Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Economy

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The Economy written by Terence O’Hara gives an in-depth look at the economy of the United States and includes topics such as, free enterprise, the law of supply and demand, how businesses work, business cycles, and different types of economies from around the world.  This book is an excellent introduction into how our economy works because it gives readers real-world examples of the topics listed above.  For example, in explaining supply and demand, O’Hara talks about the “Playstation 2″ video gaming system.

In 200o, the Sony Corporation came out with Playstation 2, the hottest home video gaming system ever.  If you could find it in a store, it cost anywhere between $100 and $200.  The problem was you couldn’t find it in any store.  Demand was so high…that sores ran out of them.  But the demand for the new game machines didn’t go away just because the supply was limited.  So the cost went through the roof. (p. 23 & 24)

Some other real world examples are how Henry Ford created the first assembly line when it came to building cars.  Now all car manufacturers use the assembly line in order to produce automobiles.  In the section of “how businesses work,” O’Hara talks about how banking helps our economy grow, from small independent contractors to large corporations.  Banks take a risk by lending people money in order to start businesses.  This leads into the topic of “business cycles.”  If banks take too much of a risk, it can cause banks to fail which can lead us into a bear market or even a depression.  O’Hara gives a progression of how the economy used to be in the past and gives fact-based information on how our economy has evolved.

Curriculum Connections
This book would be good for teachers to read to students who are in upper elementary classes due to its technical nature.  There are several terms which would not be suited for younger elementary students, such as capitalism, inflation, bull and bear markets, globalization, etc.  The book does talk about cost and opportunity cost.   “There are no free lunches…everything, even if you think it’s free costs something.  Every decision a person makes is rooted in cost-benefit analysis: in other words, what will it cost me and what will I get out of it?” (p.25)  He gives the example of a student sharpening her pencil.  Her writing might be clearer but she may interrupt the teacher. (VA SOL 3.9)  Several of the topics involve our use of natural resources, such as corn.  He talks about human resources, such as the industrial revolution, and capital resources, such as robots installing fiber optic cables in sewers.  (VA SOL 2.7)  This book expands on those SOL.  There are no illustrations in the book but there are good pictures of past and present.

Additional Resources

  • MoneyInstructor.com is a website dedicated to teaching elementary students about money.  Topics are “Basic Money Skills,” “Earning and Spending,” “Saving and Investing,” etc.
  • Economics Fun and Games is an interactive website for kids.  There are several games kids can play on this site relating to economics.
  • Lemonade Stand This is a website dedicated for games in economics.  Also good for developing math skills.

Book: The Economy
Author:
  Terence O’Hara
Publisher: Chelsea House Publishers
Publication Date:
2002
Pages:
64 pages
Grade Range:
3rd-6th
ISBN:
0-7910-6641-X