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10 Money Books for Children and Teens
Reading is one of the most valuable skills children learn. Not only does reading enable us to navigate the modern world, it provides an endless source of learning and entertainment.
I am incredibly thankful that all of my children are avid readers who love nothing more than to have a fresh new book in their hands, but over the years, I’ve learned that you can’t just toss any book at them and expect them to read it. They’re engaged by compelling stories and by things that match up well with their interests in the moment. They’re not immediately going to gravitate to a book about money unless it speaks to them in some way.
Why worry about it at all? The reality is that financial education is a big part of modern parenting. Many schools provide very little in terms of practical financial education, leaving it up to parents to prepare their children for this aspect of adult life, and it can be a real challenge.
There’s an abundance of great financial books for adults, but it’s harder to find great options for children that really hit the sweet spot of being age-relevant and interesting to them. Here are 10 options that manage to balance these two goals.
For preschoolers and early readers: The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble with Money
The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble with Money by Stan and Jan Berenstain is a wonderful picture book for read aloud time 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 are going to be familiar with the idea of not having enough money to buy the things that they want, but what do they do in that situation? This book handles it with care.
Another good financially minded book choice for preschool children is Curious George Saves His Pennies by H.A. Rey. It focuses on the challenge of having enough patience to save for a large goal without getting distracted, balanced with George’s colorful adventures and distractions.
For lower elementary kids: Brock, Rock, and the Savings Shock
Brock, Rock, and the Savings Shock by Sheila Bair and Barry Gott takes the idea of compound interest and makes it into an accessible children’s book with a lot of clever rhyming and beautiful illustrations. The book focuses on twin brothers, one of whom chooses to spend on momentary impulses while the other saves his money, leading to the end when the saving brother has a lot of money built up thanks to the compounding.
Another great choice for early elementary children is The Squirrel Manifesto by Ric and Jean Edelman and illustrated by Dave Zaboski. It’s a beautifully illustrated book that brings to mind the fable of the grasshopper and the ant, focusing on a parable involving a squirrel saving resources for the winter to come.
For upper elementary kids: Lunch Money
Lunch Money by Andrew Clements and illustrated by Brian Selznick tells a great story of a rivalry between two entrepreneurially minded children, but within the rollicking tale comes a lot of good ideas about working to earn money, the value of cooperation, investing in yourself, and putting aside money for the long haul. These ideas are really effortlessly weaved into the story.
An alternative choice is How to Turn $100 into $1,000,000 by James McKenna, Jeannine Glista and Matt Fontaine. While this isn’t story-oriented like many of the other selections here, the provocative title and the perfect approach for older elementary-age children who are beginning to have somewhat more expensive tastes make this a great choice for adolescents.
For middle schoolers: Money Hungry
Money Hungry by Sharon Flake tells a very memorable story about a 13-year-old girl who seems obsessed with money, finding all sorts of ways to earn a dollar here and a dollar there. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that she’s driven by a fear of poverty and some painful memories of not having enough when she was younger. This book has spurned some wonderful conversations in our home about money, needs and how different people see those things differently.
Another really great option for middle schoolers is Katie Bell and the Wishing Well by Nephi and Elizabeth Zufelt, which takes something of an opposite approach to Money Hungry. Here, the titular character finds all of her financial wishes easily granted, but finds that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and that much of what we think of as a wealthy life comes from other things, like relationships.
For high schoolers: The Truth About Forever
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen is a beautiful story about a teenager with a summer job who is using that opportunity to both earn money and escape from some difficult life issues, particularly the death of a parent. The book intertwines money issues with the multitude of concerns and difficulties teens often face, resulting in a wonderful story with a great conclusion.
A completely different type of financial book that might just click with your high schooler is I Want More Pizza by Steve Burkholder and editors Rebecca Maizel and David Aretha. This is a nonfiction book, but it’s extremely applicable to and targets almost perfectly the financial concerns of high schoolers. Should they get a job? Should they be saving for college or for a car? It does a great job of addressing the exact questions I often hear from the high schooler in my home.
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