Conceived and designed in a week, A Kid’s Book About Banking helps parents explain financial systems to children
The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) earlier this month left multiple startups in a jam. One such business was A Kids Co. — a Portland-based children’s media company with a line of children’s books made to introduce children to complex and difficult topics in an approachable way.
When federal regulators shut down SVB, the company lost access to its finances. Founder Jelani Memory says he was worried about making payroll for his employees — and afraid the bank’s closure would put an abrupt halt to his growing operation, which he says has sold 1 million books since its inception in 2019.
“On Friday [March 10], it just looked like it was going to be a bloodbath. It looked like some companies were just going to die because they didn’t have any capital. Huge credit to the regulators stepping in because that domino effect would have been swift,” says Memory. Federal regulators stepped in, and Memory had access to his funds the following Monday.
But the experience inspired Memory to produce another book. In the week that followed, Memory collaborated with UC Irving banking law professor Mehrsa Baradaran, whose books include How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy and The Color of Money: Black Banking and the Racial Wealth Gap, to publish A Kids Book About Banking, which was written in one day using the company’s workshop writing method, and released as an e-book Tuesday.
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Memory tells Oregon Business the inspiration for the book came when he tried to explain to his children what was happening with his business.
“You realize how little you know about something when you try to explain it to a child,” says Memory. “This book is meant for kids, but it’s also useful to adults who need help the banking system explained in a way that’s approachable, because it’s complicated.”
A Kids Book About Banking doesn’t get into the SVB collapse or the 2008 financial crisis. Instead, the book focuses on how money moves through institutions like banks, and their role in money being distributed in society.
Memory says he knew Baradaran was the right person to write the book after a phone call in which she described how money changed hands during the slave trade, and how the U.S. economy is still structured to deny access to money to oppressed groups.
The book talks about why banks fail, but is ultimately aimed at helping kids understand how banks operate and how they can be used to improve life for the communities they served.
“With this book, the primary goal is to get kids to understand how these systems work, how they are able to thrive, and what happens when they fail,” Memory says. “The lens of equity is really brought to this idea of money helping everyone thrive and grow. It’s not meant as a vehicle for oppression or something for a selected few. That ends up being the thrust of the book: The idea of trust, and this idea of it being able to make everyone’s lives better.”
Memory says hardcover copies of the book will be available later this week, but e-book copies are free to download now.
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