Notes From a Children's Librarian: Money Money Money

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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Financial literacy is part of the new math curriculum for grades 4–6. But why not start even sooner, as young as kindergarten? The concepts of saving, spending, earning, and donating are familiar to all ages. The complexities of budgeting, payment methods, taxes, and interest rates are found in books mentioned near the end of this list.

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Cinders McLeod has written a series for readers as young as four. “It’s never too early to teach your little bunny about money,” the afterword tells us. Her loveable bunny characters (often with simple “carrot” charts to demonstrate basic mathematical notions) will appeal to students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 1. Sometimes math stories can feel like the plot is secondary, propping up a teaching concept, but these tales are completely satisfying. The series includes the following four titles:

In Give it!, Chummy’s grandma gives him some birthday carrots. He wants to spend them on a superhero cape to save the world. Grandma tells him there’s another way to help the world… planting flowers for the bees. He comes up with three different plans for his carrots and ends up doing more for the world than for himself.

In Save It!, Honey dreams of owning a playhouse, for some peace and quiet—a refuge from the five noisy siblings she takes care of (for carrots). After ten weeks of using an earn/spend/save chart she accomplishes her goal.

Book Cover Spend it

In Earn It!, Bun wants to be a rich and famous singer. Her mom helps her figure out how to set a goal—three jobs will bring in 12 carrots each month. More importantly, Bun learns that practising (singing) will help her “earn” fame.

In Spend it!, Sonny has to choose between a toy, a pogo stick and a bouncy castle. What’s within his budget three 3 carrots? He wants them all! Sonny’s mom helps him realize they each have a different value.

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Something Good, by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Marchenko, is about smart spending choices. While grocery shopping with her father, Tyya has strong opinions about what to buy, loading up the cart with mounds of sugary treats. Her father gets fed up and tells her not to move but she stands so still that a saleslady thinks she is a doll and gives her a price tag of $29.95. In the end, her father balks at having to pay for his own daughter. “Don’t you think I’m worth $29.95?” Tyya asks.

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Matthew and the Midnight Money Van, by Allen Morgan, illustrated by Michael Martchenko, is about earning with a goal in mind. It’s Mother’s Day and Matthew wants to get his mother something special. Fortunately, a midnight money van rolls up in front of his house asking Matthew to help sweep up (and keep) pennies that have rained down all night. Martchenko’s fantastic drawings reveal the other strange sweepers, like mounted geese police on “bamboni machines,” and turkeys flipping themselves “heads or tails!” to see which way they’ll land. They all head to Midnight Madness, where the turkeys are boarding “skatey-eight kilos an hour” and where Matthew finds a two-million-dollar gift for his mom.

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Set in Tanzania, My Rows and Piles of Coins, by Tololwa M. Mollel, illustrated by E. B. Lewis, is about saving and giving. Saruni helps by pushing the old wheelbarrow to market while Saruni’s mother carries goods on her head. Each time his mother pays him, he arranges the piles of coins in rows, secretly saving for a new bike to lighten his parents’ load. There’s a great illustration of Saruni walking through the market in his father’s oversize coat, pockets full of coins.

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Jasper John Dooley: Public Library Enemy #1, by Caroline Adderson, illustrated by Mike Shiell, is a delightful chapter book about young entrepreneurship. Jasper accidentally drops a library book in the bath, then scorches it whilst trying to dry it in the oven. He owes the library 25 and two zeroes!! Jasper learns the difference a decimal (“dot”) makes. He and his friend set up a business to pay for the book—“jamming” toast, with three flavours of jam to choose from (and if you go for all three, in carefully laid lines, it’s extra). Jasper learns: “The more the food costs, the more you have to tip.” In the end his business venture helps him meet his financial goal, and then some. This one is a great read aloud for Kindergarten to Grade 2.

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For Grades 3 to 6, One Hen, by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, demonstrates the world of microfinance. This true story is particularly useful in helping readers understand lending, investing and borrowing. Kojo lives in a village in Ghana, where each family saves a bit of money with one family borrowing it to buy something important. After each loan is repaid, another family borrows it. Young Kojo uses the money to buy a hen. After a year of selling eggs and buying hens, he has enough to attend agricultural college. Kojo ends up running the biggest poultry farm in West Africa, administering small loans to locals and paying taxes to build roads, schools and health clinics. The Real Kojo is presented at the back of the book, along with a bit about organizations that provide small loans in impoverished places.

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The Kids Guide to Money Cent$, by Keltie Thomas, illustrated by Stephen MacEachern, is a great overview of money touching on many of the curriculum objectives for Grades 4–6. The book follows three friends, The Money Cent$ Gang. Alongside cartoon illustrations, text boxes describe what money is, how it began, and why we need it. There are simple formats for writing a money diary, a budget, a business plan, and a chart to record stock market prices. It also tells how to determine if something is of value, how banks work, along with suggestions for some cool jobs for kids. How do you tell if a $5 bill is counterfeit? This book tells you, along with quizzes like “What’s your money personality?” and “Do you have the right stuff to be an entrepreneur?” and lots of interesting facts. (Did you know that piggy banks got their name because long ago people stuffed money in pots made from pygg clay?)

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Centsibility: The Planet Girl Guide to Money, by Stacey Roderick and Ellen Warwick, illustrated by Monika Melnychuk, is a great read for entrepreneurs in Grade 5 and up.  Divided into sections (Make It, Save It, Spend It, Share It) this book is like having a money mentor to tell you everything you need to know. It covers the spectrum of how to apply for a job, how to start your own business, how to make money goals, and a budget, how banks work, including interest rates and debt, how to judge good value, and how to fundraise. There are quizzes to help the reader identify spending style and personality with regards to saving and donating.

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On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.

November 17, 2020
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