Reading is one of the most valuable skills children learn. Not only does reading enable us to navigate the modern world, it is an endless source of learning and entertainment.
I’m incredibly grateful that all of my children are avid readers who love nothing more than to have a new book in hand, but over the years I’ve learned that you can’t just throw them a book and wait for them to walk to read it. They deal with compelling stories and with things that fit their interests well at the moment. You won’t be instantly interested in a book about money unless it somehow appeals to you.
Why bother about it at all? The reality is that financial literacy is a huge part of modern parenting. Many schools offer very little hands-on financial education, leaving it up to parents to prepare their children for this aspect of adult life, and this can be a real challenge.
There are a plethora of great adult finance books out there, but it’s harder to find great options for kids that really hit the sweet spot of being age relevant and interesting to them. Here are 10 options that can help balance these two goals.
The Berenstain Bears With Money Problem by Stan and Jan Berenstain is a wonderful picture book to read aloud or for early independent readers. It tells a relatable story from the perspective of the two younger Berenstain Bears about the challenge of having limited amounts of money. Children will be familiar with the idea of not having enough money to buy the things they want, but what are they doing in this situation? This book handles it with care.
Another good, financially-minded book selection for preschoolers is Curious George Saves His Pennies by HA Rey. It focuses on the challenge of having enough patience to save for a big goal without being distracted, balanced with George’s colorful adventures and distractions.
Brock, Rock and the Sparschock by Sheila Bair and Barry Gott take the idea of compound interest and turn it into an accessible children’s book with lots of clever rhymes and beautiful illustrations. The book focuses on twin brothers, one opting for momentary impulses while the other is saving his or her money. This leads to the end when the saving brother has built up a lot of money thanks to the compounding.
Another great choice for early elementary school children is Ric and Jean Edelman’s Squirrel Manifesto, illustrated by Dave Zaboski. It is a beautifully illustrated book that recalls the fable of the grasshopper and ant and focuses on a parable in which a squirrel saves resources for the coming winter.
For children of the upper elementary level: Meal money
Lunch Money by Andrew Clements and illustrated by Brian Selznick tells a great story of a rivalry between two entrepreneurial kids, putting money aside for the long haul. These ideas are woven into the story really effortlessly.
An alternative choice is How to Make $ 1,000,000 out of $ 100 by James McKenna, Jeannine Glista, and Matt Fontaine. While this isn’t story-driven like many of the other choices, the provocative title and perfect approach for older elementary school aged kids who are starting to have slightly more expensive tastes make this a great choice for teens.
Sharon Flake’s Money Hungry tells a memorable story about a 13 year old girl who seems obsessed with money and finds all possible ways to make a dollar here and there. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that she is driven by fear of poverty and some painful memories of not having enough when she was younger. This book has scorned some wonderful conversations in our home about money, needs, and how different people see these things differently.
Another really good option for middle school students is Katie Bell and the Wishing Well by Nephi and Elizabeth Zufelt, who take a slightly opposite approach to Money Hungry. Here the title character finds all of her financial desires easy to fulfill, but notes that it’s not all that matters and that much of what we consider to be a wealthy life comes from other things like relationships.
The Truth About Getting From Sarah Dessen is a lovely story about a teenage summer job who takes this opportunity to make money and escape some difficult life problems, particularly the death of a parent. The book links money problems to the myriad of worries and difficulties teens often face, resulting in a wonderful story with a great close.
A completely different type of finance book that might only hit your high schooler is I Want More Pizza by Steve Burkholder and editors Rebecca Maizel and David Aretha. This is a non-fiction book, but it is extremely applicable and almost perfectly targets the financial concerns of high schoolers. Should they get a job? Should they save for college or for a car? It does a great job answering the exact questions I often hear from high schoolers in my house.
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