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Each year, Shortlidge Academy students read a book like “New Shoes” that includes an economic lesson they can discuss with their families.
Each year, Shortlidge Academy students read a book like “New Shoes” that includes an economic lesson they can discuss with their families.

Learning financial literacy

Photo courtesy of Shortlidge Academy

Book program builds community and money skills

Students at Shortlidge Academy in the Red Clay Consolidated School District saved up thousands of dollars this year for a special celebration with a moon bounce. 

Sure, the money wasn’t actual U.S. currency — the school minted its own bills to give out as awards for acts of kindness or good class behavior. The students, however, still got to practice the concept of saving. 

The fun lesson followed the national One School, One Book concept, adapted for a special focus on financial literacy. The University of Delaware’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, part of the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, has been organizing an annual book sharing event to help teach young children important financial skills and concepts. It’s sponsored by the Delaware Council on Economic Education with financial support from the TD Bank’s charitable foundation

The program, started in the 2021-22 academic year, meets another important goal for both CEEE and the school districts: getting families engaged with the material and their children’s education. 

Longtime CEEE staff member Bonnie Meszaros, who was inducted into the Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame for her efforts to bring financial literacy to children throughout the state, started this program. Allegedly retired, she still runs the program, which has a special focus on low-income schools. 

“My greater goal was to build a sense of community for reading in a school,” Meszaros said. “I don’t think it’s enough to just send a book home with the kids … My idea [is] that this is going to draw attention to a personal finance or economics concept that might not be covered during the school day. But I think even greater for me is the sense of involvement of the families and the communities.” 

Christine Moyer, reading specialist at Shortlidge, agrees. 

“We love putting a new book in the students’ hands. And then, them being able to take that book home and share it … so that parents are involved as well is super important,” she said. 

Meszaros keeps an eye out for books teaching solid financial lessons and then huddles with the schools to see which one would work best for them. 

Books so far have included Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier, New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer, and A Boy, a Budget and a Dream by Jasmine Paul (who signed her books for the school). They’re available not just for students, but for administrators, teachers and staff as well. 

Shortlidge gets creative, building fun activities like the moon bounce around the stories. They even work the lessons into math class. 

New Shoes tells a fictional story based on history, of a Black girl during segregation who experiences discrimination and humiliation when shopping for a new pair of shoes. 

Family members of the students could relate — some of them had gone through similar experiences, and came to the school to tell their stories. 

When the children read Beatrice’s Goat, about a girl in Uganda whose family is able to send her to school because of the gift of a goat, they contributed money to Heifer International to make their own similar gift. 

“The schools have been incredibly creative in what they’ve been doing with the books,” Meszaros said. 

This year’s moon bounce activity, based on a story about a boy who has to save up to meet a goal, was a hit, Moyer said. “This one was just very tangible, and they really enjoyed it.” 

Shortlidge’s house currency was also a hit with teachers, who valued the way it motivated kids and wanted to keep using it. 

“They always come up with these amazing ideas for engaging the families and the community in whatever book we choose,” Meszaros said. 

At Shortlidge alone, the program gave out 462 books this year. Other participating schools have included Christina School District’s Wilson Elementary and Colonial’s Eisenberg Elementary. 

The program, Moyer said, is “just a win-win for everybody,” as it includes many learning opportunities and life lessons, and a chance to share a reading experience with families that may not have many books at home. 

“We love it,” she said.

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