We can all recite lines from Cat in the Hat, but can you recall learning about balance sheets or Roth IRAs as a child? Dr. Seuss books are undoubtedly more engaging than discussions about personal finance, but you certainly can’t retire on green eggs and ham.
The most recent data collected by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) found that over 20 percent of the nation is considered to be illiterate. Unfortunately, the numbers surrounding financial literacy are even worse.
The good news is that tomorrow is the birthday of beloved children’s author, Dr. Seuss, as well as Read Across America day — a day of awareness organized by the National Education Association to promote literacy in children and young adults — which means parents and educators can use this day to improve both.
What Is Financial Literacy?
Financial literacy has been defined as “the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of financial well-being” by the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. In short, it’s a person’s ability to understand and apply financial concepts successfully.
Regrettably, the financial literacy rate in the United States is alarmingly low. For instance, a 2008 Financial Literacy Survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, Inc. and MSN Money found that only 59 percent of adults age 18-21 pay their bills on time each month.
Charles Schwab’s 2008 “Parents & Money” found that just 34 percent of parents have taught their teen how to balance a checkbook — even fewer have explained how credit card interest rates and fees work.
It’s obvious that there is a dire need to elevate the overall financial literacy of Americans, and parents and teachers are the ones who have to make that happen.
The Relationship Between Read Across America and Financial Literacy
The purpose of Read Across America is to encourage youngsters to become lifelong readers, but it’s also the perfect opportunity for teaching children about finance through books. Below are five children’s books aimed at developing financial literacy as well.
5 Books to Give Your Kids for Read Across America Day
Bunny Money (Max & Ruby)
by Rosemary Wells
Ages 3 and up
As Max and Ruby hunt for the perfect gift for Grandma’s birthday, they are challenged with staying within budget while encountering a host of surprises.
If you know little ones who are fans of the Max & Ruby series, and you most likely do, this story chock-full of bunnies is sure to grab their attention and teach them a thing or two about spending and saving money.
The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble with Money
by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Ages 4 and up
Brother and Sister Bear need coins to play the Astro Bear video game, so they find different ways to work for the money. The story is written with a touch of humor while highlighting the importance of separating needs from wants and appreciating the value of a hard-earned dollar.
The Berenstain Bears have been a household name for decades, and though this book was published in the 80s, the lessons remain timeless.
Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday
by Judith Viorst
Ages 4 and Up
Alexander’s grandparents give him a dollar, and he’s feeling rich. However, that money begins to disappear as Alexander’s spending is chronicled cent-by-cent.
Parents tend to like the way this book emphasizes saving over spending, as well as the adding and subtracting involved, while the illustrations are sure to keep even the youngest readers engaged.
Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for Kids
by Gail Karlitz
Ages 8 and up
For the stock broker in training, Growing Money explains the principles of investing in kid-friendly terms. Young readers will learn about compound interest, bonds, mutual funds and even how to read the finance section of a newspaper. And though this book is targeted to children, adults may find they can learn just as much while reading along.
A Dollar for Penny
by Julie Glass
Ages 8 and up
Penny is a budding entrepreneur who starts her own lemonade stand. As Penny earns her way to an entire dollar, readers learn about various coin values and basic mathematical concepts.
A Dollar for Penny is written in rhyme and features impressive watercolor illustrations as well.
If you’re still not sure about picking up one or more of these personal finance storybooks for the young reader in your life, you should know that they can all be purchased on Amazon.com for under $10.
Today’s challenging economic landscape makes cultivating financial literacy among children and young adults more important than ever, so use this Read Across America day to contribute to the effort and read a great book while you’re at it.