How to teach kids about money using money books
Wondering how to teach kids about money (especially if your kiddo seems to be well beyond the basics)?
Kids in the Money Star category have the basics of money down. Heck, they’ve probably pointed a thing or two out to you along their money journey! They’ve now set their eyes on the next level, with interests in how to earn more cash, entrepreneurship, how to get their hands on the stock market, etc.
Let me help you to quench their money thirst partly with some focused money books.
Curated Book List for the Money Star
The fact is, the Money Prodigy categories don’t necessarily correlate with the age of your child. Some preschoolers know more about money than tweens, and some teens still struggle with the basics (heck, so do some adults!).
So I’ve divided these book selections up into ages − preschool, pre-tween, and tween age − within the Money Star category.
Preschooler Money Star: Your Book List
Money Book #1: Apple Farmer Annie, Monica Wellington
Ages: 3-7 years
I get exhausted just thinking back to my cow-milking, hay-making, silo-filling days.
What I like about this book is that your child will start to get an idea of the process involved in farming and turning it into an end product − dipping their toes in entrepreneurship. Annie, an orchard farmer, takes your child through (though in a really cursory way) picking apples, sorting them, producing sweet apple cider, applesauce, various baked goods, and then selling the most beautiful of all of them at the farmer’s market.
The Money Lesson(s): When you grow your own food, you can keep some for yourself to munch on (or bake really yummy things with), and then you can sell the excess and make some money. This is also a great opener for discussing with your child your own job and how it enables you to earn money.
Life Lesson(s): All throughout the book you can feel Annie’ s enthusiasm for what she does. It’s nice to show kids that you can love what you do in life.
Bonus Money Activity: there are Annie’s recipes in the back. So you could extend the study by picking your own apples, sorting them, then making a recipe together with your child. To add money flair to it, calculate the cost to create the recipe, and how much you could earn if you sold it for X amount of dollars.
Pre-Tween Money Star: Your Book List
Money Book #1: Lulu Walks the Dogs, Judith Viorst
Age Range: 6-10 years
Lulu is quite the sassy little girl. She decides she needs to make some cash for something REALLY special, and sets her eyes on figuring out anything that will roll the dough in. Dog-walking seems to be the best suited (err, most easily lucrative) occupation. Except that she’s pretty bad at dog-walking. There’s this neighborhood kid who seems to be good at everything + super polite and helpful…but she refuses his help and good advice time and time again.
I also like that this is a short chapter book, so you can read it over several nights to your little one (or they can read it themselves).
The Money Lesson(s): Money can be made from a variety of sources if you’ve got some determination.
Life Lesson(s): Don’t be too prideful to ask for help, especially from people who could be the key in you getting what you are tirelessly trying for. A lesson that’s good for both kids and adults to learn!
Bonus Money Activity: Share several ways (or just one) of how you earned cash as a kid. How much did you make? Were you saving up for something special?
Money Book #2: How the Second Grade Got $8,205.50 to Visit the Statue of Liberty, Nathan Zimelman
Ages: 5-8 years
I love how this book organizes such a huge task − raising a large sum of money − with a child Treasurer who makes reports. The reports break down their interesting and sometimes funny methods to raise money by the expenses and then overall profits. But it’s done in a very story-telling kind of way, not like a profit-n-loss meeting. This book is hilarious!
The Money Lesson(s): You can shoot for high money goals! Also, remember that when you sell something, not all of the money you bring in is actually profit. There are expenses you incurred that you need to account for to come to your profit number.
Life Lesson(s): Have a big idea − like checking out the Statue of Liberty? All of your goals are doable. You just need to brainstorm and take action on your ideas for how to get there.
Bonus Money Activity: What are some school fundraisers you’ve participated in the past? List them out. Now, talk about which ones were successful, and which ones were not. Why do you think some were successful and some weren’t?
Money Book #3: Rickshaw Girl, Mitali Perkins
Ages: 7-10 years
How to teach kids about money + beyond can start by introducing them to the economics and realities of different cultures. Ten-year-old Naima is exceptionally good at painting (specifically designs called Alpanas). She lives in a Bangladeshi village with her mother, father, and younger sister. Unfortunately, even though they make little money, she can’t use her talents to earn money for the family because she is a girl. The father makes a living by pulling a rickshaw all day. In order to get into the profession, he had to first purchase the rickshaw. But since they have very little, he’s making payments on it.
One day Naima gets the rickshaw into an accident, threatening their entire livelihood.
Bonus Money Activity: On one rickshaw drive Naima’s, father makes is 3 taka. How much is that in US dollars? What is the US minimum wage, and how does that compare with what Naima’s father made?
Money Book #4: The Lemonade War, Jacqueline Davies
Age Range: 7-10 years
I absolutely adored this book.
Jessie and her brother, Evan, love each other. Deep down. And usually they function well as a brother/sister unit. But when Evan finds out that his very intelligent sister is going to be skipping ahead to his own grade, his bad emotions come out of nowhere.
They begin selling lemonade together, and end up starting an all-out lemonade war due to lots of miscommunication that escalate things (gee, that never happens in real life!). And who wins? The person who makes a profit of $100 by the end of the week.
The Money Lesson(s): One of the great money lessons in this book is how it’s geared towards making big business concepts understandable in terms of something your tween gets — a lemonade stand. So they learn about things like Underselling, Value-Added, Profit Margin, and Franchises. An overall highly valuable money lesson is how to take an idea you have to make money, and see it through. These two really know how to implement, and that’s where the rubber meets the road.
Life Lesson(s): I think one of the best life lessons in this book that isn’t necessarily pointed out is that each person, no matter what their skills or capabilities, can bring valuable assets to the table. Jessie is a whiz when it comes to math, calculations, and ideas for how to increase profits. Evan is more of a people person, which is hugely important in a business.
Bonus Money Activity: If you were going to open a lemonade stand, who would you appoint to the different positions? For example, who in your family would be good at advertising for the business? Who would be good at counting the money? Where would you locate your lemonade stand? Start to think about these questions.
Tween Money Star: Your Book List
Money Book #1: A Smart Girl’s Guide to Money (American Girl), Nancy Holyoke
Age Range: 9-12 years
If you’re looking for money education geared towards young girls that has a cosmo-girl feel to it, this is your book. I particularly love the guidance on how to not only start up a business, but how to figure out your actual profits and not just your overall intake (something would-be biz owners at any age need to hear). I also dig the 101 money-making ideas in the back.
Overall, the book was a little too shopping-happy for my liking for kids (example: for a typical money moments day they include things like noticing another teen has a purse that costs more than someone’s car and determining that she’s stuck-up, meeting up with teen friends at the mall after school, etc.). To be fair though, there is a chapter on Shopping that goes into the value of needs versus wants, six ways not to buy, etc.
The Money Lesson(s): This is an entire guide about money, so there are many. The list includes being a smart shopper, starting up a business, running a business, and saving money.
Life Lesson(s): Once again, it’s not a book really set up for one particular lesson or even two. However, one that caught my eye was how to negotiate with your parents to raise your allowance.
Money Book #2: Lawn Boy, Gary Paulsen
Age Range: 8-12
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: poverty breeds creativity. In this case, being a broke kid bred a whole business!
Lawn Boy is a pretty great book about a kid who started an entire lawn-mowing business − complete with workers − all because his parents didn’t have enough money to help him buy a new bike inner tube.
While this book is bent towards economics, it’s also great for making entrepreneurship seem a bit more accessible. It gives your kiddo a look into how another kid their age filled a demand for a service, and in the meantime, earned lots of money.
The Money Lesson(s): Get this book for your kiddo for the business and entrepreneur lessons. However, warn your kid about the use of penny stocks and investing their money with random people. Yes, Lawn Boy makes a small fortune when his stockbroker neighbor-turned business manager invests his money into penny stocks. But that’s not likely to happen.
Life Lesson(s): Keep your eyes open for opportunities. And sometimes? It comes in the form of work. A lot of work.
Bonus Money Activity: Think about yourself trying to start a lawn mowing business. What would you need to purchase in order to get started? How would you come up with that money to begin the business?
Money Book #3: Lunch Money, Andrew Clements
Age Range: 8-12
Greg Kenton has a mind and an eye for earning cash. You could say he’s a little money-crazy. When he figures out that all of his friends and schoolmates carry around extra quarters with them − for things like ice-cream sandwiches, cupcakes, neon pens, pencils, and other things to buy at school − he knows he needs to cash in on it in order to help him make his fortune.
The book follows his entrepreneurial journey as he navigates selling first toys, then self-made, mini-comic books to his students. Along the way he figures out how to mass-produce, he comes up against a fierce competitor, and tough school regulations against selling things where learning should be the ultimate goal.
The Money Lesson(s): I like how this book takes a subject that can be very difficult to wrap your head around − entrepreneurship and starting up a small biz − and makes it accessible to kids and adults alike. Most things are addressed in a completely non-intimidating way, such as trademark issues, creation, marketing, figuring out a solid audience to market to, earning money, gross earnings versus profits Greg gets to pocket, etc. However, the book does not get into a bit more complex subjects like taxes on earnings.
Life Lesson(s): There’s an underlying message here of learning how to read things for yourself, analyze them, then stick up for what you believe in. This happens when Greg and his competitor find out that even though they’re told they cannot sell products to kids in school, they point out the huge amount of advertisements and products being sold to the kids everyday (such as Coke in the vending machines, and books through the scholastic school program). Greg, his competitor, and a teacher end up going over the regulations and then presenting their side at the school board meeting.
Bonus Money Activity: Greg’s idea to create miniature comic books and sell them to kids is pretty unique. Ask your child if they wanted to make some extra money, what are three ways they could start doing so?
Money Book #4: Better than a Lemonade Stand!, Daryl Bernstein
Age Range: 9-13 years
I love the fact that this book was written by a 15-year old. How cool for your kid to see that!
There are 55 different business ideas for kids that go well beyond just the lemonade stand. I also love the fact that sprinkled throughout the book are real life examples of kids who took this guy’s advice (he originally wrote the book in 1992) and started their own businesses.
There’s a lot of positivity in this book, and I’ll have to warn you that you may not agree with all the advice spouted off by the then-15 year old in the beginning of the book. Examples include, “When you earn your own money, it’s yours to spend as you wish…[i]f you prefer to buy loads of candy, go ahead!” And you might want to reinforce the idea of charity against his statement of, “When I see a need, I charge a fee to fill it.”
Then again, getting to read a book from a child who is so confident with money, business building, gleaning life lessons from mistakes, and asking for the sale is an awesome role model for your own child.
The Money Lesson(s): Your child will definitely understand what start-up costs are after reading this book, as each of the 55 ideas comes with a list of what they’ll need to get the biz up and going. The crucial role of advertising, along with tons of ideas for how to, is discussed. Each idea also comes with an example of how much to charge, as well as ways to cut down on costs and increase your profits as you move along. Lots of other nuggets like “the less you spend on supplies, the more you make!”, collecting some money upfront so that you have the funds to purchase supplies, and small details to get repeat customers (like bringing along a little bell toy to leave in a bird’s cage after cleaning it so that every time the customer hears the bell they’ll think of you in a sweet way and want you to come again).
Life Lesson(s): Daryl really reinforces the idea that when you make a mistake or fail you can use the lessons as fodder for your next business. I love this “keep going” attitude.