Reading is an Investment

This year with my second graders I am piloting a financial literacy program in conjunction with the Vermont Treasurer’s Office.  Called Reading is an Investment, it is designed to introduce some basic money concepts to children and reinforce reading for pleasure. We’ve had a lot of fun with it, and I thought I’d share our kick-off because the students were so engaged.

We began by reading a book that wasn’t technically a part of the program.  Nonny Hogrogian’s Caldecott award winning cumulative tale One Fine Day is a great introduction to the concept of bartering.  (If you remember, the fox in the story must make multiple trades in order to repay an old woman with milk so that she’ll sew his tail back in place.)  After reading that story we read the first part of David Adler’s Money Madness, which is one of the selected texts for the program.  Adler does a nice job in the beginning of the book explaining what people did to get what they wanted and needed before there was money, and there were lots of other examples of bartering that the students could relate to.

At this point we set aside the book ‘til next time and did an activity to really drive home the point of bartering.  My assistant is a good sport with these kinds of things and volunteered to be the main character in our little skit.  She begins with a picture of a loaf of bread.  This is what she has.  What she wants is milk.  She approaches a child who has a sign that says “Cow  owner” and asks for milk in exchange for bread.  Unfortunately, the cow owner doesn’t want bread.  He or she wants something else instead.  So our main character visits a number of other players wearing signs saying what they own.  She makes multiple trades (sheep, fish, turkey, etc.) until FINALLY she’s able to return to the owner of the cow with what he wanted.  Simple clip art and a mask or two made this a fun and easy way to reinforce the concept of bartering.

For the school component I’ve been  reading the texts above and completing some of the activities in the teacher’s guide.  Each student also has the option of keeping a reading log at home, crossing off boxes for every twenty minutes of recreational reading.  Parents sign off on the log and mail to the Treasurer’s office and their child is then entered in a drawing.  Ten lucky winners will get a $250.00 starter account for college.  What a deal!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tom
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 15:06:16

    Really like this activity. I have a third grade teacher who was wanting to do an activity like this. Are the books too young for third grade? I’m familiar with one fine day, but not the others.


    • buchlady
      Feb 22, 2011 @ 20:48:15

      These books are fine for third grade as well. “One Hen” gets into the whole idea of making/taking loans and planning for the future (and it’s based on a true story, which I love.) “Follow the Money” is a fun one because it takes the readers on a journey with one quarter and all the places he goes to (and how he gets spent) in the course of a day. We charted his travels, and then at the end discussed whether he was spent on a Need or a Want. Older kids will probably have even better discussions with this book because sometimes there are gray areas. Likewise, you can extend with visits to websites like the US Mint. Go to for a collection of sites I put together for the kids. (Click on a square, then you can use blue arrows to navigate through the sites.) I found a number of helpful and fun videos on YouTube, too, which older kids will appreciate. Good luck!


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