Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Story of Money

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The Story of Money, written by Betsy Maestro and illustrated by Giulio Maestro, provides a thorough history of how simple pieces of paper eventually came to be the accepted means of payment around the world known as "money."  The book also highlights the act of trade whereby explaining the ancient procedures of bartering and use of commodities such as salt, grain, and tobacco as means of exchange.  In other words, long ago, people would exchange items they could spare for other items they desired (VA Economics SOL 1.8, 2.8).  Such is the case when the "Sumerians melted silver and formed it into small bars, [and] stamped [them] with exact weight [to] let people know how much silver they were getting or giving in return for goods or labor" (15).  In this, the barter system ultimately paved the way for money.  The authors uncover the many forms of money that have been connected with human history—past, present, and even, future.

Curriculum Connections

The authors do an excellent job at presenting a complicated subject in an easy to understand, entertaining way for children.  The book allows children to take a journey through time, thus clearly showing the evolution of money from what it was in the beginning to what it is today.  Just as the text progresses and modernizes throughout the book, so do the brilliant watercolor images.  Children see people working on the rivers, living in huts and wearing traditional dress as they exchange goods for "money" years ago.  As the pages draw to an end, children see images that have become familiar to them today.  Large cargo ships carry goods in and out of American ports and people wait in line at the bank for the ATM.  In all of these examples, children are introduced to the idea of consumers, suppliers, and the need to work together in order to satisfy needs (VA Economics SOL 3.7).

Additional Resources

  • This website for kids allows children to practice using coins so as not to “Break the Bank.”  They can research money history, play games, and create change! 
  • This interactive site presents children with a scenario of winning money then asks them choose ways in which to save their money.  The various paths kids take, demonstrate different outcomes, thus showing children the value of money.
  • This lesson plan for teachers to utilize when teaching money allows children to understand and master the practice of trading goods for money in the “Barter Bag.”

Book: The Story of Money

Author: Betsy Maestro

Illustrator: Giulio Maestro

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication Date: April 25, 1995

Pages: 48 pages

Grade Range:  Ages 7-10

ISBN: 0688133045