TRC Read to Kids

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Kids at heart: Celebrating Beverly Cleary at 100

"Where are the books about kids like us?"

That’s what the young patrons at the public library in Yakima, Washington asked fledgling librarian Beverly Bunn in 1939. Beverly, who had asked that question herself as a child, remembers longing for the same thing. Where are the funny stories about average boys and girls just knocking around the neighborhood? 

This question stuck with the young librarian, whom you might know as Beverly Cleary, the beloved creator of characters like Henry Huggins and Beezus and Ramona Quimby. 

Blog post author, Rachael Walker, with Ramona
Like the kids we were and many of the kids we know now, Cleary’s characters put their curiosity to work and exercise their imaginations — and then have to deal with the consequences. Often, her young characters’ good (or at least reasonable) intentions don’t turn out as expected and there are misunderstandings, especially when the adults involved see honest mistakes as silly, naughty or exasperating. 

Beverly Cleary’s books are great fun to read aloud. Each chapter can stand on its own as a funny story. These tales of everyday kids are sure to stimulate lots of laughter and knowing looks when shared with young readers.  

You’ll probably be laughing too, but what about those knowing looks? Do you see Ramona as lively and feisty or annoying and challenging? Do you have appreciation for the honesty of someone who takes one bite out of each and every apple because “the first bite tastes best"? Can you empathize with Ramona, who explains, "Because when I ask, you don't let me do things," when questioned as to why she didn’t ask if she could have a party?

Do you remember what it felt like to be smaller than everyone else?  Many grown ups really do forget what it's like to be a kid. Through Ramona, Beverly Cleary reminds us of how we wanted to be treated when we were kids.

Wanting to help.
Remember being anxious about your parents’ well-being and what you could do to get your father to be healthy and quit smoking? (Ramona and Her Father)

Wanting to learn.
Remember asking important questions, like how did Mike Mulligan use the bathroom when digging the basement of the town hall? (Ramona the Pest)

Wanting to have input. 
Remember when, as a littler person, you sometimes had to be a bit noisier and a bit more stubborn in order to be noticed? (Ramona the Pest)

Wanting to choose. 
Why shouldn’t you wear rabbit ears to the library and get to pick out your own book? (Beezus and Ramona)

Often the responsibilities of adulthood have us romanticizing our own childhoods and get us thinking that children's lives are generally idyllic and carefree. But kids in crisis are dealing with lots of problems — in addition to all the issues and worries involved in growing up. Be sure to have some appreciation for that and for kids being kids.

As Beverly Cleary turns 100 years old on April 12, make some time to read about Ramona’s antics. Enjoy her high energy and spirit! As you read and think about why someone would want to put jelly on her mashed potatoes, turn a worm into an engagement ring or bake a doll into a cake, remember: she’s just a kid.

Guest blog post by Belle of the Book, Rachael Walker.

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