When is a good age to introduce kids to the concept of individual rights and freedom? Hopefully principles of respect for others and self-determination will be instilled very early, but getting to nuts and bolts legislative questions might come later. Danielle McLaughlin can make a case for the preteen years being good time. Her book That's Not Fair! Getting to Know Your Rights and Freedoms, with illustrations by Dharmali Patel, introduces questions of civil liberty in a humorous, easy-to-understand that will be appreciated by students as young as 7 or 8.
McLaughlin sets these stories in a fictional city with an activist mayor and city council. Each story follows a similar storyline. A problem arises, the mayor and/or members of the city council come up with a legislative solution to the problem, their rule or law steps on someone's rights, and they backtrack to make sure to treat everyone fairly.
The townspeople cover such topics as freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, unreasonable search and seizure, public safety, and freedom of the press. At the end of each chapter, the readers is asked to think about how the mayor or council addressed the problem, whether the solution worked, and what were the consequences of the solution.
The solutions never are as simple as they seem. Together the townspeople realize that "Treating everyone the same way isn't always fair. . . . Sometimes we have to be treated differently to give everyone the same opportunities." McLaughlin encourages her young readers to think about freedom and the law with both the effectiveness and the consequences in mind, and to speak up if they think a law is unfair. She writes, "It is only when some brave person . . . says, 'That's not fair!' that things can begin to change." Young children may not grasp the concepts of freedom and fairness that McLaughlin is encouraging here, but it's never too early to start planting those seeds.
Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!