Learning finances through fiction

I must admit, I never really considered my nightly ritual of reading to Adam as an opportunity to teach him about money.

I must admit, I never really considered my nightly ritual of reading to Adam as an opportunity to teach him about money. It’s mostly a great way to slow down his active body and mind before bed (and to sneak in some first-rate cuddling!). But when we started reading chapter books last year and I rediscovered some of my own childhood favourites — such as Beverley Cleary’s Ramona books — I was struck by the themes surrounding money.

In one, Ramona’s father loses his job and the family has to cut back (no more eating out at “Whopperburger”); and in another, Ramona and her sister complain when their mother serves them tongue for dinner, even though it’s the only cut of meat the family can afford. Without any effort on my part, I was soon in the middle of an impromptu mother-son chat about jobs, earnings, savings and affordability. I could see the light go on in Adam’s head — I think it was the first time he really got what “too expensive” means.

There is a school of thought that children shouldn’t be exposed to any of this stuff. Kids should be kids — let the grownups worry about money. I agree with that to a point; Adam is a contemplative child and I don’t want to create anxiety needlessly. When he asked if his father or I could lose our jobs I was honest — anyone can. But I also assured him that it’s not something he needs to fret about because we’ve put money aside “just in case.” The moral of the story: saving is good.

There is a long tradition of children’s stories teaching lessons about saving or other financial themes — going as far back as Aesop’s Fable The Ant and the Grasshopper (for those of you who can’t remember, the ill-fated grasshopper plays all summer while the ant works hard to store up food for the winter). Here’s a selection of books to consider, or you can ask your local librarian for suggestions.

What are some of your favourite children’s books that touch on money issues?

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.

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