Stories Help Share Values

Money is more than dollars and cents. We choose how we manage our money based on our personal values. Values help define who we are and what we do. During the holiday season our values about money are highlighted: how much do we spend on treats; do we use credit; do we give to charities?

Many of us would like to pass along our values to children in our lives. However, it can be a challenge to find a way to start the conversation! One way to begin talking about finances is to read stories together that include money and values in the plot.

There are more good books about money for children than you may expect. To help you begin to explore the options, here are a few highly-regarded books.

In "A Chair for My Mother," by Vera B. Williams, a family has lost all their possessions in a fire, but friends and family help out by sharing their beds, tables, pots and pans, and even a stuffed teddy bear to help out. This Caldecott Honor Book is an excellent starting point to talk about the value of saving.  In the story, the family saves change until they have enough saved to buy a something big – a chair for momma.

You might have heard of Alexander who had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But have you read “Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday,” by Judith Viorst?  You should. Not only is it a very funny story, but it perfectly illustrates what happens to our money when we don’t have a spending plan. Enjoy following Alexander’s antics as his money dribbles away.

Values such as helping others cross cultures. “My Rows and Piles of Coins,” by Tololwa M. Mollel and illustrated by E.B. Lewis was recognized for its illustrations with a Coretta Scott King Honor Award.  In this picture book, a young boy is determined to help his mother take farm produce to the local Tanzanian market and sets out to save coins to buy a bike. The story has a wonderful twist at the end that will easily lead to conversations about family values.

Jeff Brumbeau and Gail de Marcken jointly produced "The Quiltmaker's Gift." This book is visually delightful plus it’s a thoughtful book about a king who learns the joy of sharing his riches. An excellent addition to holiday reading.

Saving and sharing money are common themes for children’s money books but what about earning money? In “If You Made a Million,” by David M. Schwartz and pictures by Steven Kellogg, concepts about earning money, return on investment, opportunity cost, and even borrowing money are introduced in an engaging, imaginative way that is likely to capture the interest of elementary school children.

Not too many financial books contain lines like “If you have some very expensive plans, you may to take on a tough job that pays well. If you think ogre-taming would be an exciting challenge, you can have fun and make a great deal of money, too.”

Older children may enjoy New York Times Bestseller “Lunch Money” by Andrew Clements. The trials and tribulations (as well as the rewards) of entrepreneurship are explored in a realistic manner with interesting characters and storyline to make it an excellent read. I think this story would work well as a read-aloud (and conversation starter) for children of varying ages.

Award-winning “Money Hungry” by Sharon G. Flake is a challenging book for teens. It’s not challenging because of the reading level but because it explores difficult financial themes such as greed, security, and stealing money. While it deals with sobering concepts, the story is positive with close friend and family support. Families reading this book together will find many possibilities for conversations.

Do you have a favorite book or activity that helps you talk with children about money?  If so, please dd a comment below so that we all can enjoy new books and activities!