Dear Beverly Cleary,
I wouldn’t be doing your legacy justice if I didn’t begin this letter by saying… thank you! Thank you for your stories that my students are still reading 50 years later.
Your memorable characters came into my life when I was young, impressionable, and struggling to understand the world around me. With their exuberant zest for life, Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Leigh Botts gave me insight into what to expect from my life. Your attention to detail about the minutiae of middle class life struck a chord with generations of children, and your satirical, acerbic wit still appeals to adults. I should know, as I return to your work time and time again.
Thank you for being open about your struggles with reading and for writing books you didn’t yet see on library shelves
As a kid, I laughed out loud at Ramona Quimby’s antics. That precocious little spitfire always wanted to be on the verge of maturity and so did I. And boy did she just ooze with self-confidence. I longed to wear bunny ears to school and not care what anyone thought.
It wasn’t all fun and games either. Many of my students tell me they wish they can fix their family’s finances, like Ramona and her daydreams of riches. As an educator, Ramona is at the forefront of many of my important lessons, as I often tell my students to “channel their inner Ramona.” In other words, be yourself.
Thank you for “Dear Mr. Henshaw”
Readers feel for and understand Leigh when he quips, “the best thing about sixth grade in my new school is that if I hang in, I’ll get out,” or “I wish somebody would ask me over sometime.” Every child, and teacher for that matter, has felt lonely like Leigh and longs for advice.
I always encourage my students to take what is in their heart, let it flow through the pen, and put it on paper. Through journaling, my sixth graders learn, like Leigh does, that there are things in their lives cannot change.
We have you, Beverly Cleary, to thank for showing children it is okay to be yourself
You have personally taught me to find the humor in every situation and to relinquish what is out of my control. Your words have segued into my teaching career, as I hope to pass your sage advice onto my students. You are the literary equivalent of comfort food, and I know that your stories will resonate for many future generations, too.
Plus, must-read third grade books.