Last month the boys read Gary Paulsen’s Lawn Boy for book club. Maybe this seems like a strange choice for January, because it’s really about just what it sounds: a boy who creates a summer job mowing for lawns, but for our purposes, the winter weather suited us just fine.
In the book, the main character stumbles into a super successful lawn care service. One of his customers turns out to be a stock broker, who invests his payment for the boy, and he has the golden touch: soon the boy is rolling in money, more than he knows how to manage, and hilarity ensues. It’s unrealistic, sure; but Paulsen does a fantastic job explaining some basic concepts in really fun ways.
After discussing the book, we headed to the kitchen for a stock market analogy. Money and numbers aren’t my thing, so I like when we can add visuals to the mix. Each boy brought a soda, and we compared a large, empty pitcher to the company that I had been building. Now ready to go public, I was ready for investors, and so the boys took turns pouring some soda into my pitcher. After I had stirred it and worked it, I was ready to pay out to my investors, who then got some of the contents as dividends. We worked the analogy a bit more through conversation, and the boys really got into it. They seemed to understand how the basic process worked, and so the research began.
We sat down with research sheets I created as part of the Stock Market Challenge project, and each boy chose a publicly traded company and evaluated it’s basic info to see if it was a company in which he’d like to invest. I have each kid a virtual $100, and they all checked stock prices, business headlines, and the like to make their choices.
By the time book club was over, each boy had done company research and ‘purchased’ his stock. He’d filled out a purchase sheet that helped him make his money decisions and went home with a graph so that he could plot his purchases’ share value over the following month.
When the boys returned, 5 of the 6 had followed through on this project. They were surprisingly excited to see how their stock prices compared to the purchase price, and while they knew their individual earnings, they couldn’t wait to see how their friends did.
In the end, one company tanked dismally; a few boys actually lost money, and a few earned, though very little. Their findings followed traditional market patterns, however, as if they were to continue to follow their shares, they would have made a much more significant profit over time.
After lots of math, one boy was finally crowned the “Stock Market Master,” and he excitedly took home the free drink coupon that our local Sheetz store had donated as a prize. I hear he thoroughly enjoyed his frozen lemonade after baseball practice that night. Thanks, Sheetz!
Lawn Boy is a really funny book with some great educational lessons buried inside. It’s definitely worth a read and venturing out, perhaps beyond your comfort zone, into the world of share prices and the stock market.
What are your kids reading right now?