My sister, a school principal at an Ohio elementary school, called the other day with a question. She wanted to know if I could think of a few picture books with a problem and a solution at their center. She is planning a back-to-school activity for her students, and she wants the focus to be on problem solving.
The first book that came to mind was Leo Lionni’s classic book, Swimmy. The little fish win in the “worst problem” category; they are being eaten by a “swift, fierce and very hungry” tuna. Swimmy’s solution is ingenious. The fact that this book’s main characters are fish make it perfect for a school-wide reading choice. A 5th grade student is very attuned to the age of the kids in picture books. If the characters seem too young, some 5th grade students can make that a barrier to enjoying the book. Fish, however, present no problems – that I can think of.
Here are several other books that feature a problem and a solution, all chosen with a 1st through 5th grade child in mind:
Owen by Kevin Henkes
Brave Irene by William Stein
Ella, Of Course! by Sarah Weeks
Candy Shop by Jan Wahl
Pet Show! by Ezra Jack Keats
A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats
Then, there is the whole invention category of books…inventors are role models for identifying a problem and figuring out a solution. There are many good books about inventors, but here are three that would be successful for this age group:
So You Want to Be an Inventor? by Judith St. George
Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta
Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci by Gene Barretta