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What are the best books or resources to reach children with the co-op message?

A recent survey on the NRECA Communicators’ Listserv posed that question to utility communicators and member services representatives across the country. What follows is a list of their recommendations, including book ideas for all ages of future co-op members.

Electric cooperative-related kids’ books

Wish Upon a Crawdad by Curtis W. Condon

Grades 4-6. 235 pages. The story of Ruby Mae Ryan, a 12-year-old girl who’s about to get electricity for the very first time, thanks to the electric co-op formed by her family and other families in the rural valley where she lives. New release: May 2022. Available in hardcover, paperback, e-book.

The Year the Lights Came On by Terry Kay

Grades 5-7. 310 pages. Several mentions of electric co-ops here and there throughout the book, mostly referencing “the REA.” First published 1976. Available in hardcover, paperback, e-book.

Power Plays by Ted Case

Grades 9-12 and adults. 216 pages. The stories of 12 presidents and the four electric co-op leaders who built the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association into a major force on the American political scene. Published 2013. Available in paperback.

Josh and Sarah’s Electric Adventure (PDF) produced by Lake Country Power (MN).

Entire book is about electricity, with a few mentions of electric cooperatives and Touchstone Energy. Grades preschool-3. 24 pages. First published 2005.

Five ways you can share the co-op story using books:

  1. Recommend the books to librarians and teachers.
  2. Suggest adding them to your local library’s summer reading program.
  3. Propose a school visit, using one or more of the books or resources as an entry point or in a supporting role.
  4. Gift your favorites to schools and libraries on behalf of the co-op.
  5. Offer the books as prizes or giveaways at school programs, community events and annual meetings.

Lineworker- and electricity-related kids’ books

There’s little or no direct co-op connection in most of these books, but they are great for building community support of local lineworkers.

Internet education-related kids’ books

While there aren’t a lot of books (yet!) about broadband cooperatives, there are some handy books to share internet safety tips with young users.

  • The Berenstain Bears’ Computer Trouble by Jan & Mike Berenstain. Young readers, 32 pages. Published 2010. When Papa brings home a computer, the whole family is excited. Soon Mama, Brother, Sister, and even Honey start spending all day every day staring at their own computers. It’s up to Papa to get the family off the computer and back into the real world!
  • Nerdy Bird Tweets by Aaron Reynolds. Grades 1-2, 40 pages. Published 2017. Nerdy Birdy joins Tweetster, and the friend requests start flying in. Vulture watches as Nerdy Birdy gets swept up in his new friendships, but when she finally gets angry, Nerdy Birdy knows just what to do to make things right.
  • Goldilocks: A Hashtag Cautionary Tale by Jeanne Willis. Young readers, 40 pages. Published 2017. Everyone loves Goldilocks’ hilarious online videos, but in her quest to get more likes, more laughs and more hits, she tries something a little more daring: stealing porridge #pipinghot, breaking chairs #fun, and using someone else’s bed #sleep. What will Daddy Bear do when he sees that online? A hilarious cautionary tale for a new generation of internet-users

Activity books

Pioneer graphic designer and Covington Electric member Cherokee Spivey designed the Buzz Broadband coloring book and her children, Cruze and Cade, got copies when the book debuted at the Covington County Fair in 2021.

Buzz Broadband Activity Book produced by Covington Electric Co-op (AL) and Pioneer Utility Resources. 16 pages. Buzz, the bee mascot for the co-op’s fiber-to-the-home internet service, flies through mazes, highlights how to make smart choices online and connects the dots to show children the benefits of broadband. Want to create an activity book for your utility? Schedule time with us today!

Buddy Bear Safety Adventure Coloring Book produced by Rural Missouri. 24 pages. Rural Missouri kid’s page mascot Buddy Bear offers safety tips to children of all ages. Bulk print on demand. Minimum quantity requirements. Note: Reportedly, a Spanish version of this coloring book is in the works.

Pluggy’s Power Patrol activity book produced by Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative (NJ). 20 pages. Includes information and activities based around electric co-ops, the uses of electricity, electric safety, power distribution and the various types of energy. Given to schools/students following educational presentations or student field trips to the co-op office. Geared toward younger students. The back cover is an electric safety certificate that welcomes participating students to the Power Patrol.

Other resources 

NRECA Energy Explorers: Special Content Packages. Grades K-12 (NRECA members only). Educational content on energy basics, electrical safety, the changing energy industry and the cooperative difference is calibrated for elementary, middle and high school levels. Each package released through Straight Talk, NRECA’s consumer-focused content library, contains modules with a lesson presentation, interactive elements and engagement activities. Most of the content can be customized and used in a class visit or at the co-op.

Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives. A game of collaboration and problem-solving, where everybody wins or everybody loses. A Monopoly-like board game. It’s not specific to electric co-ops, but it incorporates the general principles of the co-op business model.

How do you connect with the next generation of co-op members? Share your favorite resources in the comments.

Many thanks to Heather Berry, Kelby Bond, Mona Neeley-Clifford, Christi Cofell, Hal Elzweig, Meredith Hoenes, Jim McCarty, Anne Prince, Anita Richter, Steve Sokolowski, Wendy Wood and all the others who took time out of their busy day to make recommendations or provide assistance in other ways.