While digging through the blogosphere, I stumbled over a new program in Vermont designed to teach young children basic financial concepts. Debuting this fall statewide, I’m delighted to say that one of the three books utilized will be Follow the Money.
The story begins as George, a quarter, is minted. Taken to the bank, he soon becomes change in a cash register drawer, then goes on to be spent, lost, saved, donated, and even washed in a washing machine as he travels hand to hand through the economy. Among other things, I wanted to show how people make such varied choices about how to use their money.
The second book is One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway, and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes. It’s based on true story about a boy in Africa who started with one chicken and ended up with a large poultry farm. The story shows how microlending impacted not just the main character but also his family, village, and region.
The third book is Money Madness, written by David Adler and illustrated by Edward Miller. It explores early systems of exchange such as bartering, and early forms of money including rocks, feathers, and lumps of metal. It describes the advantages of money with concrete examples to show how difficult it could be to trade bread for a house, for example.
Many of us didn’t get very much practical information about personal finance and almost certainly could have used more guidance at an early age. It’s wonderful that the State Treasurer’s Office in Vermont decided to pursue this important aspect of their students’ education.
As John Bramley, one of the Reading is an Investment program supporters stated, “Financial literacy is more important today than ever, as shown by recent events.” I suspect we can all agree on that point.
[Update August 29, 2010] The Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy has a K-12 standards PDF available with an outline of the knowledge and skills students should possess. Topics include taking responsibility for personal financial decisions; finding/evaluating financial info from various sources; developing a plan for spending and saving; and many more. Mastering these topics is a good investment for all ages, no doubt!