M. Russell, P. Maynard

University of Maryland Extension (UNITED STATES)
The recent economic downturn coupled with the increasingly complex financial markets created a heightened awareness of Americans’ financial wellness at every age. Academia, industry and government have sought ways to improve the financial literacy of individuals (Gale & Levine, 2010). In order to successfully navigate these new experiences, adults and youth need to be informed when making financial decisions (Adams, 2006).

An educational program pilot was designed to reach young children, teenagers, and high school teachers to provide high school students who have expressed an interest in pursuing a teaching career an opportunity to examine the concept of linking children’s literature with financial literacy. Using the Reading Makes Cents financial curriculum, as a train-the-trainer model, children are introduced to literature that teaches basic money management concepts of earning, managing, spending, saving, borrowing and lending. At the core of all of these critical concepts for financial literacy is savings. Current income seldom provides enough resources to meet emergencies or goals requiring bigger dollar amounts. Books included in The Reading Make Cents book selections are entertaining stories with relatable characters that explore ideas and strategies that help youth learn these important concepts. The expectation is that the activities and story message will teach the preschooler and their parents the importance of keeping income and expenses in balance. The books also provide a rich diversity of settings, people, income levels, relationships, ethnic backgrounds, cultures, religions, holidays, intergenerational friendships all related to positive money messages and learning. Children’s books attract youth to the money topics, improve children’s attitudes toward reading, and provide opportunities for children to practice important life and money skills. Reading Makes Cents is comprised of experiential activities developed around children’s literature that has money as a theme. Student teachers have the unique opportunity to prepare preschoolers for a bright future by increasing their financial literacy knowledge and skills. If the student teachers who participated in this lesson continue to reinforce to the preschoolers (and subsequently their parents) the importance of thinking before buying and setting savings goals, the preschoolers will be statistically more likely as an adult to be financially prepared and able to avoid some financial pitfalls such as having credit card debt or declaring bankruptcy.