once they got engaged in the anti-war movement, they stayed that way,” Yuniss said. “So there are these events that can shift you one way or another.”

Zilber said that his goal is to inform children, but would prefer kids to support the Democratic Party. He donates 5 percent of his book sales to the party’s candidates and organizations. He would do a book about Republicans, but never one for them, he said.

“I don’t think it’s brainwashing in any sense of the word,” Zilber said. “It’s explaining, this is what mommy or daddy believes, which is what parents do all the time, and it’s what we expect them to do. We don’t expect them to say, ‘Well, I think I know something, but I’m not going to tell you because I don’t want to influence you in any way.’”

Republican DeBrecht said she wrote her books to balance others like Rainbow Fish, Just a Plant, King and King and Heather Has Two Mommies. She considers herself a social conservative and is trying to teach the importance of responsibility and work ethic to her children.

“I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with telling and teaching children to work hard, be responsible for yourself and don’t rely on the government to do everything for you,” Debrecht said. “In reality, every time the federal government gets involved in something, they ruin it and they mess it all up.”

DeBrecht said she does have liberal friends and doesn’t see anything wrong with seeing both perspectives.

“In the end, we’re all Americans,” DeBrecht said.