“Reading Makes ₵ents” teaches children money management

Young people learn basic money management concepts through this National 4-H curriculum’s book suggestions and hand-on activities.

In the Michigan State University Extension article, “‘Reading Makes ₵ents’ Curriculum Teaches Children Money Concepts,” we learned that the curriculum teaches two key life skills: reading literacy and money management skills.

The financial concept addressed in the second chapter of the curriculum is managing money, which is defined as making decisions and choices about how to save, spend and share money. Five books appropriate for third through fifth graders are featured along with numerous hands-on activities.

The chapter begins with a book reading and a discussion of wants and needs. In the accompanying activity young people “vote with their feet” as they move along a continuum based on whether they think each item is a need or a want; the list of items is particularly appropriate for a young audience. After the children add additional items to the list they categorize them based on how long it will take them to be able to purchase the item, a clever first step in creating a budget.

In one of the book selections a young girl and her family deal with choices and consequences of their money management plan. Children are introduced to the basic money management concepts of spending, saving, sharing and learning to divide their limited income between these three options. In a creative activity, the children develop an organizational system using jars or envelopes.

Determining if they are more like spenders or savers is the next activity. The youth use their math skills to allocate play money to the organizational system they created earlier.

After reading a book about a boy who is obsessed with money, the youth are directed to plan a trip to the nearest currency production facility. In the process they create a budget that includes the expenses of travel, lodging, meals, etc. In teams the youth investigate what would be the most reasonable choice based on the amount of money they were allocated. The discussion questions guide the youth to apply what they have learned to meeting future needs or wants.

Children love handling coins and one activity invites them to move from station to station answering a series of questions about U.S. coins. The related reading follows a newly minted quarter as it travels through various transactions over the course of a day.

The final activity in the chapter engages the youth’s ingenuity in creating storyboards of their favorite book in the lessons. The last page of the chapter provides a list of resources for children who want to read additional books about managing money.

The curriculum was developed by professionals at Pennsylvania State University and pilot tested by youth in after-school programs across the country. It has been reviewed, recommended and accepted into the National 4-H Curriculum set of professional educational resources. Future articles will highlight lessons from subsequent chapters in the curriculum.

The 194-page guide is available from the 4-H Mall under the curriculum “reading/financial literacy.” Contact your local Michigan State University Extension office for additional information about financial literacy programming for youth.

For more information about children and money, visit the eXtension personal finance webpage.

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