Teaching kids about money through books

November 02, 2007|By LYNN LITTLE

Five-year-old Amanda was excited. She had received a $10 bill as a birthday gift. She begged her parents to take her to the mall so she could buy a favorite toy.

Sound familiar?

Parents often wonder how they can help their child learn sound money management skills at an early age. Telling them that "money doesn't grow on trees" usually doesn't sink in when they seem to want everything. Children are good at mastering the concept of "want" long before they seem to understand "cost" and "need."

Children's books are a good way to begin teaching money management concepts to youngsters of all ages. Even preschool children can learn from books such as "The Berenstain Bears' Trouble with Money." A child in first-to-third grades would enjoy learning from "Arthur's Funny Money." Children who can count and use a calculator could learn money skills from "Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday." These are examples of the many good books on the market or at the library that a parent can use to teach money skills.


Pick the right book

What should a parent look for when selecting a book to teach money skills? Consider the age for whom the book was written.

Preschoolers have difficulty understanding concepts such as time and value. They might think a nickel is more valuable than a dime because it is larger. Using credit cards and checks might confuse them. They have an understanding about buying things, but little understanding of limited money resources.

Elementary school-aged children are eager to learn, but their attention span is short. Making choices is difficult. Money means more to them, but they might be careless with it. They are, however, beginning to develop an awareness of the relationship between today's decisions and tomorrow's results.

Books as teaching resources

Read the book to your child or with your child. Consider that each child has a preferred learning style. Hearing the book as it is read, seeing the pictures that go with the words, and touching items on the page that relate to the story will help the child learn.

Also, choose books, which show cultural sensitivity through words and pictures.

Use the concepts presented in books to start a family discussion abut your family's resources, expectations and goals. This lets the child understand your earning, spending, saving and sharing goals. Use hands-on examples, such as letting your children watch you write checks to pay the bills each month. Allow the child to help put the check in the envelopes for mailing.

A whole new world of family communication might develop.

Financial literacy

Most parents agree that financial responsibility is a vital part of every child's education. Financial literacy is a key component of everything from developing self-esteem to maintaining successful interpersonal relationships.

Parents can help their children grow up to be responsible, clear-thinking individuals, who can make wise decisions about the use of money. The use of children's stories about money matters can facilitate that goal.

Do an online search for age-appropriate books, games and videos for children of all ages. At, parents can find resources to help teach money management to their children.

To receive an electronic copy of an annotated bibliography of Children's Books About Money and tips for reading with children, send an e-mail to with "Children's Books" in the subject line. To request a printed copy, send a self-addressed envelope with a 41-cent stamp to: Maryland Cooperative Extension-Washington County Office, attn: Children's Books, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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