Sara Hathaway's message to preschoolers is every nickel counts.

Sara Hathaway's message to preschoolers is every nickel counts.

Hathaway, 24, an assistant librarian for the Columbus Metropolitan Library system, is now leading a series of story times that focuses on saving, spending and sharing money responsibly. Her interactive story lines include reading, singalongs, responses from the audience and exercise.

"Preschoolers really learn a lot from play," she said.

Last fall, the PNC Bank Foundation gave $185,956 to the Columbus library system to create the two-year financial-education program for youngsters.

PNC provided the funding in support of "Grow Up Great," its bilingual program in early childhood education.

Michael Gonsiorowski, PNC regional president for central Ohio, agreed that research shows young children learn through play and modeling.

"By introducing young children to basic financial concepts such as saving, sharing or spending a dollar through interactive lessons such as these, we are planting the seeds for what we hope will be a lifetime of healthy habits," Gonsiorowski said.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, came up with themes for the programming and Hathaway customized the local curriculum. She said she was intrigued by the objective and relished the challenge of building a lesson that was both applicable and easy to understand.

"Given the current emphasis on the economy, this is a prime time to educate children about financial responsibility," she said.

Kim Snell, media relations director for the Columbus Metropolitan Library, said officials will periodically monitor the program's progress and success.

"If in two years we believe this program is meeting the needs of our customers and that children and their families are benefiting from the information we are giving them, we would certainly hope to continue to offer it to the community," she said.

Hathaway said she does seven to eight programs a week at the main library, 96 S. Grant Ave., and its 20 branches.

She teaches different lessons on consecutive visits. Last week at the Northern Lights branch, 4093 Cleveland Ave., Hathaway used two books: "The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza)" and "Hen Goes Shopping."

Ida Mays, who brought her three children - Sharome Spencer, 5; Sanyi Spencer, 4; and Mariah Mays, 1 - to the story time, said she thinks they learned a lot from the lesson.

"It's a fun way for them to learn about counting and what the different coins are," she said, adding that she planned to test them later that night on Hathaway's tutorial.

Hathaway said the lessons are about more than the practical use of money: They teach the children about patience, making choices and the value of people, money and merchandise.

"These story times present basic money concepts in terms and experiences preschoolers can relate to," she said. "Every day, children are making choices and learning that people, things and money have value - concepts that will help them make good financial decisions later in life."