This article was first published at U.S. News and World Report Money.
As a proud parent of three children, I’ve read many, many, many children’s books over the last decade. Some were wonderful, while others were completely forgettable. Some taught valuable lessons, while others seemed to teach nothing at all.
Over time, we used the library to try out hundreds of books, with the ones that the children enjoyed (and the parents valued in terms of the lessons taught) finding their way onto our permanent bookshelf.
It is worth noting that no book will singlehandedly transform your child into a financial genius. These books focus more on a good story and the love of reading above all else, with financial lessons taught through the actions of the characters and the experiences that they share. Good children’s literature makes the situations come to life for the reader, teaching lessons while also being highly entertaining.
Here are five of these books that teach valuable money lessons while still remaining favorites of our children.
Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins and G. Brian Karas focuses on two siblings who make the interesting choice to open a lemonade stand in the middle of winter. The book features a very catchy refrain about lemonade while telling a great story about how sometimes great ideas don’t turn out like you hope. The book features particularly beautiful illustrations.
Lemonade in Winter teaches the very basics of entrepreneurship and a small amount of very basic math. It is appropriate for two to seven year old children.
Bunny Money by Rosemary Wells is a “Max and Ruby” story, as it centers around a pair of bunny siblings that are familiar to most parents of young children today. In this story, Ruby has saved $100 to buy a pair of gifts for her grandmother as a birthday gift, but various unexpected events befall Ruby and Max, causing some of that money to disappear. Will they have enough to buy the gifts for Grandmother?
Bunny Money teaches basic money math, such as addition and subtraction, as well as the basic idea of a budget and how emergencies can tear through your money. It works well for three to seven year olds.
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback tells the story of a frugal man who has a nice overcoat, but he wears it a lot and it begins to wear out. Eventually, he reuses the material to make a jacket, then into a vest, then into various other things until it becomes a cloth button. The book won a Caldecott Medal for its wonderful drawings which not only bring Joseph’s world to life, but also clearly shows how the material from Joseph’s overcoat is reused to make other things.
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat teaches frugality and the idea of reusing things, because even things that are worn out can still have a valuable use. This book works well for three to eight year olds.
Annie’s Adventures (The Sisters 8) by Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the first in an ongoing series about orphaned octuplet girls. In this volume, the titular Annie ends up having to figure out their parents’ financial situation, including how to write checks, interpret bills, and eventually figure out how to pay for all of it. It’s a gentle and humorous introduction into the reality of adult finances couched in an enjoyable simple adventure.
Annie’s Adventures teaches the basics of earning money and paying bills, including the use of checks. There are also elements (in this book and in the rest of the series) of entrepreneurship, frugality, and money management decisions. This book is appropriate for six to twelve year old girls, as are the rest of the volumes in the series.
The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies is the first in a series about two rather siblings who open up competing lemonade stands. The story continues to escalate as the siblings use their skills and a few basic ideas about entrepreneurship to drive their “lemonade war” to amusing heights.
The Lemonade War teaches the basics of entrepreneurship, planning, and money management in the context of a very enjoyable adventure story that really hits upon the inner lives of upper elementary children. This book is appropriate for eight to twelve year old children, as are the rest of the volumes in the series.