University of Maryland Extension

Reading Makes Cents

MS Team
Reading Makes Cents youth money curriculum

Reading Makes Cents, developed by Penn State University and reviewed and recommended by the National 4-H Council, is an excellent resource that promotes financial literacy education. Reading Makes Cents teaches youth in grades 3-5 about the history of money, how to earn money, and the difference between needs and wants.

However after pilot testing and implementing the program in Maryland, the program can be adapted successfully to target slightly older and younger youth audiences as well as to empower adult volunteers who are working with young audiences to teach early money concepts.

The curriculum is unique in that it outlines literature selections that reinforce each lesson objective. The books explore ideas and strategies that help youth learn how to earn, save, share, and spend money. In addition, the books provide a rich diversity of settings, people, income levels, relationships, ethnic backgrounds, cultures, religions, holidays, intergenerational friendships all related to money messages and learning.

With evaluation questions and family activities included, Reading Makes Cents is the perfect guide for any youth development practitioner or teacher that is looking to prepare youth for the future by increasing their financial literacy knowledge and skills.

UME has used Reading Makes Cents to reach diverse youth and family audiences at a variety of locations and settings statewide both as a series and as standalone experiences.  Some examples are:

• Elementary and middle schools
• Afterschool program within a school
• In-school enrichment program
• Summer day camp program
• Military bases/installations
• University family events
• County fairs and various community events

Evaluations of series participants following the lessons found that 73% could describe how money has changed through the years; 56% have a spending plan based on needs and wants; 67% think about whether they really need something before buying it; 94% can describe the difference between needs and wants; and 67% have set a savings goal for something they want to buy.

If educational efforts can continue to reinforce to youth the importance of thinking before buying and setting savings goals, youth will be statistically more likely as an adult to be financially prepared and avoid some financial pitfalls such as having credit card debt or declaring bankruptcy. 

Check out for example lessons and a table of contents for the curriculum.

For more information on local programming with Reading Makes Cents or other youth finance, contact your local UME Office.  

For more information on statewide work with Reading Makes Cents or other youth finance, contact Jinhee Kim,

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