5 Picture Books to Understand Poverty & Homelessness

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Poverty and Homelessness


It’s a fact of life that money isn’t all about fast cars, beautiful houses and annual vacations to exotic countries.  Although many advertising execs would like us to think it is.

In New Zealand as many as 1 in 5 children live in poverty. In Australia it’s a reality for 1 in 6 children. With these statistics it is likely that our kids will experience some sort of financial insecurity during their lifetime.  Be it themselves directly or someone they know.


Should We Shelter Our Kids from the Realities?

To raise financially capable kids it’s a vital for them to develop a ‘healthy’ perspective on poverty and homelessness.  It’s certainly tempting to shelter our kids from the realities of money issues, after all they are kids, and it’s natural not to want to burden them with adult issues.

However, by avoiding money discussions or the challenging aspects of money, we risk robbing our kids of the opportunity to grow, learn compassion, empathy and develop important life skills that will equip them for the tougher times in their lives.

The key to developing a positive money mindset is to be factual, while ensuring we don’t inadvertently encourage a fear or scarcity mentality when discussing money and its not so glamourous side.


What is Wealth?

My sister-in-law recently shared a beautiful conversation she had with Master 8. The topic of money had come up so she asked Master 8

‘Do you think we are rich?’

To which Master 8 replied

‘I know we don’t have money for everything I want. But you always feed us good healthy food, we get to go out for ‘coffee’s’ together, and do other things like camping. So I reckon we are rich’

Little did Master 8 realise, but he had summed up the true meaning of wealth.

Sadly as we grow up we become conditioned through advertising, social norms and programming to measure wealth based on how much we can accumulate be it money or material items.  Imagine if we kept a child’s view of wealth – seeing experiences, happiness and being well cared for as true wealth, how different do you think the world would be?


What’s the Answer?

So how can we introduce kids to the tougher realities of money and the idea of true wealth, without creating fear or a scarcity mentality?

One way is through the power of stories.  They can be fun, thought provoking and great way to engage kids and start the conversations that explore and develop their understanding of poverty and homelessness

Here’s 5 of our favourites picture books that are not all about the hardship of poverty and homelessness. These stories include innovation, compassion, understanding, and appreciation.

Happy reading!



The Can Man by Laura E Williams & Craig Orback

Most kids can relate to wanting a special item and having to save up for it because either their parents can’t or won’t buy it. Tim wants a skateboard but his parents can’t afford it. See how Tim finds a way to get the money he needs and then is faced with the decision, should he keep it for himself or help the Can Man?
The Hard-Times Jar by Ethel Footman Smothers & John Holyfield

Emma’s parents are migrant workers and money is always scarce. After moving to a new home Emma discovers her mothers “hard times jar,” Emma gets an idea of how she might earn money for her greatest wish—to own a store-bought book. Will Emma be allowed to put her plan into action?
Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn,‎ Cornelius Van Wright,‎ Ying-Hwa Hu

Sam can hardly wait to go shopping with his mum. It's Chinese New Year's day and his grandparents have given him the traditional gift of lucky money-red envelopes called leisees (lay-sees). This year Sam is finally old enough to spend it any way he chooses. In Chinatown Sam soon realises that his grandparents' gift is not enough to get the things he wants, his excitement turns to disappointment. Will a surprise encounter with a stranger turn Sam's frown upside down?
The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor,‎ Peter Parnall

Mountain Girl, as she is nicknamed, lives in the desert with her family. Her parents work outdoors and they have few belongings. Mountain Girl wonders what it would be like to earn money so she could buy things. After talking with her parents Mountain Girl learns how to appreciate what she has and the beauty around her.
The Lunch Thief by Anne C. Bromley, Robert Casilla

Rafael saw Kevin, a new kid in his class, sneak his lunch bag from underneath his desk. But how can he do something about the theft without picking a fight? Inspired by his mother's advice to “Use your mouth before your fists,” Rafael bides his time, but other kids' lunches are disappearing,too. How will Rafael solve the problem of the missing lunches without getting in trouble?


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