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Winston-Salem couple writes about democracy for kids

Winston-Salem couple writes about democracy for kids

Only $5 for 5 months

Like maintaining a democratic government, raising a family and writing a book series require collaboration and cooperation.

In the case of Megan Bryant, a writer, and Dan Prosterman, a history professor, they also take a sense of humor and about 18 months.

Their Citizen Baby series, four books about democratic processes, was published by Penquin Random House in May.

“When I first came up with the idea, I knew I wanted to collaborate with Dan,” Bryant said. “He is so supportive and reads just about every word I write.

“We have a similar sense of humor, and we tried to carve out times when we could write.”

The books — “My Vote,” “My President,” “My Congress” and “My Supreme Court” — were illustrated by Micah Player, who was engaged by the publisher.

“We didn’t work at all with the artist, but he completely captured our vision for the books,” Bryant said. “Getting the artwork from the publisher was like opening a Christmas present.

“When we saw it, we felt that Micah had pulled scenes from our lives and it would be relatable for so many families. It was truly a delight.”

In her article, “Booked solid: The most anticipated books of 2020,” Boston Globe correspondent Eugenia Williamson, wrote that “My Vote” provides “an adorable explanation of the voting process for those still in car seats, with an emphasis on stickers.”

Before tackling the Citizen Baby series, Bryant, 42, had already written more than 250 children’s books, including a New York Times bestseller “The Radium Girls.” Her recent books include the critically acclaimed young adult novel, “Glow,” and the Tiny Geniuses series from Scholastic.

“One of the things I’m grappling with is how the pandemic will change the face of publishing,” Bryant said.

“I think it’s particularly important for children to have the tactile experience of holding a book,” Prosterman said. “And having a caregiver holding the book can’t be replicated by someone who’s on a screen.”

Prosterman, 46, is an associate professor of history, and race and ethnicity studies at Salem College. His book “Defining Democracy: Electoral Reform and the Struggle for Power in New York City” was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. He has a doctorate degree in history from New York University.

“It’s the first time we have co-written a series of books,” Bryant said. “It was a real treat to partner with Dan on this series.”

Bryant and Prosterman moved to Winston-Salem from Syracuse, New York, in 2008. They have three children: Clara, 12; Sam, 7; Gabriel, 2, and three cats.

“We’ve always believed that it’s crucial to have kids involved in the democratic process,” Bryant said. They have taken Clara with them to vote since 2008 — when she was 4 months old.

“On election nights, nobody has a bedtime,” she said. “We have stickers and find ways to involve them from a young age, so when they are young adults, they’ll see how important and necessary it is.

“I was thinking how much fun it would be to vote in the local election and how much fun it would be to write a book about the process.

“If we could get them involved early, it would seem like not a chore but a responsibility and a privilege”

Prosterman’s research is on democracy and voting rights.

“Communicating those ideas to my college-age students has been exciting,” he said. “It’s been rewarding to take something that might seem esoteric, difficult and complex and break it down for younger readers.”

The series are “board books,” sturdy books designed for children from birth to 4 years.

“But the feedback that we’re getting is that they are also good for children 8-9,” Bryant said. “They skew older than traditional board books.

“We wrote them with the whole family in mind. We were thinking of the patents and caregivers who may be reading them multiple times. We wanted them to be fun and informative.”

The couple hope the books will spark conversation among generations.

“How people understand democracy and how they desire to influence the political process is different from city to city and state to sate,” Prosterman said. “I think what we are seeing now reflects hope.”

“With this series, we are trying to have conversation with young people and start them as early as possible. When they are young children, they are asking questions all the time about how our society works in the U.S. With this series, we are trying to provide answers and continue the conversation with parents and caregivers.”

Bryan said, “Between our two careers, we hope to influence people from birth to post-graduate.”

The couple says that the series is well-timed to help people respond to the current moment.

“Working on these books is like a love letter to America,” Bryan said. “With people working together, we can get closer to a working democracy.

“We didn’t want to be cynical. We wanted to focus on how amazing it can be to live in a country where people can determine their leadership and their future.”

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