Great Stories About Finding Solutions
Five picture books that teach problem solving
by Dawn J. Mitchell and Katrina Hankins
Whether you are four or forty-four, chances are you will encounter a few problems during this school year. Problems are a part of life and part of preparing our students for the future, which includes providing them with opportunities to consider different ways to solve problems. One of my favorite ways for our students to reflect on the everyday problems of life and possibilities for solving them is through the pages of a book. These five books below will provide you and your students with interesting and endearing characters who not only encounter problems but also work to figure out how to solve them.
- Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld
At first read, this appears to be a simple but sweet story about friendship between two characters, Stick and Stone. Through the colorful pages we watch how Stick, a tall and skinny tree and Stone, a short, round rock are making it through life on their own. There problem arises in the form of Pinecone, who makes fun of Stone. The characters have to decide what to do and readers enjoy the outcome of Stick’s solution through the pages written in rhyming couplets. We rate this book a “perfect 10” and at the end of this story you will see why.
- What Do You Do with a Problem? by Kobi Yamada
This story captures the struggle we all experience when we encounter an unexpected problem… the worry and angst, the flight to escape it, and finally the fight to overcome it. We travel alongside this young child as he shares his problem-solving journey. His problem, shown as a violet hued cloud hanging over the boy’s head, only grew into a bigger and bigger the more he tried to avoid it, eventually turning into a raging storm, covering the pages of the story. The boy realizes when he finally confronts his problem that it held a gift for him. “I discovered it had something beautiful inside. My problem held an opportunity!” We felt this book was an opportunity for our students to examine the problems both in and out of the classroom that we tackle each day and to consider the opportunities that await us in our journey to overcome them.
- Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
A young girl named Annabelle lives in a world that is lacking color and full of only gray skies and sparse trees. When she spies a box full of colorful yarn and knitting needles, she takes matters into her own hands and knits herself a vibrant sweater. Realizing that there is yarn left, this sweet girl decides to change the lives and the landscape of all that is around her, knitting clothing for everything from classmates to cars without ever running out. Annabelle’s generosity seems as endless as the box of yarn and seems to solve the problem of her colorless world until she encounters a greedy archduke who wants her box of yarn all for himself. You will have to find out for yourself how this “yarn” wraps up.
- Bloom by Doreen Cronin and David Small
This story begins with a fragile glass kingdom that prides itself on vanity and values tidiness held together by the hard work of a mud fairy named Bloom, who keeps the castle going but leaves her mark of hard work behind in the mess she makes. Her hard work isn’t valued because only her mess is seen and she disappears into the forest. Years later, the castle is leaking and falling apart and the king and queen begin to search for Bloom to help restore the kingdom. When they can’t find her, they send an “ordinary girl”, Genevieve to locate Bloom and bring her back. When Genevieve comes back she is no longer just an “ordinary girl” and not only is able to solve the problem of the castle’s disrepair, but she is also able to re-write her own definition of her self-worth.
Milk starts off her very first day of school working hard to make new friends. She tries to share her crayons with Carrot, she works to be helpful and get Celery a new raisin, and she asks Cupcake if she can sit beside her. Milk doesn’t realize that her attempts at friendliness are overshadowed by her boasting and her “better than” attitude. Soon she is seen as being “spoiled” by one of her classmates, Waffle and this view becomes shared by her classmates. Milk comes to this self-realization and her problem is solved with an opportunity at humility in the form of Banana’s peel. See for yourself how Border’s lunchbox character’s come to life and work to provide possibilities to the problems of making new friends at school.
- Edutopia – 4 Tips on Teaching Problem Solving (From a Student)
- e.Merging Consulting – The Importance of Teaching Problem Solving and How to Do It
- Scholastic – How You Can Help Children Solve Problems