Most children, even those as young as two or three years, probably know a few basic things about finance – like how to count to 5 or 10, where money comes from (a bank, mom’s purse, a piggy bank) and why you need it – for ice cream, stickers, a lollipop or a toy. Concepts about budgeting, saving and earning money, not to mention what it’s like to not have enough of it, may be complex for young minds to understand.
Devon Kinch, author and illustrator of the Pretty Penny series, for kids ages 5 to 8 and up, believes the best way for young ones to learn about finance is by rolling money lessons into fun, daily tasks, like comparison shopping at the grocery store, or counting out coins you find into a jug or jar. And, not surprisingly, she says that reading books on the topic is a great way to gently instruct kids about the importance of saving, earning and making smart choices about money. These themes are always reflected in Kinch’s own books. “Penny, the main character in the series, comes up with ways to overcome financial roadblocks by setting goals and working hard to make her dreams happen,” she says.
Money Lessons Wrapped Up In Stories
Below is a list of six great books (both nonfiction and fiction) that explain the basics of finance while starting children off on a path of successful money management as they grow.
“How the Moonjar Was Made” by Eulalie Scandiuzzi
Noom (moon spelled backward) and Raj (likewise, jar) become friends and along the way, they learn about how to save, spend and share through the use of a special jar. The book has its own website where children can purchase a “moonjar” of their own. Suggested ages: 2–7 years
“Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money” by Emily Jenkins
This lovely picture book tells the story of two young siblings who use all their money one winter day to buy supplies and open a lemonade stand. What happens afterward is a lesson in counting, spending and earning, and the risks and rewards that come with starting a business. The book’s last page show backs and fronts of coins and explains how much each one is worth. Suggested ages: 3–7 years
“The Go-Around Dollar” by Barbara Johnston Adams
Ever wonder what happens to a dollar bill when you pay for something? It keeps moving on to the next person and the next until, in this case, it winds up somewhere really special. This nonfiction book tracks the complicated path of a single dollar bill and contains a wealth of information about the basics of America’s paper money. Suggested ages: 6 years and up
“A Chair for My Mother” by Vera B. Williams
A Caldecott Honor award winner, this beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a young girl, her waitress mother and her grandmother – who lose everything in a fire. When they move into a new home, the daughter and grandmother save coins (by budgeting food money, among other ways) in a jar in the hope of one day buying a comfortable chair for the girl’s hardworking mother. Themes include saving, budgeting and working together to give someone a gift. Suggested ages: 5–10 years
“Neale S. Godfrey’s Ultimate Kids’ Money Book” by Neale S. Godfrey
This author knows about money and kids. She’s not only a mother and a grandmother, but she was one of the first female executives at Chase Bank. Godfrey has compiled practically everything about finance in one kid-friendly comprehensive guide. Charts, illustrations, photographs, and bite-sized facts and sidebars make it easy to use and fun to read. A great resource for parents who aren’t sure where to start when explaining things like credit cards, savings accounts, banks, the Federal Reserve and practically any topic regarding the money you can think up. Suggested ages: 5 years and up
“Pretty Penny Cleans Up” by Devon Kinch
One of four Pretty Penny titles by author/illustrator Devon Kinch that wraps money lessons into an entertaining story. When young Emma spends all her allowance and doesn’t have any money left to go to a concert, her entrepreneurial friend, Penny, comes up with an idea (La Perfect Pup Salon) to raise funds for the concert – and for charity too. Many good lessons in here about friendship, charitable giving and why it feels good to earn money to spend and share with a friend. Suggested ages: 5 years and up
The Bottom Line
It’s never too soon to start teaching children important life lessons about money, and a simple and fun way to start is with a good book. Visit your local library or bookstore to pick up these titles.