Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Let’s Trade: A Book About Bartering

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The book Let’s Trade: A Book About Bartering , written by Nancy Loewen and illustrated by Brian Jensen, is part of the Money Matters series, meant to help children better understand economics. This specific story is about how Mr. Wallace’s third grade class discover that money isn’t always used to get the supplies that people need.  Mr. Wallace devises a game that shows the class how different things can be exchanged among people, explaining that cash and coins aren’t always necessary to obtain the things they want.

“‘A long time ago,’ Mr Wallace said, ‘people didn’t have money. They had to trade for the things they needed. Someone might trade a basket of wheat for an ax, and that was fine as long as both people wanted those things. But what if the person with the ax already had plenty of wheat? The person with the wheat might trade for something else first– a pearl necklace, maybe. Then, he would trade the necklace for the ax.’”

The illustrations used in this story are big and bright, and really help to show the “bartering” that is discussed in Mr. Wallace’s class.  Other nice features in this book include “Fun Facts” (offered by a mini piggy-bank on each page), a glossary, additional resources to help kids with economic ideas, and an activity page.  The activity gives students different scenarios where they get to decide what a “fair trade” is:

 ”You and your friend both buy a pack of baseball cards. Your friend got your favorite player’s card. You trade him three of your cards for one of his. Did you make a fair trade?”

Curriculum Connections 

“Let’s Trade” is a great resource for children just learning about economics.  The story explains how bartering works in a very simple manner, and also gives some background information about the history of money.  In addition to the students learning the difference between using bartering and using money in exchange for goods (VA SOL 2.8), this book teaches that students have to make choices between goods because they cannot have everything they want (VA SOL 1.8).

Additional Resources

This lesson, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, is a great plan to use along with ”Let’s Trade” as the students learn about goods and bartering.

DFI KidsPage provides a great introduction to the history of money. Kids could easily use this as a supplemental computer activity, and it even includes a self-check quiz at the end.

This page, posted in association with the University of Delaware, offers a variety of books (K – 6) to use when teaching ecomomics through children’s literature.

Boomerang Box is a website that introduces students to international trade.  Here, educators can download lessons and activities that teach kids why and where trade happens.

Book: Let’s Trade: A Book About Bartering
Author: Nancy Loewen
Illustrator: Brian Jensen
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Publication Date: August 2005
Pages: 24
Grade Range: k-3
ISBN: 1404811575