Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (January 31, 2019)
With Chinese New Year coming up, it’s a great time to capitalize on holiday time and read with your kids. It’s a wonderful way to bond, to spark discussions, to understand more of how your child thinks and feels about things as well as helping them in their language development.
So for the next two few installments, I’ll be recommending some books that are suitable for this season and any time of year. Most books that I enjoy recommending are for 4-8 year olds but can be read to younger students since they are picture books and I’ve noticed that some older ones enjoy them too.
With Chinese New Year coming up, many children will receive their lai see money and see it as an opportunity to increase their spending. Many have probably been waiting to collect the red pockets but how many will know what to do with what’s inside? How can we teach them the proper concept of money and how to use money responsibly?
One book series I have loved since I was a child is the Berenstain Bear series. The colourful illustrations, the humourous characters and the meaningful storylines have always made them a favourite of my book collection. One book in the series is called ‘Trouble with Money’ and it’s about how Brother and Sister Bear want to save up to buy some very special jackets for themselves. But because they don’t have enough money in their piggy bank, they think of ways to earn money. But along the way, they become so obsessed with making money that they forget about their friends, and put their priority on money more than other things. So they learn an important lesson that money is a great resource but it isn’t for hoarding and instead, should be used wisely.
So what does ‘using money wisely’ mean to children? We use a simple memory device to help students remember – the 3Ss – spend, save and share.
S – Spend
It’s a necessary part of life to spend money so the question isn’t about whether to spend but what to spend it on. One way to process that thought is to ask what are ‘needs’ and what are ‘wants’. Buying books for school might be a need but buying the new Pokemon anthology book might be a want. Buying water for a hiking trip might be a need but buying sugary snacks for it is most likely a want. Learning to differentiate between the two is a good start to know how to spend one’s money.
S – Save
This is perhaps what some parents choose to do with their child’s lai see money. I know that I take all my two-year-old’s money and save it up! But as children get older, they can learn the value of saving. It could be saving for short term goals, for example, they might want to save money for buying a toy they like. Or parents can share with them long term goals that they can save for like an education or a trip.
S – Share
I love this ‘S’ because I think it carries the true meaning of giving out lai sees at this time of year. Giving out lai sees is a way to bless the child and to share joy and what better time of year than to teach our children to do the same with others. So with what your child gets this year with lai sees, set aside a certain amount to share with others. It could be to buy a gift for a friend or family member or to donate it to a charity of choice. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to share with your child the different charities in town and how their sharing and giving will make a difference.
I think the greater lesson in the ‘Trouble with Money’ story that we can take away is that the more important things in life are things that money can’t buy – friendship, family and love. Let’s celebrate those things this Chinese New Year season and always.
「貝安斯坦熊」系列包含色彩繽紛的插圖、有趣的角色及富有意義的情節，是我從小到大最喜歡的書籍之一。系列中的《錢該怎麼用》（英文原著：Trouble with Money）講述一對兄妹熊想儲錢買一件非常特別的外套，但他們發現錢罌裡沒有足夠的金錢，故此想用盡方法賺錢。然而，他們在過程中顧著賺錢、只懂把錢放在首位，卻忘記了身邊的朋友。最後，牠們學會了金錢是一種重要的資源，但我們要做的是精明理財而非只把它用作儲備。