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State Treasurer Randall Edwards offers students a lesson in investing with some financial reading

State Treasurer Randall Edwards kicked off a campaign Friday to get young people interested in reading while at the same time giving them the shot at earning some money for college.

Edwards took his message on the road, announcing the kick off 'Reading is an Investment,' a new literacy and financial education program aimed at elementary school students. One of his area stops was Cooper Mountain Elementary School where he talked about the program to fourth-grade students in the classrooms of Katrina Simkins-Moore and Mary Provost.

During his visit, Edwards quizzed the students, asking them a few financial questions.

'What is money?' he asked.

'The thing you put in your saving account,' replied one girl.

'Why do you save money?'

'I think you probably put money in your account to save up for something you want,' replied another fourth-grader.

'Save it up for a good college,' said another.

Edwards explained to students that saving for college is expensive so he is trying to make it easier on them. The Oregon Treasurer's Office, along with the Oregon College Savings Plan and OppenheimerFunds, Inc., recently donated three finance-related books geared to younger readers to every public school in the state.

Those books - 'A Basket of Bangles: How a Business Begins,' 'My Rows and Piles of Coins' and 'Round and Round the Money Goes' - have their own set of curriculum and activities, developed by a contingent of Oregon librarians and teachers.

'The way this works is if you do a certain amount of reading, you win a prize,' Edwards told students. Asked by one student what type of prizes his office was handing out, Edwards replied that students would have to sign up for the program to find out.

In addition to initial prizes, students who complete the program will have their names entered into a drawing with the chance to win a scholarship worth anywhere from $250 to $1,000.

'It's really quite easy to do,' Edwards said. 'All you have to do is read for 40 minutes.'

Students can select the books donated to the school libraries as well as an expanded list of up to 70 books in order to participate.

Forms can by found online at www.ost.state.or.us.

In addition to promoting the new reading program, Edwards gave the students some insight into his office, telling them he has a vault in Salem with 2-foot-thick steel doors that contains no cash. The vault was necessary, he explained, in times gone by when it was needed to store money.

'Now everything is done on the computer,' he said. 'Most banking is done by the Internet or done electronically.'

At the end of his presentation, students received bookmarks and pencils. Several students said they were interested in the program and were planning to participate.