Reading & Math 3: Books and Money – Blending Both in Daily Life

Welcome to the third installment of Reading &  Math. We created the series to look at literacy more broadly and to offer ways to use books, reading, and other resources as tools to helping kids of all ages.

We have timed this post to give you time to prepare for National Money Night Talk, an event designed to start the conversation about finances with your kids. This year’s event is scheduled for September 16.

We have also created a web version of the Financial Literacy Reading List with the books Cady recommends. The list will be continually updated, and we’d love to include your suggestions, so please leave a comment!

When I started working on this project, it began as an academic exercise. I wanted to find statistics about financial illiteracy, compile resources, and identify curricula to help parents and teachers find ways to improve literacy and make math more practical and useful in daily life. But as my research became a mass of articles and documents, I began to think about my own experiences. How/When did I become so interested in ensuring the next generation was financially capable?

I got my first savings account when I was six years old. Birthday money and money from odd jobs went into that account. The encouragement and praise I got from saving worked for me, but I know it may not be that easy for all kids.

Even though I was inclined to saving my money, my interest in financial issues really started when I was  a teenager. My family owned a small business: a small set of cottages on the coast that we rented to families and fishermen on vacation. When I was 13, my dad asked if I would be interested in earning money by doing some work for the business. My job would be entering monthly bills into the accounting system for payment. As a teenager, I thought it would be a boring and monotonous task. What an invaluable gift that job was! I learned about the cost of basic utilities (phone, electric, and gas). I had to understand how to carefully input data and not transpose numbers, etc. Finally, I was responsible for my work and if I made a mistake, it would mean more than admonishment from my parents, it would mean that something could go wrong with the business’ bookkeeping system.

After a few months my dad asked if I wanted to learn how to write out the checks for payment. He would check my work, of course, before signing, but in the end, I was basically paying the bills for the company and completing much of the bookkeeping.

Those skills that I learned at a young age created a strong foundational knowledge in financial concepts that I never forgot. I don’t think I realized what I was learning as I completed those tasks, but they became part of how I looked at the world. Later, in high school and college, I was always conscious of money, cost comparing, staying in a budget, and saving. [I saved and worked my way through college incurring minimal loans. But we can save that story for another post!]

The point is — as I talked about last week — there are easy ways  to incorporate concepts of financial literacy into daily life. Don’t worry, they’re not always as dramatic as allowing your teen to do your bookkeeping! And they don’t have to be!!

  • Reading stories that include financial concepts is always a great conversation starter.
  • The next time you go to the store, compare prices (or nutritional data) with your kids.
  • Try making a game out of finding the lowest cost-per-unit brand of an item are simple ideas.

Bottom line: it isn’t purely about being frugal, it is about being smart about what you do with money, and teaching your kids by example.

Cady’s Two Cents

Here are some other resources offering basic information about money and finance. You may find them useful for starting the conversation on National Money Night.

17 Things a Five-Year-Old Should Know About Money is a helpful guide created by Thrive by 5TM and sponsored by the Credit Union National Association.

Hands on Banking® offers lesson plans and games for all ages. This is a product created by Wells Fargo.

money management for kidsBooks to Share: 0 to 5

Start Saving, Henry! written and illustrated by Nancy L. Carlson

Money Math with Sebastian Pig and Friends: At the Farmer’s Market by Jill Anderson, ill. Amy Huntington

Cat in the Hat booksBooks to Share: 6 to 9
One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent: All About Money (Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library)  by Bonnie Worth

Rock, Brock and the Savings Shock by Sheila Blair, ill. Barry Gott

money management for teensBooks to Share: 10 and up
Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for Kids by Gail Karlitz and Debbie Honig

Money Sense for Kids by Hollis Page Harman

Share Your Two Cents

Do you plan to participate in the National Money Night Talk with your kids on September 16? What will you say?

Have you talked with your kids about money? What would your suggest for other parents?

Cady North, the project director and author for this series, is a business and finance professional sharing time between Washington, DC, and Charlottesville, VA. She has nine years in the public policy arena helping educate members of Congress and State Legislatures on various issues. Cady [cadynorth [at] gmail [dot] com] is passionate about improving financial literacy in both students and adults.

Note:  Children’s book titles link to, with whom the Reading Tub has an affiliate relationship. Purchases made through the links can earn income for the Reading Tub. The link is for your convenience and does not require a purchase.

Image Credit:
*Stylized numeral three created by Horse50 and is available on
* Man with bag of money – image credit Johnny Automatic at

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