What ?Annie? Can Tell Us About Money

There will come a point in the next 10 days, after the cabin fever has set in, when the small people you parent, grandparent or otherwise dote on demand to see ?Annie.?

You will recall the unfavorable reviews of the newly updated movie musical, or will look them up. You will read of the bad singing and stilted dance numbers. And still you will go, because it?s a children?s holiday after all, and that?s what they want to see.

So how best to make the experience a bit more worthwhile? At its best, the movie suggests some obvious questions about money, materialism and social class. Seeing the film provides an opening to start the sort of meaningful conversations we all want to have at this time of year, when family is often close at hand.

Cue the rolling of the children?s eyes, you say to yourself. Must grown-ups turn everything fun into a teachable moment?

Look, our job is to answer their questions and explain the world to them, even if in this case it?s fictional. And if we think they aren?t noticing the Daddy Warbucks character?s space-age bachelor pad in the sky or wondering about the grand pronouncements about money and yearning by the group-home housemother Miss Hannigan, then we are probably mistaken.

To get some practice myself, I visited a small group of middle school students at Public School/Middle School 279, the Capt. Manuel Rivera Jr. School in the Bronx. I had first met them at a screening for the film; they got to attend as a reward for their perfect attendance, and other good behavior.

Sure enough, they noticed plenty. Like many children their age and younger, they are capable of incredible nuance on these topics. So much so that drawing children out can be a learning experience for grown-ups too.

Here is what we talked about ? and the things you might discuss with your younger moviegoing companions as well:

THE POOR There are about 1,110 students at P.S./M.S. 279, and roughly a quarter of them live in shelters. About 40 are foster children, just as Annie is in the new version of the movie. ?Our kids are forced to think about things a lot sooner than I was,? said their principal, Jean Dalton Encke, a Bronx native herself.