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The Reality Store comes to the library

By JEN BOUTIN 

BCPL 

The Boyle County Public Library is partnering with the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service to bring the Reality Store to the library. Developed by 4-H, the Reality Store  is an active, hands-on, real-life simulation which gives young people the opportunity to explore career opportunities and make lifestyle and budget choices similar to those adults face on a daily basis.

At the event, participants assume that they are 25 years old and have completed basic educational requirements, have a specific occupation in their career field and are independent with no financial support from family or others. Each student will also draw to find out if they have any dependents. The participants receive a monthly salary for their chosen career and then proceed through the Reality Store activity, deducting taxes, determining a savings amount and spending their monthly “salary” on the necessary and luxury items that reflect the career and lifestyle they have chosen.

The Reality Store is a come-and-go event that will be held at the library 11 a.m.-3 p.m.  Saturday, March 14. It will take approximately 40-60 minutes to go through all of the stations to complete the simulation. All youth and family are welcome to attend, however the Reality Store is geared toward tweens and teens, as they are on the cusp of making some of their first major life choices. 

During the application process of the “Thinking Money for Kids” financial literacy exhibition, which was developed by and is sponsored by the American Library Association and FINRA Investor Education Foundation, library staff reached out to community members about holding a Reality Store program. 

“It was one of the first ideas that came up in discussions with the Extension Office because it has been such a popular program held at schools in the past,” says Youth Services Librarian Kinsey Hisle. “We hope having a Reality Store at the Library will allow more people to come and allow for similar hands-on simulation and discussions about financial literacy. 

Using sample savings and checking account registers and deposit slips, participants learn how to record and manage their accounts. After making their deposits, participants then proceed through the Reality Store activity by making spending choices from the following categories: housing, transportation, insurance, utilities, groceries, clothing and entertainment. 

They will also choose a “chance” card which represents the unexpected expenses and incomes encountered in the real world. After each choice, they make a deposit or write a check then balance their checkbook. Leaders will be available to assist students in determining how to successfully spend their monthly income in order to   provide them with their desired lifestyle. 

This event is a unique way for participants to find out what adult life might look like with different types of careers and incomes. 

“Tweens and teens may see their parents paying bills or going to work, but this experience will put those pieces together on what all of that will mean for them when they start their careers,” says Hisle. “This is also a safe environment for them to make common mistakes with budgeting that have consequences but can be fixed within the Reality Store, and then hopefully avoid in real life.”

In the past, this program has been offered in local schools. Student participants learned valuable life lessons at the program and they gained a better understanding of the tough decisions that come with adulthood. Participants also learn that actions have consequences. 

Kim Ragland, Boyle County Extension agent for 4-H Youth Development, shared some comments made by students who have attended previous Reality Store events. Some students decide they need to start getting better grades because they “don’t want to have to work two jobs.” Others come to the slightly-humorous-but-not-inaccurate realization that “kids are expensive.” Parents of teens and tweens are well accustomed to their kids not always paying attention to what they tell them. The Reality Store is a great hands-on activity that can provide clarity to many of the lessons parents have trying to impart on their children.

Hosting the Reality Store requires several volunteers to make the event effective.

 “We’re grateful that the library has had many people offer to help out with the program,” says Hisle. “Participants will visit stations and interact with members of the Friends of the Library, Rotary Club, Extension Office, and community members who were willing to help out with a Saturday program. We couldn’t do big scale programs like this without the help of these volunteers and community partners.”

The goal of this experience is to help students realize whether their occupation will provide the type of lifestyle they desire, and to give them a glimpse of their future in a fun and exciting way. After their trip through the Reality Store, students will have a greater knowledge of the type of career they wish to pursue after secondary education is completed. The experience will help to clarify the need for young women and men to examine their attitudes about their futures and career expectations. They’ll also become aware of basic skills in financial planning, goal setting, decision making, and career direction. 

More information about this and other upcoming events can be found at www.BoylePubLib.org or by calling the library at (859) 238-7323.