Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Book for Economics in the Elementary Grades

As part of a new and ongoing series, I want to introduce A Basket of Bangles: How a Business Begins, written by Ginger Howard and illustrated by Cheryl Kirk Noll. If you're unfamiliar with the story, it is about a woman in Bangladesh who becomes an entrepreneur as an alternative to begging. The story is really about the micro-lending phenomenon - the idea of providing micro-capital (small loans) to allow people in less developed nations to become entrepreneurs.

In the case illustrated in the book, the lead character, Sufiya, must find four other women to form a business - essentially a partnership. All five of the women are given a small loan (equivalent to about $35). This is enough capital for each of them to begin a business. Sufiya sells bangles. Her partners alternatively sell milk, after school snacks, soap and saris. They are bound together through the lending process, looking out for one another and celebrating their success. While the interest rate they pay (20%) may seem excessive to us, they manage to pay the interest on time, as well as save. The story ends with them using their established good credit to take out another loan to expand their respective lines of business.

The book can be used as an introduction to a classroom business, or just to understand the basics of borrowing, lending, and business formation. In the book, the students can identify capital resources, human resources, natural resources and entrepreneurship. This book is great for an introduction to world of business on a global scale, as well as a chance to see a real world success story - these micro-lending banks are having a strong positive effect in many parts of the world. (Muhammad Yunus won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in developing micro-lending in his home country, Bangladesh. View this video for more information.)

I look forward to your comments.

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