How second graders inspired a series of financial education books

April 01, 2019 | GET MORE : Community

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Author Chelsea Addison joins U.S. Bank financial education leader Neal Richardson in a new podcast episode.

Are you a Saving Savannah or a Spending Spencer? 

In the new book Savannah’s Savings Jar, teacher-turned-author Chelsea Addison introduces elementary students to these characters and the financial lessons they learned when given the opportunity to start a business. 

“Throughout the book, Savannah has to figure out how to use a budget and make wise decisions about saving so that she can continue her business,” said Addison. “Along the way, there are different characters – such as Spending Spencer – who teach her lessons on financial literacy.”

In the latest episode of the U.S. Bank podcast, Addison (pictured above on right) joined Neal Richardson (left), head of financial education at U.S. Bank, to share her advice for teaching kids about money and well as discuss how she applied the same concepts to start her own publishing company. 

[Listen to the podcast episode via iTunes, Google Play or direct download.]

Addison said she was inspired to write Savannah’s Savings Jar when she was teaching second grade in St. Louis Public Schools as part of the Teach For America program. Her students had completed much of the required materials with time left in the school year, so she asked what else they wanted to learn. Fresh off of lessons about counting, they responded – MONEY.

“The class went nuts,” she laughed. “It turns out kids like talking about money.”

Chelsea Addison laughs while holding a copy of Savannah's Savings Jar

From there, Addison began asking students what they already knew and found that most silently inherited habits from family members or even drew inspiration from song lyrics – and not for the better, more often than not. 

“I got to thinking that if I’m only teaching students how to count money but not how to actually manage it in the real world, then I’m doing a disservice to them,” she said. 

That kind of practical application is a gap in the education system. Despite kids’ interest in personal finance (i.e., making money), financial education is not commonly taught in classrooms. Recent research by The Wall Street Journal found, for example, that only 19 states require it before high school graduation.

U.S. Bank’s Richardson added that, compounding the problem, it can also be a difficult topic for families to talk about at home.

“There’s almost a stigma,” Richardson said on the podcast episode. “I think your book is golden, Chelsea, because it’s a conversation starter. You’re not only telling this great story about Savannah, but you’re also creating a shared language for families to talk about money.”

A copy of Savannah's Savings Jar sits on a table

Addison, who has an undergraduate degree in communication sciences and graduate degree in elementary education, aims to keep the conversation going. Since her three-year Teach For America program concluded in 2017, she has founded a publishing company and has been forcusing full time on a series of future books featuring Saving Savannah, Spending Spencer and their new friend, Money Marvin. 

“As a [former] teacher, I have high expectations for kids,” she said. “Everything they’re doing at this age is learning new material and soaking it in. I want to build a strong foundation that other financial lessons can be built upon.”

Savannah’s Saving Jar is available on Amazon as well as a number of local booksellers in St. Louis. In addition, during Financial Literacy Month in April, U.S. Bank will be giving away several copies of the book on Facebook.

Written by Pat Swanson of U.S. Bank. Hear more from Addison and Richardson by listening to the podcast episode via iTunes, Google Play or direct download.