By Linda Filkosky
District Library Consultant, Altoona District Libraries
Funding from the IMLS Grants to States program has given librarians in the Altoona District of Pennsylvania and throughout the state a great opportunity to use their personal connections with parents, grandparents, caregivers, and children to present an expanded children’s financial program called Piggy Bank Tales.
When I originally developed the program with Tim Salony, it was funded by the local United Way and was geared to the eight libraries of the Blair County System. I designed four teaching units—Earning,
Saving, Spending, and Sharing—that included lesson plans and manipulatives for children aged 12 months to six years, keeping them simple to appeal to all ages. Each unit includes one or two books, special components such as flannel board stories, rhymes, songs, ‘chores,’ bells and scarves, and inexpensive items for the children to ‘buy’ at the end of the program (these trinkets are supplemented with whatever the librarian has at hand – books, posters, bookmarks, etc.) In addition, because storage is always an issue, I created a container to hold the program materials and made it easy to lend the program to other libraries. The kit contents have grown and changed yearly since 2009 to include more than 20 books.
The children receive gold coins in “payment” for attending the classes and doing simple, fun chores in the story hour room. These coins are saved at the library “bank” and are spent at the end of the units. During the saving unit, the older children decorate their own piggy banks. It is amazing to the adults that children who they had claimed were too young or uninterested in money came to the librarian each class with their hands out for money, cheerfully participated in the chores, and understood the concepts.
The most valuable component of this initiative was not written in the guide. Piggy Bank Tales uses the trust that participants have in their librarian to start a dialogue between the adult and child concerning money. It helps parents discuss with their children the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs,’ the importance of saving, and the personal rewards of sharing.
I am happy to report that in the four years that have passed since my pilot we have distributed over 29 kits and have every region of the commonwealth. We use books for a different purpose –brightly colored illustrations and clever stories bring financial concepts to life. And, while reading and teaching, librarians always include fun in the lesson!
Linda Filkosky is the District Library Consultant for the Altoona District libraries. She was formerly the Children’s Director at the Altoona Area Public Library. She and her husband live in Altoona and are the parents of two children and one very spoiled Goldendoodle.