I’m sure you can recite lines from “Cat in the Hat,” but can you recall learning about mutual funds 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.
March 2 is Dr. Seuss Day as well as Read Across America Day 2016 — a day of awareness organized by the National Education Association (NEA) to promote literacy in children and young adults. Data collected by the U.S. Department of Education in 2015 found that 14 percent of adults in the U.S. can’t read. Unfortunately, the numbers surrounding financial literacy — a person’s ability to understand and apply financial concepts successfully — are even worse. The good news is that parents and educators can use this day to improve both.
13 Books With Money Lessons to Give Your Kids
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. Here are 13 children’s books aimed at developing healthy reading habits as well as promoting financial literacy.
Best Books for Kids Ages 3 to 8
‘Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday’
This story by Judith Viorst is great for readers ages 4 and up. In the book, Alexander’s grandparents give him a dollar, making him feel rich. However, that money begins to disappear rather quickly as Alexander’s spending is chronicled cent-by-cent. Parents 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 reader engaged.
‘The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble With Money’
Part of the beloved series by Stan and Jan Berenstain, this book tackles the topic of money for 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 1980s, the lessons remain timeless.
This children’s book by Rosemary Wells is great for 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 and Ruby series, this story chock-full of bunnies is sure to grab their attention and teach them a thing or two about spending and saving money.
‘A Chair for My Mother’
In this book by Vera B. Williams, Rosa, her mother and her grandmother save up all of their money to buy a chair after they had a house fire. This book teaches children the concept of working to earn money and saving it for a main goal or purpose. “A Chair for My Mother” is for ages 3 and up.
‘If You Made a Million’
This book by David M. Schwartz is about four children and how they earn money by doing different chores. The book tackles some of the hardest money concepts to teach children: earning, saving, investing — and even dividends and interest. Although these are all tough to get kids to understand, this book does an amazing job of explaining banking and money to kids ages 4 and up.
‘Lemonade in Winter’
There are many money basics taught in this book by Emily Jenkins — like how many quarters equals a dollar. The story is about a brother and a sister who decide to run their own business. It really gives kids a sense of how money works as young as age 3. The main lesson is on entrepreneurship and its many ups and downs, along with basic counting.
‘One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent’
If you and your child love Dr. Seuss, then this Cat in the Hat book by Bonnie Worth is perfect for children ages 4 and up. This book tells children the story and history of money with rhymes — from the start of bartering, to the different types of material used to create money. It also touches on counting money and the history of banking all in a fun and silly manner to keep children engaged.
This book by Maribeth Boelts is aimed at children ages 5 and up. It’s about a boy who really wants the shoes that everyone else at school has. It helps kids understand the difference between wants and needs. It also teaches children that what they already have is sometimes even better — and worth more — than what they want.
‘Two of Everything’
In this story by Lily Toy Hong based on a Chinese folktale, a poor farmer finds a magical pot that doubles anything he puts in it. This book does a good job of showing how a savings or CD account works in kid-friendly terms. Although subtle, this is a great introduction to how interest works for children 4 and up.
‘You Can’t Buy a Dinosaur With a Dime’
This book by Harriet Ziefert teaches kids ages 5 and up a valuable lesson on being responsible with money and saving. Pete has saved up his allowance, spent it too lavishly, changed his mind and then started all over. Your kids will want to join in in helping Pete save, spend and make better money decisions for the future all while learning to count. The colorful and humorous art will keep your kids engaged — and hopefully make them want to save too.
Best Books for Kids Ages 8 and Up
‘A Dollar for Penny’
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. This book by Julie Glass is good for ages 8 and up, is written in rhyme and features impressive watercolor illustrations that kids and adults will both enjoy.
‘Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for Kids’
This book by Gail Karlitz is great for children ages 8 and up who are little stock brokers in training. It explains the principles of investing in a way youngsters can understand; 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 might learn just as much while reading along.
This book by Dave Hunt tells the story of a boy who invents a money tree, creating an unlimited supply of cash for the whole town. But then, no one makes goods anymore because the money tree eliminated the need to earn an income — and eventually no one has any food. This kid-friendly lesson on economics is aimed at children age 10 and under.
Keep Celebrating Read Across America Day 2016
Today’s challenging economic landscape makes cultivating financial literacy among children and young adults more important than ever. Use Read Across America Day to contribute to the effort and read a great book while you’re at it. But 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 most can be purchased on Amazon for under $10.
Learn More: 10 Ways You’re Hurting Your Kids Financially
Casey Bond contributed to the reporting for this article.