We have always been challenged getting financial literacy education into the time-pressed elementary classroom.  In the past few years, we have found a great place and partner in the teacher-librarian.  During library time, there is finally some time to teach students about the choices they have for money.  Next to a parent, the teacher is the most impactful teacher in a child’s life -and the teacher-librarian is in a perfect position to help us as parents teach our kids about money. 

During the 2010 Chicago Federal Reserve’s Money Smart Week, with a little help from the Money Savvy Pig, an interactive piggybank, Chicago Public School students in grades K – 8 spent classroom time with their teacher-librarians learning about the choices they have for money – save, spend, donate and invest, how to set goals for those choices and ultimately how to delay gratification.  Additionally, the older students were introduced to several critical personal finance skills including learning how to work with a budget, manage a checking account and the benefits of saving.
Many of those same students took this message home to their parents and guardians.  For 50,000 K-4 students participating in this program, they were asked to sit down with their families and explain what they learned in class that day.  Students asked parents and guardians to set short and long-term goals alongside the short and long-term goals they had already set in class. 
More than 45,000 CPS students in grades 5-8 were asked to keep a money diary of their spending to reinforce the importance of keeping track of their money and evaluating expenses vs. income.  Students were also encouraged to work as a team to tackle managing a budget within a group dynamic, simulating how families would do budget management at home. 

Nearly 200 CPS teacher-librarians “raised their hands” to teach this voluntary program during MSW.  As a testament to the positive experience with this program, 70% of the participating teacher – librarians are in their second year of volunteer participation with this program.

“This program offers a nice jumping off point to get students to really think about money.  Before this program, the kids admitted that they would put money into a closet or a case somewhere.  They now realize how important it is to put your money into a safe financial institution to really protect it and to make the money work for them.   We are very happy.  It went over quite well with all our students!” explained Lisa Campbell, librarian at Horace Mann Elementary. 

“Many of my 5th graders didn’t realize that their parents had a budget.  Through the Money Savvy Generation curriculum the kids realized they were spending more money than they had in their income!” said Carmen Reyes, librarian at Lloyd Elementary.

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Written by Susan Beacham
Susan Beacham founded Money Savvy Generation in 1999 after almost two decades in private banking and investment management complemented by considerable time teaching at the elementary level.

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