Written By: Christina Barber
How frustrating it can be when you see the perfect opportunity present itself for a child: one that will engage them and help them grow, only to have the child walk away for fear of failing. As parents and educators, we know all to well that the fear that children face can be all-consuming and limit the opportunities for growth, having implications not only academically, but socially as well. In my second post on perfectionism, I present a wonderful book that can help open the dialogue around risk-taking and establishing healthier strategies and practices around taking chances. While this book has been a staple in my classroom, it would make an equally great read with a parent or mentor.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A CHANCE? BY KOBI YAMADA
Writer and Illustrator duo, Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom are incredible together, and their suite of books “What Do You Do with a Chance?” “What Do You Do with an Idea?” and “What Do You Do with a Problem?” are some of my favourite children’s books, and all have found a special place in my classroom. The first one that I would like to share with you is “What Do You Do with a Chance?” It has been a standard go-to in helping my students take risks, find opportunities, and face their inner perfectionist.
In Yamada’s story, the young protagonist is faced with taking a chance, presented in the form of a golden origami butterfly. It shows up out of nowhere and takes an interest in the main character, who asks: “What do you do with a chance?” When he doesn’t take the chance, the butterfly flies away. Wishing he had taken the chance, the child thinks about the next time and the courage he will need. And when the next opportunity arises, takes the chance; but he fails and falls, suffering great embarrassment and frustration. Ultimately, he decides to swear off ever taking another chance and eventually, after ignoring them, the chances come around less frequently. Eventually, our protagonist begins to wonder about the chances and about what they might mean. Excitement is a powerful force, and through Besom’s epic illustrations, we see the main character go on a quest to find a chance, recognizing his fear, but pursuing it nonetheless. When the chance appears, it is a beautiful, giant, golden butterfly. Our young hero takes the chance with all of his might and soars high over the countryside, experiencing the thrill of new opportunities.
What I love:
Taking risks can be so difficult for children and adults alike; we are often so impacted by our fear of potential failure that we are willing to let a chance go by rather than risk failing. Yamada’s story explores this very real situation and allows the character to suffer a defeat and to have to go through the feelings that come with failing. “What Do You Do with a Chance?” is highly relatable for kids who often worry about even the most minor set-backs and defeats. Where this book succeeds is when the character comes to his own conclusions, reflecting on himself and on what these chances mean. Realizing that he isn’t going to be without fear when taking a chance, but that the potential experiences and opportunities make it worth the try.
In the classroom:
* I have a lot of discussions about personal growth in the classroom. We will often identify low-risk, medium-risk, and high-risk situations in our setting: answering an open-ended question without a ‘right’ answer, showing your work for a math problem on the board, and giving a presentation, for example. The encouragement comes especially for the low-risk situations, so that students who are less likely to engage take the opportunity and develop their own personal strategies for taking chances and increased risks. * I love diving into Besom’s illustrations; they are a treasure trove of metaphor and allusion. As a class, we look at the light and colour play, and make connections to other stories we know. In this case, the epic adventure often brings to mind Frodo’s journey in “The Lord of the Rings.” * We reflect on project work and presentations, looking at: how reality reflects expectations, what we learned along the way, what we can do in future.
* Group discussion / small group discussion / personal reflection about a time when the child took a chance. Was it a success? If it didn’t work out, why might it not have worked out? What experience was gained from trying?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR
Kobi Yamada is a New York Times best-selling author of many inspirational books. He also the CEO of Compendium.
Mae Besom is an award-winning illustrator who lives in China.
Publisher: Compendium Publishing date: Feb. 2018
Softcover: 36 pages
Christina Barber is a writer and educator who lives in Vancouver, Canada. She teaches a full-time gifted program for students in Grades 5-7. An avid reader, she shares her passion for Canadian literature and history through her reviews at The Miramichi Reader and on Instagram @cb_reads_reviews. She has most recently been committed to writing and staging formally innovative single and multi-act plays for her students.