Read a child a story, inspire them one night. But teach a child to read, that inspiration can last a lifetime.
Especially if what they read speaks to them, embodies their own little voices. And no one did that better than our own Beverly Cleary. She was a pioneer in children’s books and youth literature with a firm belief that children performed better at reading if they read material they enjoyed and to which they could relate. That seems pretty fundamental now, but it was clearly not the norm when she was learning to read nearly a century ago. She struggled as a new reader to keep up with her peers until her own librarian sought to find books that would inspire young Beverly.
Before she began writing her own series of books, she was a children’s librarian and bemoaned the lack of good books suitable for that audience. Many of her stories take place in our own backyard in the Grant Park neighborhood and we honor her contribution by renaming the very grammar school she attended, the Beverly Cleary School; and the statues in the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden for Children ,She made it her focus to write her stories from that youthful point of view, to understand what their day-to-day lives might be like and what would resonate with them. If kids could see themselves in what they were reading, maybe they would read more and see more of themselves in more books.
And shouldn’t that be what reading a book is about? At any age. That we are able to step out of our own personal points of view and experience an entirely new perspective. And collect those experiences and let them shape our own stories.