Each month, the Chancellor selects a children’s book that she feels is inspirational and informative for the students, parents, and staff members who make up the City’s public schools. For past book selections, review the “Book of the Month” category right here on The Morning Bell.

What Do You Do with a Problem?
(Compendium, Inc., 2016)
By Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom

A child has a problem, and he cannot figure out why it is there or what it wants of him. “What do you do with a problem,” the child asks himself. Shooing it, scowling at it, and ignoring the problem does not make it go away. Soon, the child starts to worry that the problem might swallow him up. The more he worries, the bigger his problem becomes.

what_do_you_do_with_a_problem_book_cover__26887-1469831448-1280-1280Finally, he realizes that he may be making his problem bigger and scarier than it actually is—and decides to face it head on. Catapulting himself into his problem, the child discovers that it is not scary after all, and that it even has something beautiful inside: the opportunity “to learn and to grow. To be brave.”

What Do You Do with a Problem? comes from the same author and illustrator as What Do You Do with an Idea?, one of my previous monthly selections. Both stories pose universal questions, inspire self-reflection, and challenge us to discover something wonderful about ourselves.

Like the protagonist in this month’s book, we all face problems that seem to follow us around. Often, we can identify what is wrong but are not sure how to fix it. Principals, for example, may seek ways to improve parent engagement, raise students’ reading or math scores, or build more robust social-emotional environments. New teachers may struggle with classroom management. Parents may need advice about attendance or homework.

As we all know, problems rarely go away on their own; in fact, the more we ignore them, the weightier they tend to become. Instead of avoiding what is troubling us, we should muster up the courage to tackle it. The advantage of being part of a family or a school community is that we do not have to do this alone; instead, we can talk to one another about the problems we face and then work together to discuss and create solutions.

I hope you will use this thought-provoking book throughout the school year. It is a great tool to inspire problem solving and active citizenship. Like the child in this book, let us all learn “to see problems differently” and appreciate the child’s ultimate conclusion: “Every problem has an opportunity for something good. You just have to look for it.”

Carmen Fariña

Former Chancellor of NYC Schools, lifelong educator, native Brooklynite, and proud abuela.

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