The Virginia Reads One Book program has been a huge hit with families and schools since its launch in 2018. Though the program was presented digitally for its fourth run, it didn’t stop students across Virginia from spending three weeks getting to know the cast of E.B. White’s timeless classic, The Trumpet of the Swan. The novel also serves as a Financial Literacy title, planting the seeds for positive personal finance lessons just in time for Financial Literacy Month in April.
For the 2021 reading event, 19 schools across the state were sponsored by Virginia banks and the Virginia Bankers Association (VBA) Education Foundation.
According to Monica McDearmon, a manager of communications and financial education at the VBA, the state of Virginia is “leading the charge in personal finance and economics education thanks to efforts from banks, teachers, school administrators, and other organizations that promote financial literacy in Virginia.”
Participating banks were eager to offer their aid in providing students and their families a fun, creative way to participate in VAROB at home.
“The VBA Education Foundation provided links of recordings of chapter readings to participating schools,” said McDearmon. She adds that bank sponsors were able to offer their support both virtually and in-person: “Our banks were encouraged to be involved at kick-off ceremonies; provide trivia prizes to students; serve as guest readers; and present financial literacy lessons that correlated to the themes of the book.”
Though the 2021 program’s launch differs from previous reading events, Michelle Mogel from TowneBank Richmond views the digital aspects as a strength. Covid-19 has allowed the banks to broaden their support to “middle and high school students,” said Mogel. “We have been sharing lessons about balancing family budgets (income-vs-expenses) and careers in banking.”
The overarching belief among each sponsor is that children are never too young to learn about the importance of smart financial decisions.
“Learning to make wise choices with money and the importance of saving are just as important as habits like brushing our teeth and eating fruits and vegetables,” says Mogel. “Empowering children with responsible financial behavior will help them discern the confusing messages about spending in our culture.”
McDearmon adds that planting these seeds early can aid students in navigating how to “manage money and make good financial decisions [that] will ensure that they grow up to be educated consumers.”
Christian S. Kent of Chesapeake Bank points out that Financial Literacy has a vital role in poverty reduction.
“It is important for parents and children to understand money basics, to learn how to manage finances well, and make better lifestyle decisions,” says Kent. “VAROB strengthens these efforts by uniting parents and schools for more consistent messaging and shared activities that hopefully provide positive bonds to family and also money beliefs. Financial literacy teaches children important skills as they develop and hopefully refreshes the parents and encourages more conversations.”
The text is layered with many other great financial literacy themes, says McDearmon. She points out that these topics include “the difference between needs and wants; the importance of saving; understanding money; profits and losses; and goods and services.”
Finances can be intimidating. Budgeting, earning money, working a job, and making purchases are things everyone has to learn at one point in their lives. By participating in VAROB, these Financial Literacy building blocks are presented in a format that is equal parts fun, encouraging, and helpful, as students build their knowledge of basic economic concepts.
Kent goes on to add that, “Financial challenges also create an opportunity to learn new skills and models in which to live by.” It reinforces the idea that though students may face a multitude of challenges in their lives, by learning and using these skills, students can curate a toolkit that will “better prepare them for success in the future.”
VAROB 2022 will launch in March of next year. Read to Them, the VBA Education Foundation, and the plethora of bank sponsors are already looking ahead, eager to further enrich communities across Virginia with long-lasting Financial Literacy lessons.