Monthly Archive for February, 2010

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Promise Quilt


The Promise Quilt, written by Candice F. Ransom and illustrated by Ellen Beier, takes place in the rural South during the Civil War. When Addie loses her father to the war, her mother stuggles to feed the family and Addie’s dreams of attending school have to be put on hold. When the war was over, the school had no money to purchase books for the children and was going to close down. Addie’s mother has a brilliant idea to earn money: she stitches a quilt to auction off for money in town. There is one problem: there is not enough material to finish the quilt. Addie makes the difficult decision to  surrender her father’s red shirt that she loves to the quilt. Although she lost her beloved memory of her father, she was able to afford to get books for the school.

Curriculum Connections
This story is a good introduction to the idea of making decisions and the opportunity cost associated with choice. There is also an example of using money in smart ways. Addie finds one of her father’s silver coins and instead of spending it carelessly or saving it as a memory she chooses to buy seed that will feed her family. Addie learns the lesson that she can’t have everything she wants.
SOLs: K.7,  1.8,  2.9

Additional Resources
Incorporate this story in a math lesson!

Book: The Promise Quilt
Candice F. Ransom
Ellen Beier
Walker & Company
Publication Date:
Grade Range:

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Something Special For Me


Something Special For Me written and illustrated by Vera B. Williams is a second story in a series about Rosa and her family. In the story, Rosa, her mother and grandmother have a jar of change that they save for something special. In the first story, they saved and bought a chair that they all sit in. This story opens with they all still use the chair and the jar is starting to fill up because they are still saving up for something special.  Rosa’s mother decides that the jar is going to go towards buying Rosa a special birthday gift.  “Mama and I got dressed fast and Grandma changed the money into dollar bills. As we went out the door, she hollered after us, ‘Rosa, you buy something real nice’. The story follows Rosa through the decision of finding her special gift. I like how the story shows that she can only get one thing special and that they had to really save for her to be able to get that special gift. In these days and times, kids get a lot and have a lot. I think this story will help students of any age to appreciate the things they have and the hard work that went towards getting that item. Rosa took a lot of time and thought very carefully in selecting her gift.”Next morning, I was sure I had chose exactly right. Through the door I could see our chair. I could see our big jar with just one dime in it for good luck. Grandma and Mama were making breakfast in the kitchen. And right beside my bed was my own accordion waiting for me to make songs come out of it.”  Rosa teaches the reader a valuable lesson on making choices and the value of money. I think that this book and the rest of the books in the series are great for students in teaching economic ideas. This author also has the book available in Spanish.

Curriculum Connections
This book teaches students about not being able to have everything they want and how people have to work hard to make money to buy things that they want ( SOL K.7 a,b; 1.8; 1.9). These concepts are hard for some students to understand because they do get everything they want. I think it could teach understanding and appreciation for those students.

Additional Resources

  • Saving money is a concept that even adults struggle with. I found this site and it is part of the American Bankers Association. It has a lot of creative ideas on how to teach the concept of money and savings. These are important ideas to teach in our current world filled with debt.
  • The Money Instructor  has several ideas for teaching money and has a lot of cross-curricular ideas such as a reading passage and math worksheets. The site lists several different ideas that could be used in the classroom or could be used by parents teaching the concept of money. The site has lots of activities for all ages.
  • Scholastic has an abundance of lesson plans on making choices and the value of money. The lesson I found specifically is for 4 or 5th graders and students have to use addition and subtraction. The students have to learn about budgeting and Scholastic includes a mini-magazine explaining the concept.

Book: Something Special For Me
Author: Vera B. Williams
Publisher: Harper Collins Publisher
Publication Date: 1983
Pages: 32
Grade Range: Pre-Kindergarten to Third Grade

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Arthur’s Pet Business


Arthur’s Pet Business, written and illustrated by Marc Brown, is an interesting and fun book that teaches about responsibility and about earning money.  Arthur needs to show his parents that he is responsible enough to own a puppy.  He decides to start a pet sitting business.  When people start calling his number off the fliers he posted around town, Arthur gets very busy taking care of several different animals.  He has no time to play.  Arthur’s biggest responsibility is Perky, a moody dog, that stays with Arthur for a week while the owner is out of town.  In the end, Arthur earns $10 and a new puppy.

Children will see the value of working hard for what they want.  They will also see that taking care of pets requires hard work.  After reading this book, children should be encouraged to think of jobs they can do to earn money.  This book can also lead into discussions about spending and saving.  Young entrepreneurs everywhere will want to start a profitable business just like Arthur.

Curriculum Connections
This book can easily be used to begin economics discussions in grades K-5th.  The students will see people work to earn money (K.7b), the difference between goods and services (1.7), and making choices (1.8).  Using Arthur as an example, students can be encouraged to make their own business plans with consideration of resources available (2.9) and the use of barter versus money (2.8).  The students can make a plan for how they will save up for something they want (1.9).

Additional Resources

  • Click on this website for handouts to reinforce economic terms such as goods, services, needs, and wants.
  • For a great economics field trip, go to the Children’s Museum of Richmond.  Economics activities include the grocery store center, the bank, and participation in a mock market activity if arranged ahead of time for your group.  The website is nicely arranged to show which VA SOLs can be covered during your trip.
  • Consider this lesson plan on profit using Arthur’s Pet Business or use these catchy economics songs for vocabulary reinforcement.

Book:  Arthur’s Pet Business
Author:  Marc Brown
Illustrator:  Marc Brown
Publisher:  Little, Brown, and Company
Publication Date:  1990
Pages:  30
Grade Range:  K-5th
ISBN:  0-316-11316-6

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Making Cents

Book Cover

The book, Making Cents, written by Elizabeth Keeler Robinson and illustrated by Bob McMahon, gives young readers ideas about some of the items they can purchase with a penny going all the way up to a one hundrend dollar bill. 

The children in the book want to make a clubhouse.  They will need to save money and learn what they can purchase with every amount.  The book starts off explaing that 1 penny can buy a perfect nail.  The amount adds up to a $100 dollar bill; which the children have the choice to purchase 10,000 nails or plywood sheets, 2 x 4’s, a hammer and a saw.  Each page starts off by adding the previous coin or bill by a certain number to make up the next demonation.  An example would be: 

“Soon we’ll have two tens, and they’ll add up to a…Twenty-dollar bill! Andrew Jackson’s on the front and that’s that White House on the back. It’s worth two thousand cents, but it’s easier to carry. That twenty-dollar bill can buy..”

The children have have doing things throughout the book to earn money.  They have a lemonade stand, sell items at a yard sale, wash windows & deliver the newspaper to name a few.  The final page shows all of the children playing on the clubhouse that was built with the money that they had worked so hard for. 

Curriculum Connections

Making Cents would be an excellent book to use as part of an economics lesson related to people need to have money in order to purchase goods.  The book is realistic with what each amount of money can actually purchase in today’s economy.  It is simple enough to be read to 1st graders all the way up to 3rd grade.  After reading the story, students could think about what they would build if they had a certain amount of money and then journal about it. 

In Virgina, Making Cents can be used in the social studies SOLs 1.9, 2.8 & 3.9.  The SOLs explain that people can save money for future purchases of good and services.  As well as economic costs when making a purchase.

Additional Resources

  • Here a link that teachers can use for PowerPoint presentations for their students.  The presentations are free and range from good & services to wants & needs.
  • The Council for Economic Education has listed several tools that teachers can purchase to help aid in the teaching of economics.  The tools that are available for purchase can also be used to tie the lesson in with language arts.
  • Teachers can use the interactive worksheets from the Goods & Services Lesson as a support to the economic content. A student can take the on-line worksheet more than once; and each time different questions will be asked.  This would be a great way for students to practice the economic knowledge they just learned.

Book: Making Cents
Author: Elizabeth Keller Robinson
Illustrator: Bob McMahon
Publisher: Tricycle Press
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 30
Grade Range: 3-5
ISBN: 13: 978-1-58246-214-1

Teaching Economics with Children's Literature: Henry Hikes to Fitchburg

Henry Hikes Cover

Introduction and Summary
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg
written by D.B. Johnson, is a short story about two friends trying to get to Fitchburg.  Henry (modeled after Henry David Thoreau) decides to walk while his friend works odd jobs to earn money for a train ticket.  The two have very different days based on that decision, but nonetheless they meet in Fitchburg by the end of the story.

Curriculum Connections
This book can teach children about how people can work to earn money in order to purchase goods and services.  The theme of the story is that it is often worth slowing down and enjoying nature, and that money cannot buy everything.  Still, the half of the story that focuses on Henry’s friend earning money is a good way to connect to learning about earning and saving money (VA SOL 1.9).

Additional Sources:

Book: Henry Hikes to Fitchburg
Author:  D.B. Johnson
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: Recommended K-2
ISBN: 978-0395968673

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: A Bargain for Frances


A Bargain for Frances, written by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Lillian Hoban, teaches children about saving money, making choices, and purchasing carefully.  Frances is saving for a real china tea set with blue pictures painted on but her friend Thelma convinces Frances to buy her old plastic tea set by telling her that they don’t make real china tea sets anymore.  Then, Thelma takes the money and buys a china tea set like the one Frances had been saving for.  Frances cleverly figures out how to get Thelma to trade the new tea set for her old one.  This story has some valuable lessons for young children, not only about saving, purchasing, and making decisions but about being careful not to be tricked and about being respectful to friends.

Curriculum Connections

This book can be used in instruction to teach students about using money to purchase things (VA SOL K.7), making choices because you cannot have everything you want (VA SOL 1.8), and saving money to purchase things they want (VA SOL 1.9).

Additional Resources

  • In this interactive game, players earn and save enough money to Escape from Knab
  • Kids Bank teaches kids about money and banking in a fun, interactive way
  • Learn about the Birth of a Coin on the US Mint site

General Information

Book: A Bargain for Frances
Author: Russell Hoban
Illustrator: Lillian Hoban
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: 1970, 1992, 2008
Pages: 64
Grade Range: K-2
ISBN: 006444001X

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Giving Tree


The Giving Tree, written by Shel Silverstein, is about a little boy who would visit the same apple tree every day. On his visits he would play games, eat the apples and swing from the tree. As the boy grew older the boy left the tree alone. Until one day the boy finally visited the tree and asked the tree how he could make money. The tree told him to take the apples off the branches and sell them in the city. The boy continued to barely come visit, but when he did he always asked for something in return, until one day the tree had nothing to give.

Curriculum Connections
This book can teach children the art of giving and how to make a profit. The tree gave everything to the boy from her apples, to her branches and eventually her own trunk. The book also showed that the boy would be able to make a profit off the trees apples by selling them in the city. As a result the ending proved that the value of friendship can take you a long way. ( 2.7) Students will be able to understand what natural resources are from the tree giving away its branches and tree trunk to the boy. (2.9) The boy had to make a choice by using the trees apples to make a profit.

Additional Sources

Book: The Giving Tree
Author:  Shel Silverstein
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 1992
Pages: 50 pages
Grade Range: Recommended K-2
ISBN: 780060 58751

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

“A long time ago, there was no such thing as money. The first humans had simple needs.”(3)

The Story of Money by Betsy Maestro is an informative picture book about the development of a barter system and how it led to the creation of coin and paper money. The illustrations, by Giulio Maestro, are beautifully done and create a visual for the students because they help to support the text. The book starts by telling about how people thousands of years ago lived and why they did not need money. When the groups expanded and the climate warmed up, the people began to develop settlements and grow crops. They could not use everything they produced and they could not produce everything they needed so they had to find other settlements to trade things with. The book continues to expand on how and why countries used things like salt and tea leaves as currecy. People traveled long distances to trade so a system for exchange between countries became necessary. Precious metals became the first official money in the ancient kingdom of Lydia in 640 B.C. Many examples of coins are shown and a map of the United States shows who came to the new world. When the people first settled they used a barter system with the Native Americans and then developed a need for a money system. The Story of Money finishes by showing how we now use cash, checks, credit cards, and ATMs.

Curriculum Connections: 

The Story of Money can best be used to teach the difference between they barter system and the use of money (VA2.8). It goes into great detail about what they barter system started out as and how money was developed based on the needs of the people.  There are great textual and visual examples of what bartering is and detailed drawings of coins as they developed. For second graders, its a book that must be read to the class and maybe even in parts. The first part could be to study bartering and the second to study the development of money. Its a long read but an informatively interesting one. There are also aspects of the book that would teach about specialization by countries because people and regions cannot produce everything they want and need (VA3.8) This book could be used after the concept is started to show how specialization shaped the economy today.

Additional Resources

  • Bartering Lesson Plan–  great lesson plan to teach kids what it meant to barter things that had value to you, whether it be wants or needs. Great way to show that people did not just trade to trade. They did it with purpose.
  • What did people use as money?– this is an activity that will get kids thinking about what people could have used as money. They can think about why it could have been of value.
  • How do you get what you need with what you have?-This is a great lesson plan to simulate how groups of people had needs and they had to use what they had to get the other things.

Book: The Story of Money
Betsy Maestro
Giulio Maestro
Houghton Miffilin Company
Publication Date:
Grade Range:
2nd -5th

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm

 Balloon Farm


“Harvey Potter was a very strange fellow indeed. He was a farmer, but he didn’t farm like my daddy did. He farmed a genuine, U.S. Government Inspected Balloon Farm.” Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm was written by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by Mark Buehner and the opening paragraph says it all. Told from the point of view of a small, curious farm girl, this book tells the story of a mysterious farmer who grows balloons instead of traditional farm crops like fruits and vegetables. The farmer doesn’t say much and looks like your normal, average farmer but for the little farm girl, curiosity kills the cat. She sneaks out to find out how he grows his balloons and once she discovers his secret, she is nothing short of amazed and frightened. But Harvey Potter’s winning personality doesn’t change the narrator’s opinion of him and after a visit from the government, Harvey Potter is allowed to continue growing balloons. This story is a wonderful story for young children to discover what a little bit of creativity can do to a person.

Curriculum Connections:

With this book, children learn what being a farmer is like. They aren’t the richest people in the world, but by using the resources that they have and the “can-do” spirit inside of them, they realize that even with a scarce number of resources laid out in front of them, they can make anything happen (SOL 2.9).  Also in this book, children understand how important it is to respect the personal property of others. Both the narrator and an irritable, older farmer trespassed on Harvey Potter’s farm to discover his secret about growing balloons. But unlike the farmer, the narrator always respected Harvey Potter and made multiple attempts to befriend him, which she did and also painted the picture of what it means to be a good neighbor/citizen as well (SOL 2.10, K8).

Additional Resources:

Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm Lesson Plan:  This website provides a fantastic lesson plan for teachers to use in their classroom and also contains a wonderful and fun activity that students will enjoy.

Balloon Crafts for Kids:  Have you ever wondered what kinds of things you can make with balloons? With this website, children will receive an enjoyable experience of making different kinds of arts & crafts while using balloons.

Balloon People:  Have you ever wanted your very own balloon person? With this website, you can create just that: a magical person using a balloon and other different crafts. Perfect for the small child who loves balloons or playing imagination.

General Information:

Book: Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm

Author: Jerdine Nolen 

Illustrator: Mark Buehner

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: 1998

Pages: 32

Grade Range: K-2

ISBN: 0-590-63095-4

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Agatha’s Feather Bed


 “Everything comes from something,
Nothing comes from nothing.
Just like paper comes from trees,
And glass comes from sand,
An answer comes from a question.
All you have to do is ask.”

In Agatha’s Feather Bed: Not Just Another Wild Goose Story written by Carmen Agra Deedy, pictures by Laura L. Seeley this was Agatha’s verse she would recite to the children of Manhattan when they came into her weaving shop wanting to know where her beautiful fabrics came from. Perhaps, little old Agatha forgets her own advice when one cold night she gets a loud bang at her window during her sleep by six angry, cold, naked geese. They want their feathers back that are inside Agatha’s brand new feather bed that are keeping her so warm. Agatha had worked hard to earn that bed, and wasn’t willing to give it up. Instead, Agatha tells the geese to come back to her in three days, and for the next three days Agatha didn’t waste one minute. She closed her shop to the public and starting working. On the third night the geese showed up just as they had agreed, and as they came into Agatha’s bedroom they saw six white, fleecy coats. They were so surprised and thankful. They then looked at Agatha and saw what their coats were made of, Agatha’s hair. They all giggled and on their way out the geese reminded Agatha, “lucky for you and me, hair grows back…just like feathers.”

Curriculum Connections

Agatha’s Feather Bed is a great book to use to introduce many of the economic sections of the Virginia Standards of Learning. It explains that everything comes from something, how people are producers of goods and services, and encourages children to ask questions. It also is a great way to introduce the use of barter in the exchange for goods and services (VA Standards of Learning 2.8). Agatha uses her hair to make the fleecy coats, and the geese gave up their feather for the feather bed. They both decided it was a good trade in the end, because they both got something they wanted. This story teaches a good lesson to students, while telling a humorous story. I would recommend using this book as a read aloud in the lower elementary grade levels.

Additional Resources
Ten Little Pennies– Here is a website with a catchy song that will get children to sing about trade and money. There are other great song options on the main page of this website that will go along with any economic theme.

Lemonade for Sale– The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond has a website with economic lesson plans, and I found this Lemonade for Sale lesson plan that goes along with the theme of my book. It is a lesson plan teaching children the concepts of producer, consumer, and productive resources. This lesson plan is very interactive with the children and allows them to decide on their own to classify their resources as natural, capital resources, or human resources.

Kids learn market trade– “Pittsburg-area fourth graders present their product at SIFE’s Just Imagine Nation.” A fourth grade class learns about the market economy of four regions of the U.S. Students are divided into teams representing the four regions of the U.S. and work together to come up with a product that is unique to their region. I am very happy I found this website, because this is a great idea that I hope to use in my classroom one day.

Book: Agatha’s Feather Bed: Not Just Another Wild Goose Story
Author: Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrator: Laura L. Seeley
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, LTD.
Publication Date: 1991
Pages: 28
Grade Range: 1-3
ISBN: 1-56145-096-0