This is a reading comprehension exercise for children. It is written by Susan Fineman, a reading specialist in the New Haven, Conn., school district.

PHILADELPHIA -- A penny saved is a penny earned, but too many pennies saved is a big problem for the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia.

Some area stores have been asking customers to dig for exact change as their cash drawers have run short of pennies in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, stores and banks have sharply increased their orders for pennies, though no one can point to a reason for a shortage except for the accumulations that pile up on dressers, in jars and in piggy banks, said Bob McCarthy, a Federal Reserve Bank spokesman.

"People do not take time to put pennies back in their pocket," McCarthy said. "Everyone hoards."

As area merchants feel the crunch, some have posted notes at cash registers asking customers for exact change.

Chris McDowell, manager of a downtown Wawa Food Market, said that he has run short of pennies several times in the past two weeks but that customers have helped the cashiers cope.

Sometimes a cashier will return a little extra money to make the change come out even. At other times, a customer will hand over a dollar for a 98-cent item and wave away the change, he said.

McDowell said he understands the tendency to pile up pennies.

"I have a five-gallon jug at home that I would say is three-fourths full of pennies. I just don't want to wrap them," he said.

McCarthy said a nationwide shortage is unlikely, because the two U.S. mints, in Philadelphia and Denver, use most of their capacity to produce pennies. He said that the Philadelphia mint produces 40 million pennies a day and that the $500 billion worth of U.S. currency in circulation worldwide includes 200 billion pennies.

Quiz

1. What is meant by the words "A penny saved is a penny earned?"

2. How has the recent penny shortage affected the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank?

3. Do you agree with Federal Reserve Bank spokesman Bob McCarthy that everyone hoards (saves) pennies? Explain.

4. Where might a person keep piles of pennies?

5. If a store runs out of pennies, what are area merchants (shopkeepers) asking customers to do?

6. How do some Wawa Food Market shoppers react when they are owed a few cents change?

7. How do you know that Wawa manager Chris McDowell saves pennies?

8. Where in the United States are pennies made?

9. How many pennies does the Philadelphia mint produce in five days?

10. Do you think that someday our nation might run out of the small coins? Explain.

Answer key (wording might vary):

1. Answers will vary.

2. The Federal Reserve has had to fill an increased number of orders for pennies from banks and stores.

3. Answers will vary.

4. Pennies can be kept on dressers, in jars or in piggy banks.

5. When a store has a penny shortage, customers are asked to pay for purchases with exact change.

6. If owed a few pennies, some Wawa shoppers will leave the change with the cashier.

7. McDowell said that he hoards pennies in a five-gallon jug and stores them in his house.

8. Pennies are produced at two U.S. mints, in Philadelphia and Denver.

9. At the rate of 40 million pennies a day, the mint produces 200 million pennies in five days.

10. Answers will vary.