Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Children's Book Reviews: Using Classic Children's Literature to Teach Money Concepts

Money concepts are often embedded within classic children’s literature.  A good story can often initiate financial discussions with your child and can help make abstract topics, such as budgeting, more relevant to his/her real life.  In this month’s book reviews, I will discuss two timeless children’s novels, On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingles Wilder and Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingles Wilder
I have to admit that the Little House on the Prairie books were my favorite books when I was a girl.  In this book, Laura and her family have moved to Minnesota.  Pa plants a huge crop of wheat and the whole family looks forward to the harvest.  There are promises of new dresses, candy from the store and a new house.  Pa surprises Ma by borrowing the money to purchase lumber for the new house with the intention of paying back the debt after the harvest.  However, the family is surprised by a wave of grasshoppers that eats the entire wheat crop.  The family must make hard decisions and sacrifices or they could face the loss of their home.
Ages:  Independent Readers:  ages 9+
           Read aloud:  ages 6+
My thoughts:  On the Banks of Plum Creek is a very gentle, child-friendly introduction to the world of credit and loans.  Kids learn that life can throw unexpected challenges in the way and when that happens, difficult choices must be made to honor agreements.  Financial discussion questions can include:
  1. Could Pa have avoided borrowing money?  How would that have changed the family's lifestyle?
  2. Is credit a good thing?  
  3. Have you ever had to borrow money?  How did you pay it back?
  4. Did Pa have any other choices for jobs?
  5. Laura and Mary were too young to get a job but they did help the family during this crises.  What did they do?  How can you help your family during hard times?

Henry is a 10 ½ year old boy who desperately want his own paper route, like his friend Scooter McCarthy.  Henry sets out to prove that he is capable of handling a route by introducing himself to the route manager, creating an advertising campaign and helping out Scooter whenever possible.  He faces several challenges on his quest --- homeless kittens, a new kid who also wants the route and, of course, Ramona Quimby, the adorable but pesty little girl on the street!

Ages:  Independent Readers:  ages 9+
           Read aloud:  ages 6+

My thoughts:  Henry and the Paper Route is a light-hearted, funny view of a young boy who really wants his first job.  Money is not the only reason he wants the job.  He also wants to do something “important” and wants to prove himself capable.  This story illustrates self-pride, motivation, creativity and entrepreneurship.  Financial discussions can include:
  1. Was Henry's advertising campaign successful?  Who benefited from the advertising campaign?
  2. What do you think the route manager's perception of Henry was?  Could Henry have handled the introduction better?
  3. Is there a job that you really want to have?  What can you do to make it happen?
  4. What is more important in a job --- how much money you make or how much you enjoy the job?
Click here to read my teen book reviews.

Please share your favorite books for kids and teens in the comments.


  1. Both great books and two of my favorites as a kid. There are great money lessons in both.

  2. Absolutely! There are money lessons in so many things, but I just love connecting them with good kid's books!