When my kids were young, I spent hours reading books out loud with them.
Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go was my older son’s favourite. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are was beloved by my younger son, who rushed to see the movie when it came out in 2009.
I didn’t read to them about money — how to save, spend, lend and donate it to charity — when they were preschoolers. That may be a result of not finding any good Canadian books that explored the topic.
Teresa Cascioli was looking for a gift for her niece. She, too, found no money books aimed at young children, and decided to launch her own series.
It took her two years to write, design and publish a series of six books — with three more to be released in February — under the brand M is for Money, a kid’s guide to financial literacy.
Each book features the adventures of twins Tessa and Benji, based on the real-life Teresa and her brother Ben, as they save loose change in a piggy bank, run a lemonade stand, open bank accounts, plan their purchases, count money and make loans to each other to buy the toy they want.
“I really believe in this,” says Cascioli, 54, who has no children of her own. “If I recover my initial outlay, I will donate my profits to children’s charities.”
You may not recognize the name of this entrepreneur, but you may remember her success in turning around a bankrupt beer company in 1999.
As chief executive officer, she took over Lakeport Brewing Co. in Hamilton, Ont., and helped it go public on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Her company was the first small brewer to land on the top 10 of sales at The Beer Store with its Honey Lager brand, gaining market share through a buck-a-beer pricing campaign and determined public relations efforts.
In 2007, Cascioli (at that point its 100 per cent owner) sold Lakeport to Labatt for $201 million. In 2010, Labatt closed the Hamilton brewery, laying off 143 workers and shifting production to its flagship brewing facility in London, Ont.
I heard about her new venture at a financial literacy conference last week and started following her on Twitter @misformoney. Within hours, she sent an email with press releases, asking me to help spread the word.
It’s hard for a newcomer to break into book publishing, a business with little or no growth. Cascioli is also trying to get into public schools, using knowledge gained from previous business experience to fuel her ascent.
The first thing I noticed was the trademarked M is for Money logo. It’s a trick of the trade in consumer products.
I also noticed the use of multiple platforms to broadcast messages. As well as six paperback books at $7.99 apiece, she sells a $4.99 M is for Money colouring book.
There is a jingle, the M is for Money Nickels & Dimes Song, which can be downloaded for 99 cents at the website.
There are free guides for parents, teachers and librarians, which you can download and print at no cost. There are free games, reward certificates, a recipe for lemonade and a sign for your own lemonade stand.
Included in the package I received were bookmarks, sticky notes that said Great Job and Well Done, play money, birthday cards and birthday party invitations — all with the trademarked logo.
Single books are available at Chapters-Indigo and Mastermind Toys. There are ebooks sold online. You can also find hard covers with three stories inside at Amazon.ca.
Cascioli released the first three books in September and three more this month. Ever the entrepreneur, she’s already thinking about teaching adolescents how not to beg their parents for money.
The Tessa and Benji books, illustrated by Rachel Zavarella, are far from flashy. They are in black, grey and white, with a unique identifying colour for each installment.
If you want a beautiful looking volume, look elsewhere. But if you want a beautiful message, this might be the gift for your family.