Community banks are on the front lines in the battle against financial illiteracy. Meet their latest weapon: Woody.

Bank of Elmwood in Racine, Wis., came up with Woody, a robot that sings, talks, dances, and displays learning videos on its stomach.

Woody is the main attraction of the bank's Woody Club, designed to teach young children about financial services and saving money.

Don't laugh it off. Bank of Elmwood has enrolled 1,900 students, who meet once a month to do math and workbook exercises with bank employees. And 1,900 kids means a lot of parents.

Bank of Elmwood was one of nine banks and 10 bankers that received the American Bankers Association's 1995 Award for Outstanding Contribution to Consumer Education. Six of the nine bank awards went to community banks.

Among the other winners were Jefferson Bank of Philadelphia, recognized for introducing its Bank-able Kids program, in which bank officials introduced young children to basic banking terms and ideas by creating necklaces of pasta noodle "dollars" and "interest" beads on a "bank" cord.

One thing that came out of the awards is evidence that bankers are getting back into the classroom. But instead of just handing out passbooks, the effort is more focused and involves more direct contact with bank employees.

Glasgow, Ky.-based South Central Bank's executive vice president Ellen Bale Gentry and teller Kathy Way created a pilot program that is now part of the curriculum for 300 eighth-graders in Barren County, Ky.

According to the Department of Education, one-quarter of American adults have trouble filling out a deposit slip. Only 4% of American can calculate the total finance charge on a 10-year home equity loan.

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