7 Awesome Books for Teaching Government

Often, middle and high school students have been conditioned to associate government with the current political arena, but the study of government incorporates so much more. Teaching middle and high school students about government includes the teaching the inner-workings of the judicial, legislative, and executive branches, but also geographical studies, and general U.S. and World History. Current events are always relevant and educational, and delving deeper into the history of our government can provide your students with a vital and inciting foundation to encourage learning about government.  

Reading novels or informational text in the Government classroom can be a great way to get your students engaged in your lesson. These seven books are a great start toward creating a more engaging and interactive classroom. I just love the first on on the list!

Give your class a great educational foundation to government with these 7 awesome books for middle and high school government students. By incorporating attention-grabbing, historically accurate books, with current events and political study, you encourage learning at a deeper level and your students will have the opportunity to combine learning with engagement. Using these 7 awesome books for teaching government, your lesson plans will elevate from adequate to elegant!


7 Awesome Books for Middle and High School Students

1.     Americanah – By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah follows two young lovers as they escape Nigeria and are separated, one off to America and the other to London. Ifemelu faces racial challenges while pursuing an American education and Obinze struggles to survive in England, both returning to Nigeria once a political shift occurs.

2.     The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Author Michelle Alexander examines racial profiling and targeting and illuminates the sheer number of black men behind bars. By translating race into a criminal justice issue, America is able to mask the lack of racial progress since Jim Crow laws were decimated.  

BONUS! After reading The New Jim Crow, split students into two groups. Have half of the students collaborate on the current criminal justice and politics regarding racial profiling. Have the others study racial profiling around the time of Jim Crow. Have students search for comparisons and disparities, using a class-wide Venn Diagram to draw parallels.

3.     The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Part-time Indian Junior challenges his destiny on the Indian reservation by attending school in an all-white school, exploring his dreams through adolescence and his teen years. Sherman Alexie’s words coupled with illustrations by Ellen Forney, this read presents an emotional take on Native American living.

BONUS! Let students research life on an Indian reservation, including the accounts told from Alexie's novel, photos from online sources like the Journal, and other media that may support their research. Have them share whether they would have enjoyed life on the reservation, what things they may have had to forgo if living on a reservation, and draw parallels to their own lives.

4.     Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities) – Democracy Remixed, by Cathy J. Cohen, analyzes survey results from the Black Youth Project, exploring political ramifications of black youth and their experiences.

5.     Sleeping Giant: The Untapped Economic and Political Power of America’s New Working Class – By Tamara Draut, Sleeping Giant explores the political power held by the today’s working class. Draut combines personal accounts, expert analysis, and in-depth studies to discuss the working class, racial and gender exclusion, and today’s Fight for $15 minimum wage battle. 

BONUS! Debate activity! Have students take opposing positions on the Fight for $15 minimum wage battle. Hold a classroom debate, discussing pros and cons of raising minimum wage in America.

6.     Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America – Martin Gilens criticizes America’s political climate and designation as a democratic country as it only patronizes the opinions and desires of its upper 1%. Gilens discusses and analyzes policy changes and draws shocking and disparaging conclusions across socioeconomic lines.

BONUS! Reflection time! Have students research some of the top one-percenters of America. Draw comparisons from Affluence and Influence, explore political decisions influenced by the 1%, and then have students reflect on political persuasion they would desire if also a part of the 1%. How does this translate into democracy? 

7.     Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance – The 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, tells a personal account of his adolescence and coming of age in America, faced with the truths of his father’s past and the racial inequalities of his present.

Reading novels or informational text in the Government classroom can be a great way to get your students engaged in your lesson. These seven books are a great start toward creating a more engaging and interactive classroom. I just love the first on on the list!

From a Walking Tour with the Presidents Centers Activity, to a U.S. Document Analysis Bundled Activity, many online government activities can accompany these 7 awesome books for teaching government to elevate your Middle and High School lesson plans. Introduce your students to a part-time Indian, the Black Youth Project, or our 44th president, and you'll not only educate them on government, but instill a desire to delve deeper and learn more about the governmental workings of our nation.

Happy Teaching!

Michele Luck

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