Trouble at School by Stan and Jan Berenstain, 1986.
“When a problem at school
Is kept secret too long,
It can grow ’til a cub
Thinks that everything’s wrong!”
Brother Bear runs into problems at school after he catches a bad cold. While he’s recovering from his cold, he is allowed to watch tv and read comic books. His teacher sends home a packet of schoolwork for him to do, but he ignores it and forgets about it.
He doesn’t remember the packet of work until he’s better and going back to school. However, he soon becomes preoccupied with the news that Cousin Freddie has taken over his position on the soccer team during his absence.
When his teacher gives a quiz on the new lesson in division, Brother fails it. Brother is supposed to show the quiz to his parents and have them sign it, but his parents become preoccupied with Sister, who is now sick, and Brother doesn’t show them the quiz.
The next day, Brother is so upset about his bad grade and what’s happening on the soccer team that he doesn’t go to school. He makes his quiz into a paper airplane and throws it away.
Then, Brother gets the idea of going to see his grandparents for help. He explains the entire situation to them. His grandfather tells him a story that helps put the situation in perspective.
There was a time when Gramps did something wrong, and instead of admitting his mistake, he just kept going and made the problem worse, like Brother did by ignoring his schoolwork and not telling his parents about his problems at school. Gramps says that it’s best to admit when you’ve made a mistake so you can do what you need to do in order to turn the situation around.
They find the quiz that Brother threw away and go home to tell Brother’s parents about his school problems. They’re not happy about the situation, but they tell Brother that “It’s never too late to correct a mistake,” and Gramps proves to Brother that he can do division by having him divide a bag of cookies among the family members.
When Mama takes Brother back to school, he learns that nobody else in class did very well on the quiz, so the teacher is letting them do a retake. Now that Brother realizes what division is really about, he does much better. At the soccer game that afternoon, Brother also gets a chance to retake his old position on the team. If he hadn’t gone to school that day, he would have missed these chances to make things right, but because he did go and took the second chances that he was offered, things were much better by the end of the day.
Adults reading the story will recognize that the reason why Brother’s parents are supposed to sign his failed quiz is because that is how the teacher draws parents’ attention to problem areas that their children have so they can make sure that they can pay extra attention to the child’s homework and help him with his problem areas. It’s not about shaming or punishing the child but getting the child the help he needs to understand the subject. By hiding the bad quiz from his parents, Brother was avoiding the help that his parents were supposed to provide and making the situation worse. Parents can be disappointed when their children bring home bad grades, but this is a situation where parents would rather know than not know if their children are struggling with something because they generally want to help their children when they need it.
The lesson of the story is a good one. Anyone can occasionally make mistakes, have problems, or just plain fail at something, but the people who succeed in the end are the ones who face up to their problems and do what’s necessary to make them right. Some people feel overwhelmed when confronted by problems, but the best thing they can do is admit that there is a problem and that they’re feeling overwhelmed and get help from someone else. Brother could have just told his parents and gotten help with division immediately, as soon as he realized that neglecting his make-up work had left him behind in class. At first, he was too embarrassed and worried to do that, but he did manage to turn things around by talking to his grandfather about his problems and taking the help and advice that he offered. Making mistakes or even failing something doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming because there are always things you can do to make the situation better and people who are able to help.
The book is available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive.