Work & Money

The best picture books to help raise money-smart kids

Highlighting the books and their central themes to help kickstart your lesson!
(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

It's never too early to start talking to your kids about money – really. If they can sit through a picture book, you can start introducing important concepts like saving and other healthy money habits. And understanding these basic concepts is the first step towards financial literacy.

Depending on what you think your kids are ready to start thinking about, and the concepts you value most, there are some great books out there that can act as educational and enjoyable aids. Reading any (or all) of the books below with your kids will help educate them on the value of money and how money works in everyday life. We've highlighted the central theme of each to help you decide which to books might help, and to help kickstart your chat!

A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams

This book is written from the viewpoint of a child who watches her mother put away a portion of her earnings into a savings jar after work each night. Eventually the jar is filled up and they've saved enough to go buy something to make their lives more comfortable.

The lesson: wants versus needs, and the importance of saving.

Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst

"I absolutely was saving the rest of my money. I positively was saving the rest of my money. But then…" Sound familiar? This is how the story goes in Alexander Who Used to be Rich Last Summer. Alexander and his two brothers each get a dollar from their grandparents. While the other brothers save their money, Alexander gives into temptation, spending his money on everything from a rental snake to a one-eyed, second-hand teddy bear.

The lesson: the importance of not squandering your money.

Money, Money, Honey Bunny! by Marilyn Sadler

The main character, Honey Bunny Funnybunny, divides her money three ways: spending on herself, saving some, and spending it on her friends. It's a great introduction to the concept of money allocation. You can even work in the importance of giving to charity and how this can help boost self-esteem.

The lesson: budgeting and money allocation.

The Berenstain Bears' Trouble with Money by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Leave it to the Berenstain Bears to help us teach our kids. When Papa Bear sees the cubs aren't valuing their money, he makes them work for it. But once they start saving, the cubs become obsessive about it and have to learn how to find balance.

The lesson: finding a healthy balance between spending and saving.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin

Pete the Cat is a charmer, and while this book's theme isn't specifically about money, it has an important message to help round out your personal finance discussion. When Pete's white shoes get dirty, Pete doesn't care. He just keeps "walking along and singing his song." The moral of the story is that no matter what happens, keep your head up and try to be satisfied with what you have. Being reactionary or, as it relates to finance, spending compulsively, won't make you feel any better in the long run.

The lesson: money can't buy happiness.

One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent: All About Money by Bonnie Worth

The Cat in the Hat teaches young readers (and you!) the history of money and its role as a cultural tool. This book is basically a social study lesson in prose. When children know where money comes from, they may even appreciate it more.

The lesson: the history of money.

Just Saving My Money by Mercy Meyer

Little Critter wants a skateboard, so he starts working to save for it. He opens a bank account and when he finally has enough, he buys it. Now why can't we all be that financially responsible?

The lesson: setting financial savings goals.

And, for older kids who don't need the colourful pictures, the Canadian series M is for Money by Teresa Cascioli is a great resource, as is the website too.

Now that you're on your way to raising money-smart kids, test your own finance knowledge with our little quiz.

Jessica Brooks is a digital producer, trained chef and DIY investor.