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Last modified: Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Center on Congress booklets included in Civics and Citizenship Toolkits

May 17, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Expanding its efforts to assist immigrants aspiring to become U.S. citizens, the Center on Congress at Indiana University has joined with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide two of the center's most popular booklets in the new edition of the USCIS Civics and Citizenship Toolkit, released by the government May 16.

USCIS Citizenship Toolkit

The IU center's booklets -- Understanding Congress: A Citizen's Guide, and Making Your Voice Heard: How To Work With Congress -- are included in 5,000 of the new toolkits, which the government offers to organizations that assist people who are studying to become naturalized citizens, including civic and service clubs, community and faith-based groups, libraries and schools.

"Every American should better understand Congress and its role in sustaining the health of our representative democracy," said Center Director Lee H. Hamilton. "We are very pleased to join with USCIS in helping prospective citizens learn about Congress and how to communicate their concerns to Washington."

Understanding Congress: A Citizen's Guide explains the concept of representative democracy, how Congress functions, its impact on people's lives, and the importance of citizen participation. It has four sections:

  • "Representative Democracy" outlines the powers granted to Congress by the Constitution and highlights Congress' vital role in forging compromises among the many conflicting opinions in our large and diverse nation.
  • "How Congress Functions" gives an overview of the House and Senate and the process by which a bill becomes law.
  • "How Members of Congress Work" sketches what members and congressional committees do on a typical day.
  • "How You Participate" emphasizes that Americans must communicate their concerns to Congress in order for the body to respond to the people's needs.

Making Your Voice Heard: How To Work With Congress offers citizens practical tips on how to communicate with Congress, with features such as "Ten Ways to Contact Your Member of Congress" and "Making Your Case Effectively: Some Do's and Don'ts." It discusses how citizens can amplify their voice by connecting with interest groups and political parties, and by using new tools of "cyber-democracy." It includes vignettes on "People Who Made a Difference" -- average citizens who got involved in the political process and ended up making a big impact on government policy.

Each Civics and Citizenship Toolkit contains a variety of educational materials designed to help permanent residents learn more about the United States and prepare for the naturalization process, including:

  • A video highlighting U.S. history, civics, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship
  • A video providing an overview of the naturalization process and test
  • A study booklet containing short lessons based on each of the 100 civics questions and answers on the naturalization test
  • Flash cards containing each of the 100 civics questions and answers on the naturalization test
  • A publication highlighting prominent foreign-born Americans, presidential quotes on citizenship, and patriotic songs and poems
  • A pocket-size version of America's founding documents — the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States.

The materials in the Toolkit can serve as supplemental teaching tools for volunteers and adult educators in a classroom or community program setting. Each Toolkit includes a Quick Start Guide with suggestions on how to use the materials.

Eligible immigrant-serving organizations may request one free copy of the Toolkit at Requests are subject to review to ensure eligibility.

About the Center

The Center on Congress is a nonpartisan educational institution established in 1999 to help improve the public's knowledge of Congress and to encourage civic engagement. The center developed out of Lee Hamilton's recognition during his 34 years in the U.S. House that Americans should be more familiar with Congress' strengths and weaknesses, its role in our system of government, and its impact on the lives of ordinary people every day.

The center offers an extensive array of civic education programs, projects and resources that foster an informed electorate that understands our system of government and participates in civic life. These include: print publications; Web-based, interactive modules and other online learning tools in English and Spanish; commentaries for newspapers and radio stations; video and television in the classroom resources; survey research; teacher awards; and seminars, conferences, and a lecture series.

The Center on Congress is supported in part by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington. For more information about the center, go to