What's a Solutionary Story?!
Updated: Feb 4
Learn where this crazy term came from and how you can use Solutionary Stories to inspire kids in your school or home!
OK, I know you may have seen this blog’s title and asked: what’s a Solutionary Story?!
Here’s my definition: A “Solutionary Story” is a true story about an individual or community helping to solve problems for people, animals, or the planet.
I came up with the term while working as a humane educator, bringing the concept of Solutionaries (people who help other people, animals and the planet) into classrooms—because I loved to use picture book biographies of “real Solutionaries” with the kids.
This led me down the path of not only reading many hundreds of these stories, but of writing them myself! (I self-published my first one as a teaching tool/fundraiser, and my first traditionally-published one will be out next summer.)
I discovered that kids love and look forward to hearing true stories (especially the new crop of nonfiction books with creative narratives and stunning illustrations) on a regular basis. They are happy to hear and see a wonderful story, and you’re teaching and inspiring them as global citizens while they enjoy it.
For me, there are four main elements that make a wonderful and effective Solutionary Story:
It’s true (as in, legit nonfiction, with proper sources—I was a journalist and academic, so I’m a stickler for this!).
It’s a compelling story that draws children in (with language, illustrations, all the elements that bring a squirrely group of kids into silence when a grown-up starts to read…).
It portrays diversity (I’ve always made a strong effort to share stories about solutionaries from many different cultures, races, abilities, genders, and family formations).
It illustrates and/or inspires solutionary character traits (compassion, courage, creativity, curiosity, critical thinking).
Solutionary Stories can be used as the basis of lessons or as supplements to lessons, in every subject from social studies, literature, science, arts, environmental education & character education. They can also help educators get those nonfiction (Common Core) reading requirements met in an inspiring, enjoyable way.
Maybe you don’t call them Solutionary Stories (I know, you likely don’t!) but perhaps you already use nonfiction picture books (or middle grade nonfiction) in your teaching. Understanding these books under this “solutionary” umbrella can help you be more intentional in using them as a great go-to in your toolbelt—whether you’re a classroom teacher, librarian/media specialist, or home educator.
As a humane educator in schools, I’ve used Solutionary Stories at the end of hands-on lessons or as the basis of a lesson about different issues affecting people, animals, or the planet—and different character traits.
As a home educator, I’ve used them as “bedtime stories” (we sometimes call them “bedtime biographies”), cuddling up with my kids before bed and reading them a great picture book…that happens to be teaching them about inspiring people and issues in the process! Also, in lessons to make a dry subject much more interesting and relatable.
I hope this post sparks some ideas for how you can use Solutionary Stories in your school, library, or home!