Fully Invested: Local Family Teaches the Basics of Banking with New Children's Book

By Addison Freeman on Friday, April 5, 2024

Jason Masters
Clothing from Dillard's

Everyone hopes their dreams will one day become a reality, but many don’t know where the starting point lies. Often, dreams seem further away as we grow older.

But for Liam Sprinkle, one dream has already been achieved. And he’s only in the fifth grade.

Since the third grade, Liam knew he wanted to be an author. 

“When I was eight, I had decided I wanted [to be an author] because I had read Harry Potter, and I liked it a lot,” Liam said. “I wanted to make my own stories.”


It all began with Liam’s mom, Shamim Okolloh. As Encore Bank’s vice president and chief outreach officer, Shamim spends her time helping others learn how to bank properly. Part of this includes reaching the younger generations and teaching them the beginning principles of financial literacy.

While visiting local schools, Shamim realized that kids related banks and banking to what is popular in the media: bank robbery.

Jason Masters
“I sort of thought that she didn’t mean an actual book…until she told me that she met a publisher. Then I got really excited, and I couldn’t sleep at all.” —Liam Sprinkle

“When I go to elementary classrooms and ask [students] ‘I’m a banker. What do you think I do?’ They say you count money or give money. That’s it,” Shamim said. “And then their questions are usually around bank robberies. It’s kind of sad, but it’s what they see in the movies.”

She realized that to cover the disparity in financial education within the groups she was visiting, she had to start at the beginning, with the foundations of banking itself.

Enter Liam and his dream.

“I combined what I saw was lacking in the classrooms with my son’s desire to be an author and with my daughter’s desire to be a banker, and we wrote a book,” Shamim said.

Jason Masters

“One day, my daughter said, ‘Hey, you know, one day I want to be a banker like you, Mommy,’” Shamim said. 

Seeing firsthand the lack of Black women in the commercial banking world, Shamim filled Ella with encouragement. But she also filled herself with ideas for spreading the message.

After speaking with a friend in the publishing industry, Shamim went to Liam with an idea. 

“I said, ‘Hey, Liam, I know you want to write a book. I’ve got a story to tell,’” she said.

She knew the challenges women and, more specifically, women of color faced in the banking industry but didn’t know how to get the information about career opportunities out there. Shamim mixed Liam's pension for words Ella’s wish to be a banker and her inside knowledge of the banking world.

Thus, "Ella The Banker" was born.

Jason Masters
On financial literacy: “It’s important to start young. Because children are sponges, right? They take it in. It becomes muscle memory, it becomes normal, it becomes an easy habit to adopt as they grow. It can evolve, and they can make it their own, but a lot of the habits that we pick up in the culture starts at home at a young age.” —Shamim Okolloh

The children's book follows a young girl, Ella, and her elementary school friends on a field trip to a bank. As a banker shows them around, Ella and her friends learn the ins and outs of what banking is, how a bank is started and how a career in banking might be the path for them.

Shamim believed that telling the story through the eyes of a young girl of color would not only shed light on a career in which there is little representation, but also show girls they can become and achieve anything they set their minds to.


Ella and Liam had often tagged along with Shamim as she goes to work at Encore Bank or to banking-related events. Seeing her mom in action inspired Ella to pursue a career in the financial world. 

“I really like money because I want to be rich,” Ella said. “My mom told me that commercial bankers work with the money, and they get all the money. So then I wanted to be a banker...so I can get money because I like money. Who doesn’t?”

Now that the book has its place in the world, Liam and Ella are “a 15” on the one-to-10 excitement scale. And the community must agree.

On January 9, 2024, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. presented the family with a proclamation, establishing the day as "Ella The Banker" Day.

Jason Masters

“We started screaming...around the house,” Liam said of the news. He said Shamim was “happy crying.” Ella, getting in on the excitement, “just took advantage of the chance to go wild.”

“To get that recognition of the importance of [the book] from leadership, from the city, is just mind-blowing to me. It was really, truly an honor,” Shamim said. 

The trio recently held a launch party and their book can be found on the shelves of local bookstores wanting to share their story. Projecting their voices even further, local news stations have invited them on air to teach viewers about their journey in the world of banking.

As the story of Shamim, Liam and Ella continues, success is sure to follow. After all, even the book teaches...“Big ideas. Big smiles. Big Dreams…It is all possible.”


Shamim is originally from Kenya. The illustrator of "Ella The Banker," Nils Britwum, is from Ghana.