The best parenting advice I ever received was to read to my children. I read to both my girls for as long as they would allow me. We read almost every night. I made twice weekly trips to our local library and each night we would sit down after dinner and I would read aloud. Excluding the hours they were asleep, this was the only time of the day they were still. Still and listening.
It was during these bedtime reading sessions that I found some of the best children's books on money. Here are a few of my favorites.
Start with my favorite family, the Berenstain Bears. In The Berenstain Bears' Trouble with Money by Jan and Stan Berenstain, you and your child will see what happens when Brother and Sister Bear spend all the money they get as soon as they get it. Mama and Papa Bear help the cubs understand that there is more to know about money than just how to spend it.
In The Berenstain Bears Get The Gimmes, Mama and Papa help the cubs and themselves when they come up with a creative way to stop to all the begging Brother and Sister do each time they go to the store.
Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, by Judith Viorst, is a great way to teach your children about the many choices they have for the money they receive. Everyone feels Alexander's pain when his money begins to slip away. How the Second Grade Got $8,205.50 to Visit the Statue of Liberty, by Nathan Zimelman, helps children understand the work involved in earning money.
To help your child think about others when setting goals, try one of my very favorite books, A Chair for My Mother, by Vera B. Williams. After a fire destroys everything they have, a mother, daughter and grandmother save coins in a jar to buy the family a much-needed easy chair.
My Rows and Piles of Coins, by Tololwa M. Mollel, tells the story of a young boy who is saving his money to buy a bicycle so he can help his mother carry food to the marketplace.
First Things First, by Kristi D. Holl, demonstrates the power of earning money. When Shelley's mom and dad cannot pay for summer camp, Shelly spends her summer earning money. More earning money education can be found in Project Wheels, by Jacqueline Turner Brooks. A group of friends get together to raise money for a classmate in need of a wheelchair.
If you think you have a budding entrepreneur at home, try reading Kid Power by Susan Beth Pfeffer and The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill to your kids. Both show how kids start a business and deal with some of the challenges of success.
There are, of course, some classics that teach adults and children alike the life lessons necessary for our pursuit of money. King Midas, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is about the Greek legend of King Midas. We find out how the greedy king feels when his wish is granted and everything he touches turns to gold. The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, is a portrayal of giving and taking until it seems that there is no more to give.
I often ask our children's librarian to direct me to any new books that have come out on money. This way, we always have a supply around to skim when we are looking for something simple to read.
Even though Allison and Amanda now are in their teens, a good story or a good picture book will still capture their attention and their imagination. It's a great indirect way to communicate money lessons and values to your children without sounding preachy.
Susan Beacham is the founder and CEO of Money Savvy Generation, a financial education company that provides innovative products and services to help parents and educators teach children the basic skills of personal finance, www.MoneySavvyGeneration.com. E-mail her at susan@MSGEN.com.