The 11 women in the Missouri Senate have written a new book called “You Can, Too!” promote literacy across the state and encourage more young people to be civically engaged.
It wasn’t until 1972 that a woman was first elected to the Missouri Senate, and in the state’s 200-year history, when there have been more than a thousand men who served, only 36 women served.
Senator Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis, said it was important to make sure young people knew they could run for office, but more importantly, she urged them not to let obstacles get in the way of achieving their dreams, no matter what. ‘they are.
“At the end of the book we have what is supposed to be a mirror,” Schupp explained. “It’s not perfect, but because we want, we want kids reading this book to look at it and see themselves reflected in these stories and on this page.”
Schupp noted that one of the main purposes of the book is to encourage literacy and that it is intended for a reading level of around a fourth grade level, when children begin to read to learn, rather than to learn to read. She added that they donate copies of the book to libraries, pediatricians’ and dental offices, and other places where children can pick it up and start reading.
Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, R-Bollinger, said kids shouldn’t let obstacles get in the way of them achieving their goals. She said she dropped out of school at 15 to care for her family, had her first child at 16, and eventually got her GED and a college degree.
“I never thought I would be in the Missouri Senate,” Rehder remarked. “I love it when I go out and talk to the kids in my district, it’s always been an eye opener to see how encouraging knowing them is.”
Rehder also pointed to surveys showing that women legislators are more likely to say they decided to run for office because they were recruited, rather than deciding for themselves. And women are also more likely to be discouraged from running for office. Rehder noted during his first candidacy that the party leadership told him that “it was not his time”.
“And so we hope that by reading so many inspiring stories from women, it will help girls realize that they don’t need to ask permission,” Rehder pointed out. “They have to follow their instincts and believe in themselves, whether or not someone else does at the time.”
Support for this report was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
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