Personal experience in our community has shown the 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator that too many young individuals and married couples are purchasing homes they cannot afford and buying cars that drastically inflate their spending budget. It seems as though this generation is expecting to own what their parents own, despite that their parents began with a meager budget, lived leaner at a younger age, and worked towards nicer things as time progressed. As we work with young people in our community, we see that the desire for immediate possession of nice things and the hunger for "upgrades" is being passed on to the children.
The Steuben County 4-H Program partnered with the Hamilton Elementary School After School Program to offer youth in grades 3-6 nine sessions of Reading Makes Cents, a curriculum from National 4-H Supply that targets financial literacy concepts through children's literature. Youth learned about the history of money, managing money, earning money, spending money, saving money, sharing money, and borrowing/lending money. The main theme of the program was overall financial management.
Ten youth completed the Reading Makes Cents program in which they maintained a Reading Makes Cents journal, practiced math skills, discovered their talents, and worked as a team to brainstorm ways to impact their community.
Journal entries ranged from financial concepts to goals to story responses. At the beginning of the program series, when asked what they wanted to learn or accomplish as a result of Reading Makes Cents, one student wrote, "I want to learn about money and how to use it in a good way." When commenting on goals in her journal, one student wrote, "I want to save money for a car and college."
The youth wrote about their amazement during the Great Depression when attitudes about money changed—they thought it was so crazy that people did not trust the banks and began hiding their money in secret places. After talking about needs vs. wants, one youth indicated in their journal they they wanted a horse but needed food, water, air, and a house. Another said they wanted a puppy and a phone but needed air, food, and family.
The financial concept of spending, saving, and sharing was presented on multiple occasions, and youth utilized math skills as they learned about dividing funds based on percentages.
Youth discovered that their parents, friends, and peers have different attitudes about money as a result of a Spender vs. Saver personality inventory. Some were like Frank and Frances Frugal who save every penny whereas others were like Patricia and Paul Pleasure who spend every penny.
Much of the curriculum focuses on budgeting, and the youth were able to gain a perspective regarding grocery shopping vs. regular restaurant eating. They practiced math skills as they calculated taxes and tips, made change, and more. While the idea of sharing money was not popular at first, likely because as humans we tend have selfish ambitions, as we worked through the activities, the youth were able to develop lengthy lists of organizations and causes they would like to support after reading the children's books. The group made Care Chains to help them define purposeful giving, both monetarily and service-oriented. We talked about how the ideas on Care Chains help individuals and organization break the chains of burdens. One youth took sharing to the extreme by writing, "If I had a million dollars, I would give half of it to the homeless, half of it to the animal shelter, and use $5 to buy junk food."
As a result of the Reading Makes Cents Program, 10 youth stated they will engage in civic involvement; 8 youth participate in community service and volunteer; 9 youth will demonstrate leadership efficacy; 9 youth will maintain future intentions for civic engagement; and 10 youth demonstrate their ability to work effectively in teams.