Learning to read opened a new world to me. For a plain little brown-haired girl from a mill town in piedmont North Carolina, books offered an escape from everyday life and opened doors to fairy-tale castles, foreign countries and new adventures.
Sadly, college brought lots of reading that was NOT exciting, and after graduation I left books behind. But after moving overseas and being frequently left at home alone because of the travel required by my husband’s job, I sought out the library at the nearby American military base and once again jumped into the world of books. A new American star was rising and I jumped on the Stephen King bandwagon.
After reading THE SHINING into the wee hours of the morning during one of my husband's absences and not being able to sleep, I jumped back off. *g* I found plenty of other authors and books.
When I visited Paris and walked by the Ritz Hotel, I remembered scenes from Sydney Sheldon’s THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT. In London, I drank tea and imagined listening to Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple solve an intricate mystery. A visit to Amsterdam prompted me to re-read ANNE FRANK: THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL with a new perspective.
Then I became pregnant with my first child and I devoured every book that little library had on pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and taking care of babies. When I went into labor six weeks early, it was my steady diet of books that got me through the experience since our Lamaze classes were scheduled to start two weeks AFTER the baby arrived.
From Lamaze I moved to Dr. Spock. And before I knew it, I began building a library for my son. GOODNIGHT MOON and PAT THE BUNNY were early favorites. As he grew, so did the number of books on his shelf.
A second son followed four years later and new titles continued to be added to the collection. Among them was a series of books by a husband and wife writing team named Jan and Stan Berenstain who had an interesting road to publication.
After a successful career in cartooning for publications like Collier’s and Saturday Evening Post, they submitted a book in the early 60’s to the editor of Random House’s Beginner Books -- Theodor Geisel AKA Dr. Seuss -- and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Berenstains co-wrote and illustrated over 200 titles in their Berenstain Bears series, and two generations of children have been raised with the Bear family, which consists of Papa, Mama, Brother, Sister and Honey Bear, who was “born” into the family in 2000.
Their first books were written with the goal of teaching kids to read while entertaining them. That goal evolved over the years to include books that showed kids, and their parents, how to deal with childhood challenges.
My own children were introduced to the Bears when our family dentist presented them with a copy of THE BERENSTAIN BEARS VISIT THE DENTIST. Additional books taught my boys about good manners, junk food, messy rooms and peer pressure. But our favorite by far was THE BERENSTAIN BEARS AND THE SPOOKY OLD TREE.
Three little bears… Do they dare? Yes, they dare!
Stan Berenstain died on November 29, 2005 and is survived by his wife and two sons. Son Michael, who had already been collaborating with his parents, will continue working with his mother to produce more books for future generations.
Thanks to an audience that continues to read the Bears’ adventures, Stan Berenstain’s work will live on, as will the bears “who live down a sunny dirt road deep in Bear Country.”
09/29/1923 – 11/29/2005