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Books for Teaching Economic Concepts

17 books on saving money, banking, consumer decision making, and more

Grades

3–5

From Unit: Creating a Classroom Economy

The economic concepts that students learn through their experience with the class store can be reinforced with literature. Encouraging students to look for economic concepts in literature helps them realize that economics is a major part of the world around them.

Books About Money and Banking

The Go Around Dollar by Barbara Johnston Adams
The story describes the journey of a one dollar bill as it changes hands. Special information about our paper money is included on each page.
Classroom Tip: I read this book aloud before students design their class money. This book illustrates the "frequent flyer miles" racked up by dollar bills just like our class money, which will exchange hands many times throughout the school year. (It's fun to put a star on a single dollar bill at the beginning of the year and keep track of how many students own it at one time or another!)

How Much Is a Million? by David M. Schwartz
Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician demonstrates the meaning of a million by showing his friends that it would take 23 days to even count to a million and that a goldfish bowl large enough to hold a million goldfish could hold a whale.
Classroom Tip: This humorous and fun book is great to read during the first lesson to help students conceptualize the immensity of numbers.

A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert
At the end of World War II, Anna needs a new winter coat, but her mother has no money. They use valuable possessions to barter for the goods and services needed to produce the coat.
Classroom Tip: This book is good to read during Lesson 1. Before money was invented, people traded to get the things they wanted and needed.

Round and Round the Money Goes by Melvin and Gilda Berger
This is a brief history of the development of money and our economy.
Classroom Tip: A great resource for teaching students about the movement of money, earning, saving, spending, and giving. It also provides clear information about how money is made.

Books About Consumer Decision Making

The Big Buck Adventure by Deborah Tobola
A little girl figures out what she can get with her dollar in a candy shop, a toy store, a deli, and a pet department.
Classroom Tip: I read this book before students preview the items in the store during Lesson 2. It focuses on making decisions when funds are limited.

Books About Saving Money

I read a few of these books before and after teaching Part 1 of Lesson 3.

Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst
Alexander tries to save a dollar that he has received from his grandparents to buy a walkie-talkie, but his poor spending decisions result in his not saving anything.
Classroom Tip: I use this book to illustrate impulse buying, a common consumer behavior. Students have a hard time not spending all the money they make each week when they shop at the class store. This book helps them evaluate their decisions and monitor their spending.

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams
After losing all of their belongings in a house fire, a young girl and her mother save coins in a jar until they can afford a comfortable chair to share.
Classroom Tip: This is a great book for teaching kids the importance of saving their money over a period of time when there's something really worth buying.

Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco
A young white girl and her two black "brothers" devise a plan to raise money to buy the boys' grandmother an Easter bonnet.
Classroom Tip: This book teaches the importance of saving. It can also generate ideas for working together as a class so more items can be purchased for the class store.

Uncle Jed's Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell
Uncle Jed saves his money and lives for the day when he can open his own barbershop. After overcoming many obstacles, he finally opens his own store.
Classroom Tip: This book motivates students to set a monetary goal when deciding what to buy at the class store. I always include some more expensive items in my store that require students to save their money over multiple pay periods. The story teaches students to plan for the future rather than always satisfying their immediate desires.

Books That Demonstrate Supply and Demand

Homer Price by Robert McClosky
Six episodes in the life of Homer Price including one about a doughnut machine on the rampage.
Classroom Tip: Use this book to teach the Law of Demand after covering Part 3 of Lesson 3. When Homer lowered the price of fresh doughnuts, people wanted to buy more doughnuts. As the price decreased, the quantity demanded — amount people wanted to buy — increased. At higher prices, consumers will buy less.

Prices Go Up, Prices Go Down: The Laws of Supply and Demand by David Adler
Explains in simple terms the concept of supply and demand with examples of how prices are derived.
Classroom Tip: Follow up the activity in Part 3 of Lesson 3 by reading this book aloud to the class and discussing how it relates to your classroom economy.

Books With Examples of Scarcity

Bringing Rain to the Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema
This book tells the story of how a young boy, Ki-pat, brings much needed rain to the dry Kapiti Plain.
Classroom Tip: In this book, students should be able to determine that rain is what's scarce in the story.

The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
Victoria and Sam are forced to share — or distribute — a limited number of cookies. Each time the doorbell rings, more friends arrive and the children face a cookie scarcity problem.
Classroom Tip: I use this book to teach the economic principle of scarcity while teaching lessons about saving in Part 1 of Lesson 3.

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn
Sam is given the traditional gift of "lucky money" to spend in any way he chooses! He's unhappy when he realizes he doesn't have enough money to purchase the things he wants.
Classroom Tip: Students are often very excited about having money, but their excitement can turn to disappointment when they realize they cannot buy everything they want at the class store. This book (on video) teaches students that money can be scarce, and that they must make tough consumer decisions when shopping at the class store.

Books With Examples of Opportunity Cost

Erandi's Braids by Antonia Herandez Madrigal
Erandi and her mother are poor and need money to purchase a new fishing net. Erandi also hopes that her mother will buy her a new dress for the upcoming fiesta. One option is to sell their hair to the hair buyer, who will use it for wigs, eyelashes, and fine embroidery. The hair represents the opportunity cost.
Classroom Tip: Use this book to reinforce the concept of opportunity cost after completing Part 2 in Lesson 3.

Other Materials

Best-Ever Activities for Grades 2–3: Time & Money by Frank Murphy, Deborah Rovin-Murphy
This book is full of reproducibles that include lessons and activities for teaching time and money. You'll also find reproducible graphs, charts, graphic organizers, games, mini-books, easy-to-make manipulatives, and assessment ideas.
Classroom Tip: Since students will be working with money throughout the unit in their roles as banker, cashier, and consumer, this book provides opportunities for extra practice. It also provides background on the history of money. It highlights money around the world and even provides literature links to some books listed above.

U.S. Coins and Bills Accent Punch-Outs
Realistic United States currency. Set includes $1, $5, $10, and $20 bills, plus dollar coin, quarter, dime, nickel, and penny. 
Classroom Tip: Plastic-coated for durability, these accent punch-outs can be used to teach money concepts or they can be used to create a bulletin board display that features your classroom economy.

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Susan Cheyney

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