Children’s Literature for Teaching Economics


Dr. Ava L. McCall


Children’s And Young Adult Books

Adil, J. R. (2006). Goods and services. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The text explains examples of goods and services and clarifies the difference between goods and services. It briefly describes government services, such as fire and police protection, recreation at parks, and opportunities to use public libraries and schools. The text introduces the concepts of producers (who sell goods and services) and consumers (who purchase goods and services) and how producers earn income by selling their goods and services and use their income to purchase goods and services.

Ajmera, M., Dunning, V., & Pon, C. (2013). Healthy kids. Washington, DC: The Global Fund for Children.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The text is illustrated with photographs of children from around the world and the different ways they stay healthy and meet their basic needs. They eat nourishing food, drink clean water, keep their bodies and teeth clean, live in a safe home, receive medical care to remain healthy, exercise, wear clothing to protect themselves from sun and rain, and wear seat belts and helmets when they travel. The text can be used to show how children around the world meet their basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.

Andrews, C. (2009). What are goods and services? New York: Crabtree Publishing.


Picture book, upper elementary. The text explains such economics concepts as wants, needs, goods (both durable and consumable and the physical and human capital needed to produce goods), and services (both private and public). The text clarifies the difference between public and private goods. For example, private goods are sold by businesses who want to make a profit. Public goods, such as parks, playgrounds, highways, and sidewalks, are provided by the government paid for through taxes. The government also uses tax money to supply such services as police and fire protection, education, and some health care. In addition, the government provides welfare or services to low-income people. The text also explains the concepts of scarcity and surplus related to resources, supply and demand, and offers a brief history on shortages of different products, such as oil and surpluses of other products, such as wheat. It closes by clarifying the concept of specialization in work, the role of tradeoffs and opportunity cost when making decisions, and different types of economic systems (traditional, centrally planned, market, or mixed).

Andrews, C. (2009). What is trade? New York: Crabtree Publishing.


Picture book, upper elementary. The author defines the concepts of trade, goods, services, barter, exports, imports, and tariffs. She also explains how individual people may trade or barter to get the goods and services they want or need at “swap meets” while countries trade with other countries to obtain needed goods. For example, the United States and individual states export (sell a good to another country) crops and goods which are not needed in our country to other countries who want or need them. Meat, soybeans, and cotton are exported. The United States also imports (brings in goods from other countries to sell) such crops as coffee and chocolate because we do not grow these crops. However, sometimes the U.S. imports goods made more cheaply in other countries because workers in those countries are paid less than U.S. workers. Consumers are able to pay less for these imported products. The author also explains the history of trade, barter, and tariffs and clarifies that although the purpose of tariffs is to “protect the producers of goods within the country. A tariff makes the imported good cost more so people will not buy as much of it” (p. 26), countries have agreed to eliminate tariffs on goods shipped between them in order to promote trade. The North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. is an example. The text can be used to promote critical discussion of the effects of imports, exports, and the elimination of tariffs on consumers and producers.

Bean, J. (2013). Building our house. New York: Farrar Strauss Giroux Books for Young Readers.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The text portrays one family’s move from the city to the country and the building of their new house, which they do themselves. The book is based on the author’s parents’ experience of building their own house. The family lives in a small trailer while they build the house. They hire workers to drill a well and route electricity to their trailer, but the family collects materials and builds much of the house themselves. The family has a house frame raising party and a moving in party which brings family, neighbors, and workers to help. The text and illustrations show the process of building a house and the many tasks that must be completed in order to provide a basic need of shelter.

Boelts, M. (2007). Those shoes. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.


Picture book, lower elementary. Jeremy, the main character, wants a pair of black high-tops with two white stripes, but his grandmother said, “There’s no room for ‘want’ around here–just ‘need.’” When Jeremy’s grandmother finds out how much the black high-tops cost, she can’t afford them and instead buys him the new boots he needs. As more and more of Jeremy’s friends get the special shoes, his desire for them increases. When Jeremy’s shoes come apart at school one day, the guidance counselor gives him a new pair, which become the source of ridicule by Jeremy’s friends. Jeremy is able to find a pair of the black high-tops at a thift store and buys them even though they are too small. He finally decides to give them to another boy in his class whose shoes are taped together. The realistic fiction text can be used to discuss the difference between needs and wants and the influence of peer pressure on children to purchase specific types of clothing which are really wants and not needs.

Bozzo, L. (2011). Community helpers of the past, present, and future. Berkeley, NJ: Enslow.


Picture book, lower elementary. The text defines community helpers as people who help make a neighborhood a better place. It briefly describes how eight different community helpers have changed from the past to the present and speculates how they might serve the community in the future. For example, firefighters have better tools and powerful fire trucks to fight fires than they had in the past. Perhaps in the future, firefighters might direct robots to enter burning buildings to put out fires. The text provides similar descriptions for doctors, dentists, veterinarians, teachers, librarians, police officers, and mail carriers.

Brisson, P. (2014). Before we eat: From farm to table. Thomaston, ME: Tilbury House.


Picture book, lower elementary. The poetic text reminds readers to be thankful for the farmers who grow plants and trees for food and raise animals for different food products consumers enjoy. The author also acknowledges fishers and beekeepers who gather fish and honey, pickers who pick and pack food, truckers who deliver food to grocery stores, and grocery store workers who prepare food to sell at grocery stores.

Bullard, L. (2014). Lily learns about wants and needs. Minneapolis: Millbrook Press.


Picture book, lower elementary. The text portrays a young girl named Lily and her father shopping while discussing which goods are needs and which are wants and that needs must be purchased first before wants. The father continues to assert they are spending money only on needs and spending money wisely when they do purchase needs. They purchase a less expensive raincoat than the one Lily originally wants after she explains that her old raincoat is too small. However, they do not purchase Lily a new bike for exercise because she can still ride old bike. Lily believes she does not really need to go to the dentist, but her father insists that seeing the dentist is a need. When they shop for food, they stick to their grocery list and purchase only healthy food that is needed, not root beer, which is a drink Lily’s dad wants.

Cronin, D. (2000). Click, clack, moo: Cows that type. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.


Picture book, elementary level. The book can be used to discuss the concepts of needs versus wants. It also serves as a humorous example of how workers negotiate for better “working” conditions with their employers. The cows find a typewriter and type a note to Farmer Brown requesting electric blankets to keep them warm at night. Farmer Brown refuses the request, so the cows go on strike and refuse to give any milk. This leads to demands from the hens and finally, the ducks. Farmer Brown needs to decide if he will give in to the demands in order to provide the goods he needs from the farm animals.

dePaola, T. (1973). Charlie needs a cloak. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The book illustrates the production of a winter cloak, from shearing wool from sheep, to washing, carding, and spinning the wool into yarn, to dying and weaving the yarn into cloth, to sewing the wool cloth into a cloak. The book can be used to discuss the concept of production of goods.


dePaola, T. (1978). The popcorn book. New York: Holiday House.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The text provides a history of popcorn, where it has been found in the world, and how it has been prepared and eaten by Native people in the Americas who introduce it to the colonists. It describes the demand for and consumption of popcorn by people in the U.S. and explains why popcorn pops when heated. The text can be used to discuss the production of a popular food.

Edwards, C. (2013). Show me community helpers. North Mankato, MN: Capstone.


Picture book, elementary level. The text describes community helpers as people who help others by keeping them safe and healthy, helping them learn new things, and meeting their daily needs. It categorizes community helpers into four groups: those who keep people safe, such as police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians; those who keep people healthy, such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, hygienists, and veterinarians; those who help people learn, such as teachers, librarians, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and custodians; and those who serve people’s needs, such as farmers, construction workers, and electric utility workers. The description of each community helper shows some of the tools, clothing, or objects each helper uses, the people or animals each helper works with, some of the tasks they perform, and the places where they work.

Firestone, M. (2005). Earning money. Mankato, MN: Capstone.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The simple text includes children in the illustrations and talks directly to children. The author explains that people earn money to buy the things they need and want. They earn money by trading their time and skills for money by providing a service, such as cooking, washing windows, walking dogs, and shoveling snow or by selling goods, such as crops, artwork, or old toys. Children may earn money through an allowance for doing chores. Readers learn the definition of “fair price” or the price one could charge for a product that is a little more than the cost of supplies. In addition, the text introduces other variables in the price for a product or service such as demand and the number of workers willing to produce the product or service.

Firestone, M. (2005). What is money? Mankato, MN: Capstone.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The author explains how money allows people to get what they want more easily than through trading. However, people trade their time and skills to earn money, then they trade their money to buy what they want and need. The text introduces different forms of money around the world, the forms of money used in the U.S., how it is produced and how children might use money. Although the text is written for children, the explanation of the exchange rates between different countries and the U.S. seems very advanced for young readers.

Fleischman, P. (1999). Weslandia. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.


Picture book, elementary level. The text portrays a young boy Wesley who decides to devote his summer to growing his own staple crop and developing his own civilization. When a wind plants new seeds in a plot of land in his backyard, Wesley finds the new plants provide an important source of his basic needs for food, drink, clothing, and shelter. In addition, he makes some products from the plants that provide some human wants, including a combination of suntan lotion and mosquito repellent, equipment for a new sport, a musical instrument, and an ink. In addition to providing some basic needs and wants in his new civilization, Wesley invents a new number system, language, and method of telling time.

Gaiman, N. (2004). The day I swapped my dad for two goldfish. New York: HarperTrophy.


Picture book, elementary level. This realistic fiction humorously addresses the economic concept of bartering to obtain wants. The main character, a young boy, wants his friend Nathan’s goldfish, but Nathan does not want any of the objects offered in trade for the goldfish until the main character offers his dad. Readers then learn about a series of swaps in which Dad is traded for an electric guitar, a gorilla mask, and finally, a large white rabbit. The text implies that sometimes people barter away a good that they prefer to keep.

Gibbons, G. (1983). New road! New York: HarperTrophy.


Picture book, elementary level. The text illustrates the various workers with specialized jobs who are involved in building a new road. Planners, surveyors, drafters (draftsmen), contractors, and workers are all involved in planning and building a road. The text also illustrates different types of roads which existed from 300 B.C. to now.

Gibbons, G. (1984). Department store. New York: HarperTrophy.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The text illustrates the various workers with specialized jobs who run department stores. Salespeople, cashiers, department managers, display artists, truck drivers, credit department workers, customer service department workers, and buyers work together to provide the services customers expect from department stores. The end of the text explains the historical development of department stores.

Goodman, S. E. (2006). All in just one cookie. New York: Greenwillow.


Picture book, elementary level. The text explains where the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies come from. Butter comes from Vermont cows, sugar originates from sugarcane grown in Hawaii, vanilla comes from vanilla vines grown in Madagascar, New Hampshire hens lay the needed eggs, salt comes from the Pacific Ocean, baking soda originates in the mineral trona from the deserts in Wyoming, Kansas farmers harvest wheat to make flour, and chocolate chips come from cocoa beans grown on cocoa trees in West Africa, Indonesia, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic. The text can be used to discuss the sources for raw materials to create a product (chocolate chip cookies) and which raw materials are produced in the U.S. and which must be imported from other countries.

Hall, D. (1979). The ox-cart man. New York: The Viking Press.


Picture book, elementary level. This historical fiction text illustrates how one 19th century New England family produces extra goods they do not need for the father to sell at a market and uses the income from these sales to purchase goods they need from the market. Their surplus goods included wool they sheared from their sheep, a hand made shawl, mittens, brooms, candles, linen, and shingles and food they grew or produced, such as apples, honey, turnips, cabbages, and maple sugar. In turn, the father purchased an iron kettle, embroidery needle, carving knife, and candies they needed or wanted from the market. The text also depicts the year-long process of producing goods they could sell at next year’s market and illustrates the importance of all family members’ contributions to the production of goods.

Hoban, L. (1981). Arthur’s funny money. New York: Harper Collins.


Picture book, lower elementary level. This realistic fiction text illustrates the efforts of a young monkey, Arthur, to set up his own business. He must pay expenses, deal with increased costs of business supplies, negotiate prices with his customers, advertise accurately, and generate enough income in order to earn a profit to purchase a product he wants.

Houghton, G. (2009). Goods and services. New York: Rosen.


Picture book, elementary level. The text reviews many economic concepts, which need elaboration beyond what is included in the book. The author emphasizes that businesses encourage people to buy their product or service in order to make a profit, but customers should become smart shoppers and spend their money wisely. The text reviews needs and clarifies that even though clothing is a need, we do not need an expensive winter coat to meet our need for a warm winter coat, and we should purchase our needs before our wants. It encourages readers to budget for saving money to purchase wants and suggests ways children might earn money to purchase goods and services, and clarifies the difference between them. It also differentiates between producers and consumers.


Kalman, B. (2010). Helpers in my community. New York: Crabtree.


Picture book, lower elementary. The author defines community helpers as “people who make communities cleaner, safer, and better” (p. 4). It briefly describes various community helpers and either the tools they use or how they provide needed services or products for people in the community. For example, electricians work to ensure that all residents have electricity; builders construct the buildings, roads, and bridges we need; plumbers install pipes so that everyone has water; crossing guards help children cross the roads safely; school bus drivers drive children from home to school; and paramedics take sick or hurt people to hospitals. The text also includes volunteers who help others without pay and asks children how they can help the community.

Kennedy, F. (2004). The pickle patch bathtub. Berkley, CA: Tricycle Press.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The text is biographical and based on the author’s mother’s experiences growing up on a farm in Missouri in the 1920s. It deals with the economic concept of saving. Donna and her younger sister grow cucumbers to sell to a pickle factory. The money saved from selling these goods is used to purchase a bathtub to replace the washtub they use for bathing each Saturday night. The story illustrates children’s power to save money to purchase a product that will benefit the family.

Krull, K. (2001). Supermarket. New York: Holiday House.


Picture book, elementary level. The text and illustrations explain different components of grocery stores, including the different sections of the store (fruits and vegetables, meats and fish, bakery, dairy, frozen foods, and shelves of canned and boxed foods), the checkout counter, and behind the scenes components (inventory management equipment, stockrooms, worker rooms, places for loading, garbage, recycling, and cleaning supplies). The text also explains the origins of foods that end up in supermarkets, the history of how some foods were developed, and how supermarkets evolved over time. The author clarifies the inclusion of other small stores within supermarkets, such as pharmacies, banks, video rental stores, restaurants, and flower shops. Throughout the text are sidebars of additional information about supermarkets; surveys of shoppers’ shopping, food preferences and food consumption; and additional information about food processing, origins, and where foods are currently produced.

Larson, J. S. (2010). Do I need it? Or do I want it? Making budget choices. Minneapolis: Lerner.


Picture book, elementary level. The text talks to child readers asking them questions about how they obtain money, how they decide to spend or save it, making choices to purchase goods and services, and preparing a budget to decide how to spend and save money. The author reviews the budgets families might create based on how much income they earn, what goods and services they need, and how they might spend their money after purchasing their needs, such as donating money to others in need and purchasing wants. Families also budget money to save in order to purchase goods and services they need or want later. They usually put their saved money in a bank. The author assumes children and families are at least middle class and have enough income to meet their basic needs with some left to purchase wants or save.

Larson, J. S. (2010). What can you do with money? Earning, spending, and saving. Minneapolis: Lerner.


Picture book, elementary level. The simple text briefly explains how people may earn money, use their income to purchase goods and services, reviews the different jobs that produce a good or service, and all the jobs associated with producing a carton of strawberries. The author clarifies that family members also produce goods and services at home for no pay, choose how to spend their income on needed goods and services, and choose to donate or save money left after the family purchases its needs. The author explains that families can decide to purchase wants after their basic needs are met, but they always need to make choices to purchase something now or save to purchase something better later. Finally, the text encourages children to think about how they earn money and how they might wise decisions about saving or spending it. The author assumes families and children are at least middle class and earn enough income to purchase basic needs with income left to save or purchase some wants.

Lauffer, P. (2000). Made in Mexico. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society.


Picture book, elementary level. The text explains the production of “the best guitars in Mexico,” which are made in the small village of Paracho. It also clarifies that the income from the sales of these guitars allows the village people to escape the poverty of many Mexican villages. The book can be used to discuss the economic concepts of the production of goods and the income generated from the sale of these goods.

Lewin, T. (1996). Market! New York: HarperTrophy.


Picture book, elementary level. The text illustrates different types of markets around the world, from Ecuador to Nepal to Ireland to Uganda to the Fulton Fish Market in New York City (in the US) to Morocco. Sellers bring various products to sell at markets including food, clothing, tools, pots, pottery, carpets, carvings, horses, and folk medicines. The text also depicts the bargaining process between buyers and sellers often used at markets. The book can be used to discuss the economic concepts of various goods from around the world which are sold at markets and how buyers and sellers negotiate for the best price.

Loewen, N. (2006). Let’s trade: A book about bartering. Minneapolis, MN: Picture Window Books.


Picture book, elementary level. A social studies teacher, Mr. Wallace, asks his class how he could obtain something to eat without paying money. This problem leads to a class discussion about trade and bartering. Mr. Wallace explains that in bartering “Both people have to want or need the things being traded, and the things being traded have to be worth about the same value” (p. 13). The text explains the importance of bartering to obtain needed food, tools, and other goods before money systems were developed, and the use of bartering during economic downturns. The end of the text gives additional examples of trading among friends and additional resources to learn more about money and trading.


Madigral, A. H. (1999). Erandi’s braids. New York: Puffin Books.


Picture book, elementary level. The text can be used to address the concepts of wants, needs, and different ways to obtain the money needed to purchase wants and needs. Erandi’s mother needs a new fishing net, while Erandi wants a new dress and doll for her birthday. Erandi’s mother decides to sell her hair to obtain the money needed for the new net, but it is not long enough. However, Erandi’s hair is long enough to sell. This is a difficult decision for Erandi and her mother to make, but the money they earn from Erandi’s hair, pays for a new net and a doll.

McKay, L. Jr. (1995). Caravan. New York: Lee & Low Books.


Picture book, elementary level. The historical fiction text portrays a young boy, Jura, who travels with his father on his caravan to trade furs and felts for grain at the city market. The author’s note explains the story is based on the experiences of the Kirghiz caravaneers of Afghanistan who travel through the Afghan Pamir Mountains to the regional capital. The text can be used to show how people in different parts of the world obtain the goods they need through trade.

Medina, M. (2011). Tia Isa wants a car. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.


Picture book, elementary level. The text is written in English, but includes Spanish terms such as Tia for aunt and Tio for uncle and focuses on a Latina/o family. The story’s narrator is a young girl who lives with her aunt and uncle in the city. They are saving money to send for the rest of their family who lives in a house on an island by the sea. Tia Isa wants a car to take her family to the beach, but it is difficult for her to save money for a car and to bring the family to the U.S. However, the young girl is able to perform odd jobs in order to help save money. Together she and her aunt are able to save enough money to purchase a car. The text shows the importance of saving money to reach a goal.

Miller, J. (2005). Community needs: Meeting needs and wants in communities. New York: PowerKids Press.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The information text explains the differences between needs and wants within the context of community. It reviews the importance of healthy food, clean water, a safe, clean home, and warm clothes for people within a community. The author also explains that communities use different means to obtain the food they need, various reasons for needing water, and distinct arrangement of homes in the country, city, or suburbs. Finally, the text clarifies that people in communities may work together to get some community wants, such as a library, community center, or town fair.

Mollel, T. M. (1999). My rows and piles of coins. New York: Clarion.


Picture book, elementary level. The text is realistic fiction, takes place in Tanzania, and deals with the economic concept of saving. Saruni is a young boy who saves the ten-cent coins he earns from helping his mother at the market for the goal of purchasing a bicycle to help his mother carry goods to market to sell. Although Saruni saves all his money and practices riding a large, heavy bike, he is unable to save enough to purchase a new bike. The text provides an excellent example of a child who saves money to help others.

Neitzel, S. (1995). The bag I’m taking to Grandmas. New York: Greenwillow Books.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The main character is a young boy who packs a bag to take on a visit with his grandmother. He says he needs a baseball mitt, toy cars, space shuttle, toy animals, bunny, pillow, book, and flashlight, but doesn’t take any clothes or slippers. The bag is so heavy with things that he claims to need that it is difficult to carry. The book can be used to discuss what children really need for an overnight visit with their grandparents.

Noble, T. H. (2007). The orange shoes. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press.


Picture book, elementary level. The main character Delly has no shoes to wear to school because of her family’s limited income. However, she has developed her artistic skills by drawing on the inside of used envelopes using a stubby pencil with no eraser. When her parents discuss purchasing shoes for Delly, they also consider the need for new tires for the family’s truck. Delly’s father said if he can’t get to work, they can’t buy groceries, which is more important than new shoes for Delly. Delly’s father decides to purchase only two new tires for the truck so Delly can have new shoes for school. When Delly shows her new shoes to other girls at school, they complain that “Dirt-poor Delly can’t have better shoes than us” and stomp on her shoes to ruin them. Delly uses her artistic skills and paints made from natural dyes to transform her shoes from scratched and damaged shoes to works of art. The book can be used to discuss needs and wants and making choices about which needs are more important than others.

Olson, G. M. (2009). Needs and wants. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press.


Picture book, lower elementary. The simple text clearly explains the difference between needs (things we must have to live) and wants (things we can live without) and examples of each. Emily needs a warm coat, but it doesn’t have to be new. She can use a hand-me-down coat. The text also deals with economic choices, such as the importance of meeting all your needs before meeting some of your wants. When children receive money, they usually have to make choices between things they want.

Ring, S. (2003). Needs and wants. Mankato, MN: Yellow Umbrella Books.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The text is an excellent resource for introducing the differences between wants and needs for young students. It clarifies different needs such as homes, clothes, and food and why these goods are needs. It also explains goods people want or choose to have, but do not need, such as ice cream, balls, and bikes.

Rockwell, A. (2000). Career day. New York: HarperCollins.

Picture book, lower elementary level. The simple text and illustrations introduce young children to different jobs engaged in by children’s family members. The jobs that are briefly introduced include construction worker, sanitation worker, judge, musician, author, paleontologist, crossing guard, nurse, veterinarian, carpenter, college professor, and grocery store manager. Teachers would need to elaborate on what people do in each job and its importance to communities.

Rondeau, A. (2003). Volunteering. Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing.


Picture book, lower elementary level. The text explains the meaning of volunteering (helping others) and examples of volunteering. The examples illustrate how these actions provide services to help others (taking someone to the park, recycling, spending time with an older person, helping animals at a shelter, reading to someone, helping to build a house, and planting trees. However, the text does not clarify that volunteers provide these services without earning an income. Teachers should distinguish the difference between providing services as a way to earn income and providing services as a volunteer.

Serrano, J. (2011). Need it or want it? Pelham, NY: Newmark Learning.


Picture book, lower elementary level. This very simple text, geared for K-1, asserts people need food, water, a home, and clothes. It also asks if a cupcake meets someone’s need for food, if a milkshake meets someone’s need for water, if new clothes meets someone’s need for clothes, and a new home meets someone’s need for a home. The text can be used to develop a more complex understanding of people’s basic needs.

Tabor, N. M. G. (1996). A Taste of the Mexican market. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.


Picture book, elementary level. This bilingual Spanish/English text illustrates the many fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheeses, meats, seafood, beans, desserts, clothing, household items (blankets and baskets), and pinatas which are available from markets in Mexico. The text can be used to discuss the economic concept of goods and how they are sold to customers at markets.

Torres, L. (1999). Saturday sancocho. New York: Sunburst.


Picture book, elementary level. The realistic fiction illustrates the concept of bartering. A young girl Maria Lili and her grandmother Mama Ana go to the market to barter their dozen eggs for a chicken and vegetables to make the traditional Central and South American dish sancocho. Sometimes they barter eggs for more of a vegetable that they need, which they then use to barter for a different vegetable. The text demonstrates the value of having more than one good to barter to obtain all the goods needed to make a stew.

Wells, R. (2008). Max’s bunny business. New York: Viking.


Picture book, lower elementary level. Two of the main characters, Ruby and Louise, want to purchase two flashing rings, a want, which costs two dollars. They decide to sell lemonade at 10 cents a cup and determine how many cups they must sell to earn the two dollars. When Ruby’s younger brother Max tried to help, he spilled lemonade. Ruby did not allow Max to help sell lemonade, so Max came up with his own business to make money–selling old Halloween candy. The text could be used to discuss the wisdom of Max’s display of his candy and all three bunnies’ decision to spend their money on immediate wants.

Wells, R. (1997). Bunny Money. New York: Puffin Books.


Picture book, lower elementary level. Two bunnies, Max and Ruby, go shopping to purchase a birthday present for their grandmother. Ruby saved money for this occasion. Before they can purchase the gift Ruby had in mind for Grandma, they spent money on bus fare, and Max chose to purchase vampire teeth filled with cherry syrup as a gift. This purchase led to other expenditures, leaving them with little money left to purchase a gift. The text can be used to discuss saving and wisely spending money. Readers may photocopy the “Bunny Money” in the front and end pages of the book to practice saving and spending money.

Ziefert, H. (1986). A new coat for Anna. New York: Dragonfly Books.


Picture book, elementary level. The text is based on a true story which occurred during the economic hardships in Europe following World War II. It focuses on the concept of bartering to obtain all the raw materials to produce a new coat. A young girl, Anna, outgrew her coat and her mother bartered valuable family possessions to obtain the needed coat. She bartered a gold watch, a lamp, a necklace, and a porcelain teapot to obtain wool from a farmer who raised sheep, to hire a spinner to spin the wool into yarn, to hire a weaver to weave the yarn into cloth, and to hire a tailor to sew the coat. The text illustrates that in bartering one may give up prized family possessions in order to obtain a needed good.

Audiovisual Resources

Geefay, D. (Production Coordinator) & Geefay, E. (Director). (2001). How our economy works: All about earning and spending money [DVD]. (Available from 100% Educational Videos, P O Box 440 El Dorado Hills, CA 95761-0018).


This 18-minute video explains such economic concepts as needs, wants, goods, services, consumers, producers, scarcity, and savings in a child-friendly style. Children are the main characters and dramatize a family making a decision about purchasing either a new car, refrigerator or a big-screen television and a child making a decision about purchasing the best bike helmet. The child considers the helmets’ fit, appearance, and cost. Children also dramatize a family saving money to purchase their child’s birthday present as well as a child putting money in the bank, a safe place to save her money. The final scene is a quiz game which reviews the main concepts and ideas. The DVD assumes families have enough money to purchase basic needs as well as some of their wants and children have money to spend and save.


EconKids. (2013). Rutgers University project on economics and children. Retrieved from


This website provides teachers, parents, and volunteers with ideas for using children's literature to introduce economics to children. They review new books from leading publishers and makes selections for "Book of the Month" and "Top Five" categories. EconKids focuses on younger students in elementary school. It can help to generate quick teaching ideas that are based on current research in economics and education.

KidsEcon Posters. (2013). Literature Connection. Retrieved from


A bibliography of children’s books on economics created through a curriculum project at Purdue University as a resource for teachers to show even the simplest of economic principles to their students.

Annotated bibliography list