Summer is time to think about reading for fun—at the beach, curled up on the front porch swing, lying under the shade tree in the yard. Every year, I try to sneak a few money lessons into the fun of summer reading.
Here are some of my favorite books that are fun to read and great for expanding on the money lessons we want our kids to learn. Some are new, some are classics, but they all impart a great money lesson.
In The Berenstain Bears’ Dollars and Sense by Jan and Stan Berenstain (Random House, 2001, $3.99), Mama Bear makes the abstract concept of allowance concrete by making the cubs use a checkbook to keep track of the allowance money they receive and how they spend that money each week. This book has taken it on the chin by reviewers uncomfortable with the suggestion that kids use"checks” to learn, but I like it because Mama Bear makes the cubs stop, think, choose and reflect about their money decisions.
In The Penny Pot by Stuart J. Murphy (HarperTrophy, 1998, $5.99), Jessie realizes too late that the ice cream cone she just bought means she won’t have enough money to get her face painted at the school fair. The face painter offers a creative solution: She suggests Jessie ask people to donate extra pennies to her penny pot. Jessie and the reader learn about the value of coins as Jessie gets closer to her goal of collecting 50 cents, enough to get her face painted to look like a cat.
Earning money to fix their clubhouse is the goal in Lemonade for Sale by Stuart J. Murphy (HarperTrophy, 1997, $5.99). The kids learn a great lesson about the cost of starting a business as well as what to do when competition gets in the way of the growth of their business.
Wondering how to introduce the magnificence of compound savings to your child? Well, in One Grain of Rice, A Mathematical Folktale by Demi (Scholastic Press, 1997, $19.95), a village girl in India named Rani outsmarts the leader of her village when she asks as for one grain of rice for her reward, doubled each day for 30 days.
One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway (Kids Can Press, 2008, $18.95) introduces the concept of a microloan, a lending system for people in developing countries who have no collateral and no access to conventional banking. What makes this story even more fun is that it is inspired by the life of Kwabena Darko who as a boy started a tiny poultry farm that later grew to be the largest in east Africa.
Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen (Wendy Lamb Books, 2007, $12.99) celebrates entrepreneurship. The boy’s grandmother gives him an old riding lawn mower as a gift for his 12th birthday. He soon finds himself in business and learning how to"barter” his way to even more success.
If you want to know about the history of money, why it was conceived and why it looks the way it does today, I have two books to recommend.
Eyewitness MONEY by Joe Cribb (DK Children, 2000, $15.99) is full of amazing pictures of early money, international money and what we used to use before there was money. Our Money: I Know America by Karen Bornemann Spies (Turtleback Books, 2003, $24.99) explores the meaning of money and how our money is made.
All of these books and many more are available at your local library. In fact, you can even find two titles that I have written with Lynnette Khalfani Cox on the shelves.
The Millionaire Kid$ Club is a new series dedicated to teaching kids about the four choices they have for money. We have two titles out now, Garage Sale Riches and Putting the"Do” in Donate, and three more on the way. Kids ages preschool through third grade will enjoy reading about the money challenges these four friends noodle.
Reading a good story about money helps your child put themselves in the money situation with no risk. It is one of the best ways to help them experience money in real life in the comfort of your own home and safe arms.
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.MoneySavvy Generation.com. E-mail her at susan@MSGEN.com.