I believe our relationship with money starts from a very young age.
My relationship with money was probably a lot like many others. Like many kids, I would ask for a lot of things. Like everything. I got a lot of “no's” that prompted me to ask “why.” Which was met with “we can't afford that” if my parents were tired and didn't feel like explaining that we already have enough boxes of cereal. Or whatever crap I wanted.
I want my kids to have a more reasoned relationship with money. As I was researching children's books about money, I saw this post that talked about the CFPB's Money As You Grow book club.
I thought it would be fun if I read the books with my oldest, who is 5, and see what he thought of them.
As a bit of background, he loves books but mostly the ones where you look at things. We enjoy looking for goldbug, Waldo, and the changing of the seasons (esp. the lantern party). Oh and of course this gem. 🙂
These are presented in the order we read them the first time.
A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams
He enjoyed the story but I could tell it was a little more complex and the fire part was a little scary. The flashback aspect of it, thinking back to the fire and the community helping, confused him initially but the illustrations were complex enough to keep him entertained while I read the text. He said “wow that's a lot of pennies!” to a drawing of the filled up jar and he understood they were saving up to buy the chair, which they lost in the fire. It made him happy that “lots of people” helping the family who lost all their things in a fire but were themselves OK.
CFPB Book Club Lessons: Setting goals, Earning, Saving, Follow-through
Sheep in a Shop by Nancy Shaw
This book was quick to read, entertaining because of the rhyming and the chaos of the pictures of sheep playing in the store, but a little too simple for our son at the age of 5. He loved seeing the sheep cut off their hair and thought the shorn sheep looked hilarious as they bounded out the store – “Look, they don't have any fur!” he exclaimed at one point. For a second he thought they were bunnies because they were hopping.
He understood that the sheep didn't have enough money so they traded their own fur. We've talked in the past, especially when he wanted a toy another friend (or his sister) was holding, that trading is a way to get something you want (rather than fighting to take it or whining or calling us). This was an illustration of that and he understood.
CFPB Book Club Lessons: Solving problems, Making decisions
Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst
At points he lost interest, he told me the book was “a little boring and a little bit silly,” because Alexander kept losing his money and spending it on “silly stuff,” like a bear with one eye and a melted candle. He did think it was funny at the end because he only had bus tokens.
CFPB Book Club Lessons: Prioritizing, Making decisions, Saving, Self-control
The Berenstain Bears & Mama’s New Job by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Our kids have long loved the Berenstain Bears books but we usually stuck to the shorter ones. This one, while not thick, had longer sentences and ideas that were new to our kids. What isn't new is the idea that Mom works and Dad helps around the house cooking, cleaning, etc. Dad also works and Mom helps around the house cooking, cleaning, etc. We all have roles and responsibilities but they aren't split down “traditional” (as in 1960's) gender roles.
One funny moment happened when there was a discussion in the Bear family about Mama opening a store and becoming a “business bear.” Papa Bear says there's only one “business bear” in the family and our son said laughed, “That's silly, Mama Bear can be a business bear.”
CFPB Book Club Lessons: Setting goals, Earning, Spending
Just Shopping With Mom by Mercer Mayer
This book was a little too simple for our son though he enjoyed exploring the pictures and it gave me flashbacks of our shopping trips when he was a little younger. 🙂
Our son enjoyed it but he already knew the lesson that you can't always get what you want and you can't buy everything, only the things you need.
CFPB Book Club Lessons: Prioritizing, Spending, Self-control
The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble With Money by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Some of the themes might have gone over our son's head but I can see the value in reading this as he gets older, it covers a lot in a few short pages. One of the surprising things he said, when I asked him why the kids couldn't sell maps to the trees, was that you can't tell other people's secrets (the location of the trees was a family secret). Not a money lesson but a good life lesson.
CFPB Book Club Lessons: Making decisions, Spending, Saving, Self-control
Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall
Our son has a basic understanding that things cost money and has a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, so he understood the idea that you make/grow things, bring them to market, but was a little sad when the ox and cart were sold. It took a little explaining before he understood that the socks and shawl were made from the sheep's fur and that the cycle of making and growing started in the winter, but they were good lessons he picked up on.
CFPB Book Club Lessons: Setting goals, Prioritizing, Making decisions, Earning
A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban
This book was more than about money. I don't think anyone in his class has ever tricked him and the idea of “revenge” was foreign, but he knew that Frances was tricked. He said that Thelma wasn't nice because Thelma lied about how hard it would be to find a china tea set but then Frances lied to get the tea set from Thelma.
Of all the books, I liked this one the least. At some point, I know our eldest will cease to be this pure of heart child with no ill thoughts towards others. Whether that happens at six or sixteen, this book talked about how one raccoon tricked another and then was tricked herself into giving something up. I remember the first time I was tricked, in a very similar way, and it's something that had an impact on me (it was over comic books, not tea sets!) even to this day.
CFPB Book Club Lessons: Setting goals, Making decisions, Staying true to yourself, Flexibility
The Purse by Kathy Caple
Our son has a piggy bank and when he finds coins outside, such as in a parking lot, he puts it in the piggy bank. I tell him that every time he saves a coin, I'll put one in too. The money inside doesn't really mean much to him, other than he knows things cost money and the coins ARE money, and he had no concept of a purse (it was just a bag). He didn't have much to say about this book (which was his third book of the evening after a long day, he normally reads two) but he did say that it was silly that she bought a purse to hold money but then didn't have any more money.
CFPB Book Club Lessons: Setting goals, Solving problems, Saving, Staying true to yourself
For a 5 year old, some of the books were a little too simple and some were a little too long. This isn't a complaint about the book club at all, just something to keep in mind if you hope to do this with your kids. The simplest books were Sheep in a Shop and Just Shopping with Mom, while A Chair for My Mother and Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday were a little beyond our son's comprehension (and patience).
My personal favorite was A Chair for My Mother. Money skills are important and with time everyone can learn them. A Chair for My Mother is a bit about community and empathy, which I firmly believe need to be reinforced especially in our kids.
Overall, I think the set of books is great. As long or short as any of them were, our son was varying levels of engaged and interested throughout and I'm glad we did it. Our younger daughter also enjoyed them, especially the shorn sheep!