Teaching Economics with Children's Literature: Sweet Potato Pie

Introduction and Summary

Sadie’s family is in trouble.  The family farm has suffered from drought and Papa has received a letter from the bank threatening to take the farm unless a debt is repaid.  The only thing left is the sweet potato crop.  Mama has a brilliant idea that saves the day:  sweet potato pie!  The family will work together to make sweet potato pies and sell them at the upcoming Harvest Festival.  So begins a charming tale of how plain and simple economics can make a difference in people’s lives:  Sweet Potato Pie written by Kathleen Lindsey and illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb.  Everyone has a job to do, and the family’s collective efforts pay off.  At the Harvest Festival, Mama’s pies win a blue ribbon and the family begins a business enterprise selling their award-wining sweet potato pies.

Curriculum Connections

This intimate look at how economics can affect one family’s life provides a wonderful introduction to key economic terms:  goods (the pies), services (baking), producers (the family), consumers (the people who buy the pies), human resources (the family doing the baking), capitol resources (the sweet potatoes, the ingredients, the baking tools), income (the money the family made), and enterpreneurs (the family who developed a new product and started a new business for profit) (SOL 1.7, 1.9).  Most young readers know how to bake with their families, and everyone loves pie!  This allows children to understand how making something yummy can turn into an economic benefit. This book would be most appropriate for first graders.

Additional Resources

  • Make your own sweet potato pie holder or sachet - the author’s website offers a fun suggestion for an art project for students.  If you have access to an oven at school, it could also be fun to make your own sweet potato pie, using the author’s recipe.  Students can act as producers providing a service (sewing or baking).

  • Kids Econ Posters offers great tips on how to integrate concepts introduced in this book into a lesson plan.

  • EconEdLink provides another good source for producers/consumers lesson planning and activity ideas.

  • Sadie’s family worked together to make money to save the farm. In today’s economic climate, many families are working hard to save their earnings and spend wisely.  This story and a subsequent economics lesson could parlay into a great discussion on how students can help save money at home.  Brainstorming ideas helps empower students to take an active role in family finances, and Scholastic’s website has a few suggestions in Fun Family Finances.

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