An immigrant-become-US-citizen offers a powerful, personal explanation of our nation’s Constitution for middle grades and up.
*This Is Our Constitution: What It Is and Why It Matters by Khizr Khan. Yearling, 2019. 224 pages.
- Reading Level: Ages 10-12
- Recommended For: Ages 10 and up
Khizr Khan and his wife are originally from Pakistan. They are also Muslim. This perspective provides Khan with a unique vantage point from which to defend the U.S. Constitution. Those of us who grew up in a country that assumed the Bill of Rights can easily forget just how incredible this document is. Khan offers a personal introduction, including his background and current profession (he’s a lawyer). Then, he moves through the history of the Constitution and explains the Constitution step by step, in clear language. Khan also covers landmark Supreme Court cases.* Middle school students will have no trouble understanding Khan’s text. He also includes the entire text of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in the end pages.
Along the way, Khan offers personal asides that are quotable in and of themselves:
We still sit under the light that was lit during the Constitutional Convention. The framers of our Constitution were hopeful, thoughtful men, and they created a government that honors ideals, hard work, and dignity. We need to remember that–and to hold fast to their spirit as we work together to solve today’s problems.~Khizr Khan, This Is Our Constitution, p. 64
Debate is essential to democracy. It’s not a reason for division; it’s how we move our nation forward. But even when political tensions are high, we are ruled by the authority of laws. That’s what guarantees our nation’s freedom.~Khizr Khan, This Is Our Constitution, p. 24
Sections like these are especially poignant during this current, tumultuous season. We see riots on the news, are mired in a “cancellation culture,” and all forms of civil public discourse seem to be waning. Khan’s comments on the the First Amendment alone should be required reading for all Americans.
This 4th of July, perhaps it’s time we all step back and look at these founding documents of our country. At the very least, we should be educating our children (and ourselves) about these documents in the months leading up to our next Presidential election. Khan’s book offers an excellent step towards that education.
- Khan does an admirable job of remaining “neutral” in his discussions of key events surrounding the Constitution and Supreme Court. No matter which political party you align yourself with, this is a good resource.
- Khan calls America a democracy several times, particularly in the beginning. It’s clear that he’s contrasting America’s government and the influence of her citizens with such countries as Pakistan. But, America is not technically a democracy. Encourage your children to look up “democracy,” “republic,” “constitutional republic,” “democratic republic,” and related–what do your children think is the correct answer?
- *Khan covers the following Supreme Court cases: Marbury v. Madison (1803), Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), Brown v. Board of Education (1954; referencing the earlier Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896), Roe v. Wade (1973), Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), and select others.
- Khan doesn’t shy away from the inequities represented by the founding fathers, particularly in reference to slavery and how “citizens” or “people” were counted for representation. This should provide good jumping off points for you and your children/students. You might discuss how those early decisions affected laws and actions far into the future, what is being done today to help redress wrongs, and the simple fact that the US Constitution is not inspired. Any document written by humans will have errors!
*indicates a starred review
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
- Worldview/Moral Rating: 4.5/5
- Literary/Artistic Rating: 4.5/5
Related Reading from Redeemed Reader:
- A Book List: Patriotic Book List (books for all ages)
- A Book List: We the People… a US Government Book List
- A Book Review: For older students, we recommend Land of Hope by Wilfred McClay as a nicely balanced history text.
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