It was a sad day in Bear Country, a sad day, indeed. Jan Berenstain, who co-created the Berenstain Bears with her husband, Stan (Sept. 29, 1923 to Nov. 26, 2005), passed away on Feb. 24, 2012. The Berenstain Bears book series contains more than 300 books. More than 250 million copies of the books have been sold worldwide, according to NPR. My six-year-old son and I usually select at least one book from the Berenstain Bears section during our weekly library trips. My son was surprised to find out the remaining half of the creative Berenstain team had passed.
"How old was she?" he asked. We looked up her picture and found out she was 88. I assured him she had a happy, successful, and long life. The charming nature of the book series may stem from the fact that the Berenstains themselves had a seemingly charmed life. The pair met in 1941 while attending the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Arts, according to NPR. They married and began careers as a magazine cartoonist team says the official website. The Berenstains met with and received artistic direction from one famous source of inspiration, Dr. Seuss.
Like the memorable characters of Seuss books, the characters created by Stan and Jan Berenstain will continue to appeal to both parents in kids in the future. Although some aspects of the Berenstain Bears are more traditional than modern, the values within the stories still resonate with parents and kids.
Learning lessons - Often Brother Bear and Sister Bear learn something. The lessons in the book go beyond Mama Bear or Papa Bear simply telling their bear children a rule and repeating it. Mama Bear especially likes to sit back and let her bear cubs learn lessons in in their own time. In a book we read last night, "The Berenstain Bears and The Truth," the bear cubs play ball in the house and then tell a big lie when they break a lamp. They learn:
"No matter how you hope,
No matter how you try,
You can't make truth
Out of a lie."
Facing fears - Jan and Stan Berenstain were adept at tapping into some basic and universal fears felt by children, from bad dreams to bullies and stage fright. The genius of the stories is that the fears are faced from a children's perspective, not an adult's. The books, including, "Learn About Strangers" and "In the Dark," give parents a gentle way to address real fears
Trying new things - The Berenstain bear cubs, while not completely fearless, are encouraged to try new things, including trying out for a team or going to camp. The bear cubs may experience bumps along the road, but in the end, they have a better experience for having tried. This is a great lesson for kids who strive for perfection, don't like to lose, or afraid to try things because they may not get it right the first time.
Avid listeners - The books are ideal books for parents to read to children. They are just the right length for bedtime. The books contain large images and just enough text on each page to keep the story flowing, and keep pre-readers interested in the family's activities.
Transitioning readers- The book series is one that families can incorporate into their lives from preschool age through elementary school. Because they are not as short as some other picture style books, they are a good selection for kids who are reading. These books prove more challenging than typical Level 1 and Level 2 books because the paragraphs tend to be long on some pages. They are a good bridge between easier books and chapter books.
If you've never read a Berenstain Bears book to your children before, or it's been a while, visit Bear Country, it's a wonderful place.
"The Berenstain Bears and The Truth", Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Berenstain Bears, PBS