kids money stories

Welcome to the second part of my Money Stories to Read Your Kid series (click here if you missed the first part, my list of books to read to Preschoolers, or the 5 and under crowd. Looking for Tween money books? Look no further).

Now we're going to focus on books you can read your pre-tween child (ages 6ish to 10ish).

President's Advisory Council on Financial Capabilities

According to the President (or at least his advisory council), from the age of 6 to 10 years, your child needs to know the following four things to live a “financially smart” life:

  1. You need to make choices about how to spend your money.
  2. It's good to shop around and compare prices before you buy.
  3. It can be costly and dangerous to share information online.
  4. Putting your money in a savings account will protect it and pay you interest.

While it's difficult to cover all these topics through books that are already written (have yet to run across the ol' “don't share your info online” children's book), you can introduce some of these money concepts and reinforce others through the following books.

12 Book Suggestions to Learn and Reinforce Money Lessons for the Pre-Tween Crowd

Notice how I said ish on the ages above? That's because you know your child best. Some of these books will be a subject matter your child is ready for, and others will be too mature for them. Be sure to check out the other two articles in this series and check out some of those books for your kiddo where appropriate.

Either way, I've personally read each of these books (you wouldn't think I'd recommend something I didn't read or use myself, would you?). As such, I give a summary, and my take on what the money lesson(s) and life lesson(s) that your child can learn are for each.

Money Story #1: When Times are Tough, Yanitzia Canetti

When I think back to my own childhood, I distinctly remember the conversation my mother had with us in the year or two before declaring bankruptcy. She sat us down and said that she would not be buying lots of the extras we're used to anymore.

If she had had a book like this one to read to us to accompany that talk, then I think it would have gone better. Not that she messed up in anyway, but it's super nice to reinforce what's going on through stories, as well as to show your child that they're not alone in what you all will need to deal with down the pipeline (or are already dealing with).

This book is great for any family wanting to have that conversation with their children (or perhaps not wanting to, but needing to).

There are examples of what the parents and children will need to give up buying, but then really optimistic and fun examples of what they're going to substitute instead that costs much less (or in most cases, is free). Such as turning off the TV and shutting down the video games in favor of family games and reading instead. Or foregoing vacation and instead making a staycation where they check out local spots together. Or cancelling the birthday party clown and instead making up family jokes and magic shows.

It's very endearing.

Ages: 5-7 years

The Money Lesson(s): The great money lesson − one I talk about all the time − is to still live your life, just without spending nearly as much doing so. An underlying lesson that's not spelled out? Sometimes when you go through hard times, you become closer with the ones that matter.

Sometimes when you go through hard times, you become closer with the ones that matter. Click To Tweet

Life Lesson(s): The life lesson here is that money is not everything. Yes, it's important, and this family does eventually have to move in with their grandparents. But what is actually important is spending time with the ones you love. That doesn't mean you have to spend money doing so.

Money Book #2: How I Learned Geography, Uri Shulevitz

Is your child seeing poverty firsthand? Perhaps from homeless people on the corners, like the ones I pass here in Houston? Or maybe they don't know how “good” they have it?

What I like about this book is that it gently introduces the topic of what poverty really looks like, from the perspective of a man who went through it as a child in Poland. One day his father buys a map with his bread money instead of bread − a seemingly ridiculous way to spend their money − but he figured they'd still be hungry after the bread was gone. The map would be a feast of the mind.

Ages: 4-8 years

The Money Lesson(s): Poverty exists. This book shows a child what it can look like, through the eyes of another child.

Life Lesson(s): Sometimes you've got to think out of the box, even when resources are meager, in order to keep spirits up.

Sometimes you've got to think out of the box, even when resources are meager, in order to keep spirits up. Click To Tweet

Money Book #3: Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton

I have to be honest here and say I expected more out of this book. I mean, after all, it's written by Dolly Parton.

The lesson is a good one, but the rhymes left something to be desired (at least for me). Perhaps the rhymes will be musical to little kids' ears?

Basically there is a family who has very little money. They're given a box of rags, and the mother makes a beautiful coat for her daughter that turns out to be as colorful as Joseph's from the bible. The daughter is proud, and so she doesn't care when others make fun of her coat at school.

Ages: 4-8 years

The Money Lesson(s): Most of the belongings you need are for utilitarian purposes. Like a car gets you from A to B. The fact that it can also be an entertainment center, have heated seats, and offer a choice of aisle seat or window (in three rows, no less) is irrelevant. To have what you need, it just needs to get you to the place you need to go. Just because you don't have lots of money to spend on a super fancy ride doesn't mean you don't have what you need nor does it mean you should be ashamed of what you've been provided.

Life Lesson(s): Your mother puts a lot of love and attention into the things she does for you. That is something money can never buy.

Money Book #4: Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, Judith Viorst

You remember Alexander, the kid who had that terrible, horrible, no-good day? Well, the poor guy can't catch a break. Reading about his life is like watching the many trials and tribulations of Greg Focker in the movie Meet the Parents all over again (hmmm…I think I just figured out Alexander's adult avatar?).

Can't this poor kid have a GOOD day?

In this book your child will see that Alexander used to be rich (and by rich, he means he used to have $1 his grandparents gave him) until he spent his money a bit foolishly. Honestly, what barely-out-of-a-carseat-kid wouldn't?

Ages: 4-8 years

The Money Lesson(s): There are always “opportunities” to buy things with your money. But sometimes, they're not opportunities at all. Like a one-eyed teddy bear.

Life Lesson(s): Hmmm…maybe don't make friends with this Alexander kid? Haha:). For real though, spending choices are your own, and no one else's. So make them wisely! (Wait…that's another money lesson. Oh well).

Money Book #5: Those Shoes, Maribeth Boelts

Whether we like to remember this happened to us as tweens/teens or not, there is a lot of peer pressure when it comes to having “cool” clothes. And often the “cool” clothes cost more than parents' paychecks can support.

That's why I like this book. A boy gets transfixed by the newest trend of shoes at his school. His jealousy is palpable. Unfortunately, his grandmother can only afford to get him shoes that he needs − winter boots.

Even worse, his own “everyday” shoes fall apart at school. A helpful guidance counselor gives him a pair to have, but they're what's considered “baby” shoes and he gets embarrassed.

What happens? He finds that the one boy who didn't laugh at his “baby” shoes actually was worse off than him. When he actually finds the shoes of his dreams − albeit one size too small − from a thrift store, he ends up gifting them to this other boy.

Ages: 5-8 years

The Money Lesson(s): First off, I love how this boy figures out an alternative way of finding the shoes he wants for a price his grandmother can afford − the thrift store. I also love how the grandmother unabashedly told him what they could and could not afford instead of racking up a charge she didn't need on her credit card to satisfy a current trend.

Life Lesson(s): Helping out someone else is hugely rewarding, just like when someone helps you out.

Money Book #6: Jenny Found a Penny, Trudy Harris

Jenny has her eyes set on something special (though you don't find out what it is until the end). She needs a whole dollar, so she sets out to find all the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters she can. She also earns a dime from sweeping her grandfather's porch and sidewalk − this is one determined gal! Unfortunately, she's thrown for a loop at the cash register when she learns that not only does she have to save up for what she wants to buy, but also for the sales tax that is assessed on it.

Ages: 5+ years

The Money Lesson(s): Something you could talk about from this book is an alternative way to get that plastic piggy bank without having spent all her savings on it (such as making one from a two-liter soda bottle, or from a mason jar. Just look on Pinterest for ideas). Also, your child will be introduced to sales tax in this book.

Life Lesson(s): Let others know what your goals are, and they just might help you with them.

Money Book #7: Lulu Walks the Dogs, Judith Viorst

Lulu is quite the sassy little girl. She decides she needs to make some cash for something REALLY special, and sets her eyes on figuring out anything that will roll the dough in. Dog-walking seems to be the best suited (err, most easily lucrative) occupation. Except that she's pretty bad at dog-walking. There's this neighborhood kid who seems to be good at everything + super polite and helpful…but she refuses his help and good advice time and time again.

I also like that this is a short chapter book, so you can read it over several nights to your little one (or they can read it themselves).

Age Range: 6-10 years

The Money Lesson(s): Money can be made from a variety of sources if you've got some determination.

Life Lesson(s): Don't be too prideful to ask for help, especially from people who could be the key in you getting what you are tirelessly trying for. A lesson that's good for both kids and adults to learn!

Money Book #8: Seven Spools of Thread, Angela Shelf Medearis

There are seven sons who fight and argue all day long. But their father is determined to teach them a lesson even after he passes. Their inheritance is dependent on each of them being able to work together and create gold out of seven spools of different colored threads.

Ages: 5-8 years

The Money Lesson(s): Introduction of the concept of an inheritance. Your child may ask you what this is, so be prepared with how you'd like to describe it. Also, if you create something that others find valuable, then you can sell that item.

Life Lesson(s): Working together is far more productive than arguing and fighting all the time. Everyone brings something unique to the table when you work in a group, something that perhaps you hadn't thought of. This raises the benefit to everyone!

Money Book #9: Rock, Brock, and the Savings Shock, Sheila Bair

This book describes two twins who live very differently, and who treat their money very differently. This becomes hugely apparent when their grandfather gives them a very intriguing proposition: He'll pay them each $1 per week to mow his lawn and wash his car. Then he'll match whatever they have in savings. One twin cannot keep his impulse purchases at bay − broccoli-flavored gum, anyone? − and the other ends up with a sweet $512 after 10 weeks.

Ages: 6-9 years

The Money Lesson(s): Aside from ‘you need to have a grandfather who will match your savings from mowing his lawn and washing his car, dollar for dollar' (ha!)? Saving money is wise for two reasons. Number one, you can afford more quality-of-life changing items. And number two, because your savings grows through interest (and through matches you can score).

Life Lesson(s): Don't judge a person by their outside achievements. The beginning of this book is interesting because it sets up the twins in that one is a winner, and the other one is a loser. But it turns out the “loser” twin knew his stuff when it came to saving money.

Money Book #10: How the Second Grade Got $8,205.50 to Visit the Statue of Liberty, Nathan Zimelman

I love how this book organizes such a huge task − raising a large sum of money − with a child Treasurer who makes reports. The reports break down their interesting and sometimes funny methods to raise money by the expenses and then overall profits. But it's done in a very story-telling kind of way, not like a profit-n-loss meeting. This book is hilarious!

Ages: 5-8 years

The Money Lesson(s): You can shoot for high money goals! Also, remember that when you sell something, not all of the money you bring in is actually profit. There are expenses you incurred that you need to account for to come to your profit number.

Life Lesson(s): Have a big idea − like checking out the Statue of Liberty? All of your goals are doable. You just need to brainstorm and take action on your ideas for how to get there.

Money Book #11: Pigs Will Be Pigs, Amy Axelrod

The Pigs will be Pigs series, including this book, has been designed around the National Council of teachers of Mathematics's Thirteen Standards.

But that's not the fun part about this book (nor did that sound fun, right?).

The author bases her stories on real childhood scenarios that happened in her own life. In this story, the pig family has eaten through all their groceries from the morning (yes, pigs will be pigs!), and they're hungry for a snack. The problem? There's only a dollar between the lot of them. So they go about hunting for money in all kinds of peculiar places around their home. What I like is they don't give the dollar denominations, but just the kinds of coins found, so that your child can do the math and add things up for themselves.

They are presented with a menu with prices, and so your child gets a chance at the end to figure out what else they could have bought from that menu. A very interactive book (probably not best for bedtime, as you'll want them to break out a pencil and piece of paper to work on a few things).

Ages: 5-8 years

The Money Lesson(s): Use the resources you've got at your hands (such as finding change in your own home versus going to the bank to get money out). Also, your child will get a bit more comfy with adding up different coins and dollar denominations, then trying to figure out what they can buy from it.

Life Lesson(s): Working together as a family means you'll get to the goal that you want quicker. Plus it's kinda fun!

Money Book #12: The Money We'll Save, Brock Cole

It's all-hands-on-deck with this family who, you can tell, has very little money (set in a 19th century New York City tenement, to give you an idea). Everyone in the family has chores to do to keep things going. Christmas is around the corner, so they're trying to save their pennies. Still, the mother needs two eggs and 1/2 pound of flour from the store. She sends the father, who resists temptation. Well…except when the Chicken Man tells him about how he can save money on his Christmas dinner: buy a young turkey at a lower price now, raise it, then eat it for Christmas dinner (all for lower than they would normally pay for their meat).

The turkey lives in a box by the stove, but soon grows out of it (as well as wants more than just table scraps for a meal). It becomes quite the mess.

Before you worry about where this is going…it turns out that they can't possibly eat poor Alfred the turkey at the end because he has become a pet.

Ages: 4-8 years

The Money Lesson(s): Sometimes it's all-hands-on-deck with family to keep things running. And guess what? Some things that you buy to “save money” really aren't worth it after all (though of course it was nice they got a pet…that they eventually gave away to a neighbor).

Life Lesson(s): There's a small overtone of the early 19th century tenement life in this book; however, you'd have to dive deeper to really get that history from it.


Pssst: Ready to get your child Money Smart? Check out my new site, Money Prodigy, where we're closing the money gap one kid at a time. 

Ever wonder how to teach your kid about money? Here's a list of books you can read to your Pre-Tween to learn about money. Plus did you know the President has an advisory council on what your child should know by what age to be "Financially Smart"? Even for Pre-tweens! |

1 reply
  1. Karen
    Karen says:

    I’m anxious to check out these books. As an elementary school librarian I have the opportunity to give my students access to topics such as this, not to mention the fact that these sound as though they will benefit our 1st grade teachers in one of their units of study. We have some of these titles in the library already, but I’m anxious to see which of the others will work.

    I have to say also that Dolly Parton’s story has always touched me, I think because there’s such a connection between the sacrifices her mother made with her time in making the coat plus the one-on-one conversations I imagine they shared. We visited Dollywood a few years ago, and the coat is on display in an on-site museum.


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