Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Books to Help Teens Learn about Money

I recently read two books for young adults that deal with money issues.  The first book was “Money Hungry” by Sharon G. Flake and the second book was “Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins.  Both of these stories have teens as the main characters and deal with the effects of lack of money on their personal survival. 

Money Hungry by Sharon G. Flake.  2002 Coretta Scott King Honor Book

Raspberry Hill is a 13 year old girl who lives in the projects with her mother.  Her memories of being homeless and eating handouts drive her to think about money constantly.  She is in survival mode and will do anything legally possible to prevent living on the streets again.  She sells pencils and candy at school and washes cars or cleans apartments after school to make money.  Raspberry hoards her money in her room and counts it quite often.  Her friends and mother think she is just “money hungry” but Raspberry’s drive and ambition come from the nightmarish possibility of becoming homeless again. 

Age Range: 13 and older

My thoughts:  
This book is so well written that the character of Raspberry lingers in my thoughts.  She has the determination and drive of an adult but still seeks the comfort and security that all children need.  Readers can easily see the positive and negative effects of Raspberry’s obsession with money and can understand why she is never satisfied that she has enough.  This book can lead to extraordinary financial conversations with your teen, including these topics:
  1. Does money provide security?
  2. Can you ever have enough money?
  3. Does money truly make Raspberry happy?

Favorite Quote from the Book:
                “But you can’t cash dreams in at the bank or buy bread, or pay rent with ‘em.  You need cold hard cash for that.  So every penny I get, I save.  Momma thinks I just got a little pocket change stashed here and there.  But nickels don’t keep you off the street.  That’s why I got six hundred dollars stashed all over my room.”

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The United States does not exist in this fantasy novel.  All North American governments have collapsed and have been replaced by the nation of Panem, consisting of a Capitol and 12 districts.  Every year each district is required to send two teens, one boy and one girl, to the Capitol to fight to the death in the Hunger Games.  The winner and their district get rewarded with money and food.  Katniss Evergreen, a 16 year old girl who supports her mother and younger sister buy hunting and trading, volunteers to go to the Hunger Games to prevent her younger sister from being chosen.  The story of the Hunger Games unfolds with Katniss using all of her survival skills in this futuristic gladiator game.  

Age Range: 14 and older

My thoughts:  
This story is captivating and exciting from Chapter One.  I had a hard time putting the book down.  Although the book is tastefully written and is not gruesome, the story does deal with death and fighting.  Parents will need to be the judge of whether or not their child is ready for these concepts.     

The money concepts in this book are rather deep ones.  Katniss supports her family by hunting and gathering every day and trading these items for money or food.  In this story, money is purely for a means for survival.  For example, on her best hunting day ever, Katniss used the money from the sell the animals to buy a baby goat for her younger sister. 

Discussion Topics:
  1. What are your basic necessities?
  2. What skills or knowledge do you have that could be used to create an income?
  3. How does money effect the outcome of the Hunger Games?  Is it fair?
Favorite Passage from the Book:
This is the moment when Katniss realizes that her knowledge of edible plants will help her family survive:
        "I dropped my gaze, embarrassed, and that’s when I saw it.  The first dandelion of the year.  A bell went off in my head.  I thought of the hours spent in the woods with my father and I knew how we were going to survive."

Hope your teens enjoy these books.  Do you have any recommended books for teens?



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