RALEIGH, N.C. (3/11/08)--Local Government FCU (LGFCU) is debuting a financial literacy initiative aimed at engaging children eight years old and younger in basic financial concepts such as saving, interest and planning ahead. The $766 million asset credit union created a youth initiative that started with trading cards, which were mailed to its youngest members. The cards introduced five new mascots: twins Josh and Zoey, their wise dog Winston, mentor Sweet Pea and funny little fellow from the library, Seymour. After building familiarity with the mascots, LGFCU launched a website, www.lgfcukids.org. The fictional online world, Penny Hollow, offers games and activities to slowly introduce children to basic financial concepts, adding new activities several times a year to grow with the child and keep interest piqued. The site's design was build to accommodate growth, fueled by use and the feedback of users and their parents. "The importance of literacy at an early age can't be emphasized enough, but the approach needs to be unique," said LGFCU President Maurice Smith. "We need to be thinking of fresh ways to make learning fun. Our efforts are already being well-received by our youngest members, so we feel confident we are on the right track. Hopefully, an increased awareness in this matter will encourage others to develop their own plan." LGFCU is working with a new Youth Advisory Council and its 19 other Advisory Councils to gain input and feedback on the children's initiatives to help ensure the public is getting material in a useful way. The credit union pointed out that only 48% of seventh-graders in North Carolina are financially literate. "There is obviously a trend here--and it's not a good one," said Smith. "We need to get children engaged in the idea of financial literacy from the very beginning, and then continue to support their education so they will grow into financially responsible adults."