The Story of Money from bartering to bail out

posted in: Martin Jenkins, Satoshi Kitamura | 10

storyofmoneyThe Story of Money written by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura is a humorous, wide-ranging tale about the evolution of money, starting with what people did before money was invented, exploring why it came into being and how money systems developed before coming right up to date with a discussion of modern day bank crashes and their consequences.

Although satisfying and curious facts about (for example) money’s relationship to the evolution of writing, the everyday use of official IOUs even in the 21st century and the remarkably tiny total volume of gold that exists on planet Earth pepper the conversational text, Jenkins presentation of these nuggets is unusual; rather than short, sharp fact boxes, or framed individual paragraphs (writing styles which are very common in non-fiction for children), he weaves a story together creating sustained texts over each 2-3 page chapter (each with their own funny title, echoing Victorian novels).

This slim hardback volume, ideal for upper primary aged children, is richly illustrated throughout with Satoshi Kitamura’s quirky and slightly wonky comic strip style images; they bring their own brand of humour to an enjoyable, approachable economics text which manages to make things as foreboding as inflation, deflation and taxation come to life.

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The Story of Money is a digestible and entertaining introduction to many aspects of pecuniary history which offers up plenty of starting points for both practical and philosophical discussions about the value of money. An index and short bibliography add to the book’s utility both at home and in the classroom. Prepare to finish it feeling surprised: Surely there aren’t many other economics books which end by reminding us that there’s a great deal more to life than accumulating as much money as possible?

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A numismatist was selling low value world currency at a charity table-top sale we recently visited and I took the opportunity to by a bag of coins for £5 (yes, the girls and I did see the irony at using money to buy… money).

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I threw in a few chocolate coins for good measure and then we set about investigating where our coins came from.

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On a cheap wall map we highlighted the countries we had coins from, noting those countries which we had coins for but which no longer existed (e.g. Yugoslavia), and also those countries who have currencies are now something other than that which we had coins for (for example we had lots of pre-Euro-era European coins). Some coins also opened up new stories in history for the girls; we had several coins from former UK colonies which referred to their ‘Emperor’.

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That £5 I spent opened up so much exploration; from what coins are made out of, to the sometimes exquisite art on them, via the history they reflect as well as the geography they open up, I was quite amazed at how much interest and enjoyment we got out of a small coin collection (to say nothing of the very tactile and romantic experience of handling coins that have somehow landed up on your kitchen table even though they were made 1000s of miles away, sometime more than 100 years ago – what stories led them into our hands we wondered?).

Whilst mapping our money we listened to:

  • Money makes the world go round sung by Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey in Cabaret
  • Money for Nothing by Dire Straits (every child’s education ought to include _that_ guitar riff, right?)
  • Money, Money, Money by Abba
  • Money (That’s What I Want) by Barrett Strong (though I also like the Flying Lizzards version)

  • Other activities which go well with reading The Story of Money include:

  • Designing your own coin. The Royal Mint recently ran a UK-wide competition for the design of a new £1 coin. Whilst the competition is now closed you could still use their “Hints and Tips” as a starting point for designing a coin. There was also a recent bitcoin design competition, and a United States Mint competition – just keep your eyes peeled and maybe another such competition which you could enter will turn up.
  • Cleaning coins at the same time as gaining a little bit of scientific knowledge: use electrolysis to make tarnished coins shiny!
  • Creating a Chinese Money Tree, or collecting coins from your birth year.

  • What are your favourite activities for helping your kids learn about money?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Story of Money from the publisher.

    10 Responses

    1. rosalyn phillips

      Your activities are always so clever. I look forward to reading the book review and wondering what creativity I’ll see below. The money songs are great! I love them all.

    2. Although she doesn’t need money we have just started giving our daughter pocket money so that she can learn the value of money and have experience handling coins. She likes to just ‘play’ with money and make different combinations of the same amounts. It’s fun for her but she’s also learning at the same time.
      Catherine recently posted..Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood & Hazel Mitchell (plus giveaway)

    3. Catherine, I think that’s a great idea. We do something similar. Yesterday I felt terribly happy as 6 year old chose to spend her saved up pocked money on her own boxed edition of the Narnia stories.
      Zoe recently posted..The Story of Money from bartering to bail out

    4. I have to say that the idea of placing money where it came from in the world is just beautiful and would place such meaning in the children’s learning. Very creative!

      • Thanks Mat. The girls especially enjoyed the physicality of this activity – the coins are such nice objects to handle.

    5. Hi. Do you have reais from Brasil? I can send you coins and paper money if you´d like!Let me know!
      We´d be happy help in your play!:)
      Gisele and kids
      gisele barcellos recently posted..Peppa e o desejo de Natal

    6. Lovely idea and sounds like a great book!

      Here’s a similar one we have enjoyed – http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/140532189X?ie=UTF8&tag=parewithtear-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=140532189X

      And our favourite activity – to convert what we buy here to INR and vice versa! Ten years back everything there felt very inexpensive, now slowly but surely the gap is decreasing..

    7. Thanks for the book suggestion Choxbox, it’s not one we’ve read.
      Zoe recently posted..The Story of Money from bartering to bail out

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