Let’s Chat About Economics uses stories to teach children in the elementary grades some basic principles of economics along with some economic vocabulary. Children learn to distinguish between needs and wants, to appreciate that there is a cost involved for just about everything even if it’s not visible to them, and that sometimes they have to make difficult choices or sacrifices to get what they need or want.
In this book, four stories are the vehicles used to convey these principles. Along the way children are introduced to terms such as supply and demand, opportunity cost, diminishing returns, disincentives and incentives, elasticity, taxes, trade-offs, and quid pro quo. Since these terms are presented within the context of the story and used a few times for reinforcement, children are likely to easily grasp their meaning.
Each story features three full-color illustrations by Mary Kinsora. While two illustrations illustrate the story itself, one in each story is an easy-to-read chart or graph reflecting an economic concept in the story.
The stories draw on experiences to which children can easily relate. In the first story, grandma and grandpa’s forthcoming visit requires a special grocery shopping trip in preparation for a special meal. The children learn about comparison shopping, supply and demand, seasonal shopping, and sales. In another story, children learn about trade-offs, opportunity costs, and diminishing returns when they try to plan a family vacation. The children want to take a vacation away from their cold, northern climate, hoping to head far away for a tropical vacation. Mom gently leads them through a reality check as she has them research the cost and time required for flying or driving, both of which turn out to be impractical on short notice. The children determine that what they really want is a warmer climate where they can swim, but that it doesn’t have to be in the tropics. In the end they figure out that a manageable drive nine hours south will get them to somewhere where they can swim and go barefoot—a compromise that works for the whole family.
Authors Michelle Balconi and the famous economist Arthur Laffer have done an excellent job of conveying solid economic education through the stories. Although it is written for children in the elementary grades, I think children up through junior high should enjoy and learn from them as well. The stories should be great family conversation starters.
The book is available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle formats.