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Author Showcase

Fall 2008 Featured Author Candi Sparks

RT: Welcome to the Reading Tub®. When we hear the term “literacy,” the first thing that comes to mind is reading. Your books Can I Have Some Money? focus on a different set of ABCs: the ABCs of financial literacy. Do you see any connections or crossover between these two disciplines?

Candi: I do see a connection between reading/language literacy and financial literacy. Children are learning about money at home and in their environments everyday. The adults at home discuss money a lot, and kids hear ads on television for easy money, credit cards, and loans everyday. Yet, until the Can I Have Some Money? book series there was no literature for them to help them understand what is going on. We wait too long to exploit the connection between reading/language literacy and financial literacy. Kids don't learn about personal finance and money as a social issue until middle or junior high school. By this time, they already have cemented their ideas and emotions about money. By connecting these discplines earlier, we can raise money savvy children.

RT: Do you see any differences in the methods we use to teach kids how to read and the ones we can use to help them become “money savvy kids”?

Candi: There is no consistent methods we use to teach kids vary widely, and they aren't working. We need to help kids develop their financial literacy in the same way we teach them how to read. We can introduce “the language of money” to children by teaching them financial terms such as budgeting, savings, spending, impulse buying, allowance, etc. Just as the ABCs are the basics for reading and writing, these are financial terms that are like the building blocks of financial literacy. My book series help parents raise money savvy kids by using the language of money; connecting the idea of coins as a monetary value as page numbers; and gorgeous illustrations that stimulate children at their level.

RT: In a video interview in August 2008, you said that you wrote and self-published Can I Have Some Money? so that kids would have a book about financial literacy now. What do you think was missing in books for kids about finances and money?

Candi: My passion is for children. They hear what we hear on the news: things are bad financially. We can’t wait to teach them what to do about money. When I realized I could combine my passion as a mom with my financial expertise and writing skills, I knew I could do something to help kids NOW. In the same way that Robert Kayosaki wrote and self-published Rich Dad Poor Dad, I took the plunge and put the Can I Have Some Money? book series on the market.

There are very few early learning money books on the market, and none that I found taught kids the language of money. They do not explain what kids learn about money everyday at home: loans, borrowing, and credit. They are already primed for financial literacy and I think it should be part of their basic at home and school education.

RT: How did you discover this gap in books for kids? Is there a specific age group you are trying to reach?

Candi: It was a personal discovery, during a time when I was hospitalized with a catastrophic illness. When you're faced with something like that, your first thought is your children and their future. Was I a good parent? Had I done all the right things? I gave them lots of love, a fair amount of discipline, lots of homework help, etc. But when I started thinking about whether or not they were financially prepared to possibly go on without me, I drew a blank. So, during my recuperation, I started writing the Can I Have Some Money? books. I chose this title because when a child asks “Can I have some money?” it is a clue that they are ready to start financially literacy.

I want to reach kids as early as possible, starting around age three. I should add, though, that I have done book signings where adults buy the book for themselves because the presentation is so appealing to them!

RT: What has been the hardest part of writing and producing your book? What has been the most rewarding?

Candi: What a great question! The easy part was writing the book because I am a mom and hold financial licenses. I had also experienced what NOT to do with money before I got on track.

The most rewarding part has been the reaction people have to the material. I put some of the feedback I was getting on YOUTUBE because it is a great referral system. Audiences want a positive message that helps them teach their kids, particularly if they are struggling themselves. That's what I do.

The hardest part is that this is a grass roots effort. Getting the word out about financial literacy for kids and marketing the books are truly a labor of love. While it is fun getting my content and opinions on iVillage.com and in the local newspapers, what I really want is for the book to be a staple in every child’s library. Parents have the buying power, but kids make the buying decisions. I am left to find new and innovative ways to reach children.

RT: Authors often talk about the research that goes into writing their books. What were your most valuable resources in designing Can I Have Some Money?

Candi: Frankly, I simply realized there was a huge gap in the market for this type of book. Most of the research was done over the course of my life: not having money, then understanding how money works to the point of getting licensed and helping others. Becoming a mom with a passion for helping kids is the icing on the cake. The most valuable resource in designing Can I Have Some Money? has been human resources. People need what I have to offer. We need each other and can work together to raise money savvy kids.

RT: On your website, you take some time to talk about how money messages affect our kids. They are bombarded via TV, radio, and the Internet, and they begin to equate their personal self-worth with their financial status. Do you think books can help them separate these two things?

Candi: Yes, I do think books can help kids separate self worth from financial worth. Books are print media, and my books are about money; but they also illustrate the need for emotionally responsible parenting. Maximillion, my main character, agrees to earn an allowance for doing extra chores at home. In return, his parents allow him to spend the money however he pleases. He says he will save enough money to buy a video game, but on payday he uses the money on impulse purchases: candy, fake plastic teeth, and other junk. Max begs his him Mom to buy the game for him. So she asks him, “If I buy it for you, how will you learn to handle money of your own?” Like Max's mom, I wants kids to learn about money and understand the consequences of their spending decisions. So I use terms like "impulse buying" to bring home the point.

This also goes back to your question about the connection between language literacy and financial literacy. Many teachers have used Can I Have Some Money? for their classrooms lessons. Some have asked their students to write an alternate ending for the story. This helps them think about other choices Max could have made about his money. Others have asked the class to solve a money “problem of the day.” If Max saved his allowance for six weeks, how much would he have saved? What could he buy with his money?

Volume 3 of the series, Max Gets It! also has a word scramble in the back using financial literacy terms such as budget, chores, impulse buying. All the books use coins having a monetary value the same as the page numbers to reinforce the money—math correlation.

RT: In addition to the book, you facilitate workshops on financial literacy for kids and adults. Do you ever run programs for parents and kids together? Do you find these more effective than working with just one group or the other?

Candi: The family money workshops have been a huge hit! I really enjoy these because it gives the kids a chance to see another adult relate to their parents about money. Most of the time children are not included in money conversations. The workshops are fun eye-openers for the kids, who usually associate money with “no.” It helps parents, too, because they see another adult using straight talk with their kids about money. Children first learn about money at home, so they learn what they live. My family money workshop goes beyond “money doesn’t grow on trees” to give everyone the recipe for achieving wealth. They leave knowing that wealth is accumulated in bite-size pieces. That is the way we helping our young people have a better chance of being financially stable adults. My approach gets both sides to stop fighting about money at home, and empowers the kids to make better money choices because now they have the tools to think about money differently.

RT: If you had to stock your bookshelves with five must-have books for your kids, what would they be? And why?

Candi: I Love You This Much because love is more important than money. After all, you will only work 40 to 60 hours a week, and give up your vacation, sick days and social life for someone that you truly love — YOUR CHILD!

I also would include the book of Proverbs — because it is important to teach children good principles and build their character with wisdom.

Website: http://www.can-i-have-some-money.com/


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