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Five Economics Books for Young Kids

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BOOKS!
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Via The Browser, comes this excellent list of economics books for young children selected by Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, an associate professor at Rutgers University. Rodgers has co-authored two research papers on the importance of teaching economics to kids. (Click here for more book recommendations from Rodgers.) Also, visit The Browser for more detailed discussion of each book by Rodgers.

Books and brief synopses from Rodgers:

1. Cloud Tea Monkeys, by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham
Says Rodgers: My own specialty is women globally and I do a lot of work on women in poor countries. This book focuses on a woman who is very poor. She is in a South Asian country and she picks tealeaves for a living. Her daughter is either too young to go to school or they cannot afford to send her to school, so the daughter often comes along to the plantation. It’s a lovely story, it shows some of the very real poverty that we see in developing countries, but there’s a touch of magic in it, that it’s all going to be OK. So this book really touched my heart. I’ve read it to a number of classes and by the end, the children are clapping – they love the story.

2. Those Shoes, by Maribeth Boelts

Says Rodgers: In this book the main concept is want versus need, and in the American school system, in many state standards, that’s one of the first economic concepts that young children, five-year-olds, are mandated to have to learn. So this book is just right on. The boy really wants these shoes that everyone else has, but he is very poor. He’s being raised by his grandmother and she knows he needs new boots; he does not need these fancy sneakers. By the end of the story he is giving the shoes away to another boy in the class who is also from a poor background. It’s a hard decision for him to give the shoes away, but he does. It’s such a nice story.

3. Violet the Pilot, by Steve Breen
Says Rodgers: The economics here is a little more sophisticated. The general themes in the series are women in science, which economists write about as well, and women breaking into non-traditional occupations. But there’s another concept that is embedded in some of these content standards and that’s innovation and invention: how innovation helps to improve our standard of living. The illustrations in these books are just incredible – the detail and the warmth and the humor embedded in them.

4. Beatrice's Goat, by Page McBrier
Says Rodgers: This book is actually based on a non-profit organisation called Heifer International. People donate money and the Heifer project donates livestock animals to people in poor countries, who then use the animals to become self-sufficient. The book is about a girl named Beatrice, who lives in an African country. She has to work to help take care of her siblings and she does some farm work also. But her dream is to go to school. So then they get this donation of a goat, and Beatrice is able to sell the goat’s milk and she gives the money to her mother and it turns out her mother has been saving for Beatrice to go to school as well. Then, at the end of the story, she’s able to go to school and she is just so happy. The words, the sheer happiness that this girl can finally go to school, it really brings tears to one’s eyes. It’s such a good book.

5. Sanji and the Baker
, by Robin Tzannes
Says Rodgers: This is illustrated by Korky Paul, who is my absolute favourite illustrator. The story is about what in economics we call an externality: when something that somebody produces has either a benefit or a cost for other people that is not included in the price. So in this case it’s the smell of the baked goods – other people can enjoy the smell, but they don’t have to pay for it. That’s a positive externality. A negative externality is pollution: when firms produce goods but they pollute the environment and nobody pays for it. It’s a very sophisticated concept, and yet here it is, in this picture book for young children.
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