Reading aloud children’s books to your elementary students is a great way to introduce and teach problem solving. Below is a list of our favorite picture books to teach this social emotional learning topic. They all lend themselves well to facilitating rich classroom discussions around problem solving. Oona, Stuck, Rosie Revere, Engineer and The Paper Bag Princess are part of our problem solving SEL Unit, which includes interactive read aloud lesson plans among tons of other resources for teaching problem solving. Learn all about these problem solving picture books below and how you can use them to teach problem solving!
10 Problem Solving PIcture Books
Below are 10 quality problem solving children’s books for elementary teachers. Your kids will love these read alouds! They are great for teaching problem solving, as well as many other concepts and skills.
1. Oona by Kelly DiPucchio
Oona lived in the ocean with her best friend, Otto. She was brave, creative, and resilient- like most treasure hunters. One day, she saw a crown in the middle of a rift, a hard to get area. She tried various plans to problem solve, but each time a different problem arose. Eventually, she quit. Then one day, as she was playing on a beach, she had an idea. Students will see Oona try many different problem-solving strategies to get the crown. Through patience and resilience, she gets the crown in the end! My Problem Solving SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!
2. Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
Floyd gets his kite stuck in a tree. He throws many different items into the tree trying to get the kite out. Everything he throws gets stuck in the tree and the kite still doesn’t come out. Eventually, Floyd has the idea to throw a saw into the tree. Although the kite came down, the rest of the items remained in the tree! Students will engage with Floyd as he tries many different ways to solve his problem. My Problem Solving SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!
3. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
This story is about a young girl named Rosie, who dreamed of becoming an engineer when she grew up. Rosie spends her time creating, but eventually hides them from loved ones because she is embarrassed that they will be failures. One day, her Aunt Rose comes to visit and teaches her that failure is part of success. Rosie learns an important lesson, as readers will, about patience, resilience, and the importance of problem-solving. My Problem Solving SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!
4. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Princess Elizabeth lives in a castle, wears expensive princess clothes, and is going to marry Prince Ronald. That is, until a dragon comes and smashes the castle, burns her clothes, and carries Prince Ronald to a cave. In this empowering fairytale, Princess Elizabeth is able to identify her self-worth and connect with character traits that actually have her leave Prince Ronald behind. This story reminds us that we can problem solve and feel empowered by our solutions! My Problem Solving SEL bundle includes an SEL lesson based on this picture book!
5. What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada
He tries to run from his problem and hide from his problem, but he realizes his problem just won’t go away. The boy starts to worry about what the problem is going to do to him. Eventually, he realizes that his worrying is making the problem worse than it is. He sets out to solve his problem, and when he solves it he discovers that problems hold beautiful opportunities. Students will learn about the importance of facing problems, and the great opportunities that can come out of them. Check out these What Do You Do With a Problem? activities!
6. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
In this story is a small mouse who goes for a walk through the forest. During his walk, the mouse runs into several larger animals that want to make a meal of him. The clever mouse tricks each animal by saying he is off to have lunch with a gruffalo, a made up creature that scares each animal off. While reading this story, students will be able to identify the problem and how it was solved by the mouse creatively. They may even think of times this has happened in their own lives! Check out these The Gruffalo activities!
7. The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Stantat
Beekle has a problem. Children in the real world have imagined all the other imaginary friends besides him. He is the only one left on Imaginary Friend Island. Instead of waiting for a child to imagine him, Beekle decides to go out to find his friend himself. He does the unimaginable and travels to the real world! This story shows a brave character solving a problem in quite a unique way! Students will enjoy seeing Beekle looking for his real-world friend, and make connections about problem solving along the way. Check out these The Adventures of Beekle activities!
8. Star in the Jar by Sam Hay and Sarah Massini
A little boy loved looking for treasure. He looked high and low, and one day came across an abandoned star. He asked his friends at school, but no one had lost a star. He kept this shiny treasure until the sky sent a message. It was looking for the lost star! This story lends itself to teaching about problem solving with this brother and sister duo as they find ways to get the star back with his family high in the sky. Check out these Star in the Jar activities!
9. On Account of the Gum by Adam Rex
In this book, a boy got gum stuck in his hair and it caused many other problems. There are so many people each with their own idea that the boy is overwhelmed. He shouts and asks everyone to get out. That’s when the wad of gum hops out of the boy’s hair and walks away. He finally found the solution, although the gum thought the boy was rude. This book is sure to keep students laughing as the boy faces problem after problem caused by the gum, leading to a great mentor text for teaching problem solving strategies. Check out these On Account of the Gum activities!
10. Harold and The Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
One night, Harold decided he would go for a walk into the moonlight. However, there wasn’t a moon to give off light, so Harold drew one. He set off on his walk drawing his setting as he went. Students will see that when problems arise, Harold draws solutions! Readers will have fun thinking of their own ways to solve the problems that arise in this charming story. Check out these Harold and The Purple Crayon activities!
Integrated SEL and Literacy Activities
Below are some integrated SEL and literacy resources for elementary teachers.
Our Problem Solving Unit, which is available individually or as part of a year-long SEL bundle, includes lessons for the first four books on this list. This unit is packed with lesson plans, teaching resources, games, and activities. Click an image below to either get this individual problem solving unit or get ALL 30 SEL units!
SEL Book Companions
As I mentioned earlier, I love teaching SEL skills using picture books. That’s why I created the Starts With a Story Collection. High quality children’s literature supports elementary teachers in delivering meaningful and accessible SEL lessons. All of the read alouds on this list are part of this book companion collection. Check out the book companions below!
In closing, we hope you found this list of problem solving picture books helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these posts: