Should you ‘orange pill’ children? The case for Bitcoin kids books – Cointelegraph Magazine
“Any kid who doesn’t learn something about Bitcoin is missing out,” says Bitcoin advocate Ben De Waal.
De Waal explains that his 12-year-old daughter Samantha has already convinced “a couple” of her schoolmates and a teacher to hop on the Bitcoin bandwagon, though she’s not attempting to “orange pill the entire school”… yet.
Thanks to her upbringing in a “Bitcoin family” that has largely abandoned fiat currency, Sam is now a Bitcoin ambassador wunderkind nicknamed The Bitcoin Kid.
De Waal himself discovered Bitcoin “around 2010” and dedicated his life to it around 2016 (sadly, after he deleted 200 Bitcoin!). He’s worked in engineering leadership positions at both Swan Bitcoin and Lightning Labs and explains he first introduced Sam to children’s books about Bitcoin when she was just 10 years old.
Just two years after she read her first Bitcoin book, Sam found herself on the grand stage of BTC Prague 2023 in mid-June, delivering a speech about Bitcoin.
Oh, and she had to follow MicroStrategy’s Michael Saylor’s presentation, too.
Seems like she nailed it, though – she was “the best” speaker at the conference according to Peter McCormack, the host of the incredibly popular podcast What Bitcoin Did.
It’s her second big conference appearance, following a presentation at Adopting Bitcoin in 2022.
Adults shouldn’t feel too bad, though — kids have a natural advantage when it comes to understanding and learning about Bitcoin.
Scott Sibley, co-author of the children’s book Goodnight Bitcoin, believes this is because kids haven’t really latched onto a specific form of currency yet.
“In many ways, it’s easier for kids to learn about Bitcoin because they don’t have the baggage of thinking it’s new or different.”
Goodnight Bitcoin is an origin tale recounting how Satoshi Nakamoto created Bitcoin and sent the first Bitcoin to Hal Finney.
“Goodnight Bitcoin tells the story of Satoshi and Hal as they attempt to create the impossible: a new money called Bitcoin,” Sibley says.
It brings children through various stages of the “Bitcoin story.”
The book touches on the perception that many had toward Bitcoin when it was first introduced, stating that “many monsters thought it was impossible and very funny.”
Also lightly touching on how the Bitcoin network operates, the book explains, “In 2011, Satoshi slipped away to his hidden shelter. But don’t worry, the helpers have kept the Bitcoin network running.”
Another Bitcoin kid’s book author Graeme Moore (B Is for Bitcoin) believes that kids who are exposed to Bitcoin today will find it easier to form their own opinions about it later in life.
“If it’s a thing that’s been around forever since you were born, then you have a lot more confidence in pursuing it as a legitimate endeavor for a number of years,” Moore says.
This is evident with Sam, who has been exposed to Bitcoin throughout her entire life.
She even accidentally orange-pilled her own school teacher.
“Her teacher said to me, ‘Hey, I learned some basics from your daughter, but you know, what is this [Bitcoin], can you tell me more about this?’” De Waal recalls.
Sam is mainly interested in reading allegory books with a hidden message.
Two of her favorite books so far are Bitcoin Money: A Tale of Bitville Discovering Good Money, a story that explores different types of money and helps kids tackle the “Why Bitcoin?” question, and 99 Bitcoins and an Elephant, a tale of a young girl lost in a huge department store that becomes flush with Bitcoin.
De Waal says that while these books “didn’t necessarily” teach her all the fundamentals about Bitcoin, they “firmed up her knowledge and made it clearer.”
What do children learn from Bitcoin kids’ books?
The real question is: Does introducing kids to Bitcoin early via children’s book help create the next generation of Bitcoiners? And is it education or a form of indoctrination?
While there are no guarantees that simply reading books about Bitcoin to children will lead them to grace the stage at BTC Prague, Bitcoiner parents see benefits to be gained from planting the seed early.
The authors that Magazine speak to believe that getting kids familiar with the word “Bitcoin” and teaching them a few basic concepts is a good base of knowledge for further exploration.
Moore explains that brand-new technologies do not “really take off” until they are “accepted as inevitable.”
“There are kids now who were born in 2009, and they’ve never been alive without blockchain,” Moore says. (Samantha is a good example of this).
“Bitcoin has always existed since they were born, so they assume they will always exist until the end of time.”
Moore admits that children will not “learn a ton” about the mechanics of Bitcoin from his book, but there are “some funny rhymes in the book” that introduce larger concepts.
“C is for consensus that the blockchain brings, D is for decentralization of all of the things,” he quotes from B Is for Bitcoin.
Drawing inspiration from Dr. Seuss, his “favorite author ever,” Moore understands how powerful it is to instill certain words and ideas into children from a young age.
He says that diving into all the nitty-gritty technical stuff isn’t really necessary.
“[Kids] don’t have to know how proof-of-work actually works and how the difficulty adjustment makes it secure, and why the blockchain is immutable,” Moore explains.
The book has become a hit within the Bitcoin community, with Moore occasionally waking up to a big order.
“Like a couple of people in Bitcoin, they’ll call me randomly and be like, ‘Hey, I need 20 copies,’ and I’ll be like ‘Cool, that’s awesome.’”
A famous billionaire Bitcoin investor even requested a stack of copies.
“Tim Draper bought 10 copies from me one time,” Moore gleefully recalls.
However, not all believe shoving Bitcoin down children’s throats is a good idea.
Jason Don, author of Rhyming Bitcoin, has a similar belief to Moore on just introducing the broad topic to kids and says it is important to just “open their minds to the possibilities that Bitcoin offers.”
Rhyming Bitcoin has a similar style to Alice in Wonderland and Dr. Seuss’ books, gently easing children down the Bitcoin rabbit hole in a fun and playful way.
While it doesn’t tackle the technical details of “how” Bitcoin was created, it focuses more on the “why.”
The book doesn’t shy away from taking a few playful jabs at fiat currency, proclaiming that “dollars, like rocks, don’t mean much” and gently introducing them to inflation in a passive-aggressive way.
“The Silly State prints dollars, all day and all night. They Keep printing dollars, and prices take flight!” the book declares.
“I just think it’s important that children understand that money isn’t just what the government says it is and that anyone should be free to use whatever money they like.”
Sibley believes that children don’t have the “ability to think fiat is weird yet,” but he’s confident that hearing these stories with an underlying message now will come in handy later in life.
“I have no doubt that as they get older, they will wonder why people had cash, went to banks — no different than people in their 20s and 30s today find writing a check so odd,” he says.
The simple lessons conveyed in these books can serve as a foundation for children to engage in a chinwag with their schoolmates, allowing them to develop their understanding even further.
De Waal says Sam is “pretty good at actually kind of talking about Bitcoin to other kids and explaining… What is Bitcoin? Why does Bitcoin exist?”
“She read the [Bitcoin Money book] to the class, and you know, there were a lot of questions which came out of that, which was great.”
Parents want to ‘orange pill’ their kids during bull markets
Interest in Bitcoin kids’ books is much higher during bull markets than bear markets.
“The sales of Bitcoin kids’ books perfectly track the price of Bitcoin,” says Moore, adding he can forecast his earnings several months in advance just by looking at the price.
“Two to three months after the coin price goes up, there’s more frequent sales, and then when the price goes down, you know there’s a lot less sales,” Moore adds.
It’s not necessarily a lucrative area, though, and authors often do it as a labor of love rather than as a money-making scheme. For example, Don doesn’t have a marketing team and relies on Bitcoiners on Twitter sharing photos of the book to “help grow the book’s audience.”
Sibley explains that the majority of his sales are to people already in the Bitcoin space “that have or are starting families” and sees those embracing alternative approaches to education as a potential audience.
“We anticipate more homeschool families gravitating towards Bitcoin education, but that will take some time.”
Similar to how Bitcoin requires time for mainstream adoption, the books for children are still a fair bit away from topping the charts anytime soon.
One of the most popular Bitcoin kids’ books sold on Amazon is Bitcoin Money: A Tale of Bitville Discovering Good Money by Michael Caras and Marina Yakubivska, which has more than 250 reviews and an average rating of 4.6.
My First Step in Crypto and Bitcoin Investing for Kids and Beginners: Simplified Introduction of Cryptocurrencies for Dummies by Sweet Smart Books and Kelly Rhodes is another hot product for Bitcoiners with 95 reviews and an average rating of 4.2.
But their success is relative: Mainstream kids’ books such as I Love You to the Moon and Back by Amelia Hepworth and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, have 66,074 and 33,920 ratings, respectively.
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The author’s personal motivations
The motivation behind creating a Bitcoin children’s book for many authors seems to originate from the desire to share their passions and beliefs with their offspring.
It is not uncommon for children’s books that tackle political or ideological concepts to be inspired by a desire from the author to communicate their beliefs to their own children.
For example, Ibram X. Kendi wrote Antiracist Baby to share his views on race and racism with his four-year-old daughter.
He said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that the idea was to open up the conversation with parents and “little children about racism” before they can even understand it.
“The idea is that when they’re older, they will have heard so much about it, it won’t be anything mysterious or taboo.”
Similar books include A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara, which explores social justice and promotes LGBT equality through playful illustrations, and Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, which challenges traditional gender roles through witty writing and creative drawings.
While anti-racists, activists and Bitcoiners all see teaching their beliefs to their kids as education, opponents may view it as indoctrination.
DeFi Dad, a popular crypto podcaster and influencer with over 152,000 Twitter followers, tells Magazine he has refrained from exposing his two young children to Bitcoin kids’ books and would be cautious to do so anytime soon.
“As a parent, despite how bullish I am on crypto, I would still be cautious of any ‘Bitcoin kids’ books’ until I read them myself to verify they are objectively educational and not some form of propaganda.”
Even if the books present themselves to be educational, he believes that these books should be “complementary” to children’s education about fiat currencies and not “replace any such books.”
“In the United States, I would bet more than 99% of children are not exposed to any form of education on fiat or basic finance,” he says, adding there was a real “lack of financial literacy” as a result.
De Waal explains that, while he introduced Sam to reading books about Bitcoin and is running a “Bitcoin family,” he is OK if she decides to go her own way too.
“Maybe one day, she’ll come to me and say, ‘Hey, dad, you know, I think Bitcoin is terrible.’ I’ll say, ‘Okay, tell me why,’ you know, ‘Explain to me why, and we’ll discuss this.’ I’m not just going to say, ‘You’re wrong.’”
Explaining a complicated subject
The authors have the best of intentions, however. Moore says that he wrote B Is for Bitcoin with his young niece in mind, wanting to have something special to read to her.
Sibley explains that “as a family with a then infant,” he wanted to expose her to Bitcoin before she could even walk.
“We wanted to be able to make it easier for her to be able to jump down the Bitcoin rabbit hole as early as possible,” he says.
For Don, who isn’t a parent, the motivation behind writing the book was because he found most “so-called entry-level” Bitcoin books too complicated for beginners.
“Bitcoin can be daunting, difficult to explain, and even more difficult to wrap your mind around,” he says.
“One day, I was reading a so-called ‘beginner’ book, and it really wasn’t for beginners. So, I thought, Why not try to create a beautifully illustrated book that would appeal to people of all ages, something to ease people into the rabbit hole and that explains why Bitcoin is so important.”
Despite not having a child of his own to test the book on, he was able to recruit his mate’s kids.
“I was able to send the manuscript and illustrations to a number of friends with children for feedback, which I think proved incredibly helpful,” he says.
The authors opt for self-publishing
Don asserts that while there is a market for children’s books about Bitcoin, publishing houses are hesitant to take the risk. He sent the manuscript and illustrations for Rhyming Bitcoin to a publishing agent he “has a relationship with,” but they questioned how profitable the book would actually be.
“The feedback in terms of marketability wasn’t great. Rather than fight an uphill battle there, I opted for more control through self-publishing.”
Moore also opted for self-publishing, as he was reluctant to “lose massively on sales, on the back end.”
Although he acknowledges the advantage of “getting your $200,000 advance” through traditional publishing, he argues that relying on a publisher means betting “less on yourself” and forfeiting long-term rewards.
He draws a parallel to this arrangement, similar to being an employee rather than owning your own business.
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What has the feedback been like?
Moore says the feedback has been great besides those Bitcoin maxis who weren’t too thrilled about the inclusion of a non-Bitcoin currency.
“So, a few people who just wanted to be Bitcoin strictly, you know, Bitcoin maxis, of course, they weren’t huge fans that E was for Ethereum.”
But overall, the feedback has been positive, with many parents happy they can share their love of Bitcoin with their offspring.
“It’s being able to share something that you love with your kid while teaching them how to read. That’s been the really heart-warming feedback that I want.”
Bitcoin should be introduced to children naturally…
While it may be tempting for Bitcoin maxis to orange pill their child as young as possible, Sibley says it is better to take baby steps when introducing Bitcoin to children.
“If there are ways you can work in little lessons throughout the day when things are happening, that will probably stick the best.”
Sibley explains that integrating Bitcoin into everyday life, along with reading books, is the best approach.
“There was a service light on in our car that our daughter noticed one day and asked what it was. I explained to her how people have jobs fixing cars and that ours might need something done, but that would cost money. She then asked if we’d pay in Bitcoin, which shows how she is already thinking about transactions for value.”
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