Yesterday, I learned Jan Berenstain died. She created The Berenstain Bears with her husband Stan. This children's series featured a family of bears who went about their daily life and, through a bit of adventure, taught the reader important morals and lessons on safety. The first book debuted in 1962 and was entitled The Big Honey Hunt. Since that day, almost fifty years ago, the series has grown to over three hundred titles.
Jan's passing is sad for me because I wonder what will happen with the series, now with both the original creators passing on. In 2005, Stan passed away and their son Michael began collaborating with his mother to ensure the books continued to be published. But will the sons carry on the tradition? I can only hope.
Now, these books weren't a staple in my house growing up, I read far more Dr. Seuss than anything else, but my first "reading" memory came from the quirky family of bears. And no, I'm not talking about my mother reading to me, I believe that would be The Bear and I, or The Incredible Journey. What I mean is, it was the first book I "read".
Of course, you're an observant reader and you've noted how I have put "read" and "reading" in quotes.
A long time ago, my parents though I was a genius.
No, really. They did.
I sat upon my father's knee at five years old and flawlessly read to him The Bike Lesson, a Berenstain Bears book. So enthused was my father, he called my mother over to bear witness to the extraordinary event. Together, they stared in awe at their brilliant daughter. Of course, this was very fleeting.
Unfortunately, my mother noticed I wasn't really looking at the book at all. And so, she promptly flipped it shut. Of course, I continued to 'read' without realizing what was happening. You see, they'd read me the book so many times that I'd memorised the whole thing, beginning to end.
Over the years, the story has been told a hundred times. "A brand new bike for me", they exclaim, laughing at the memory. Even now, it makes me smile, because it's such a random event. One I know I will never forget. And one I doubt my parents will either. I wonder how many people remember the first book they were able to read. Well, I remember the first book I memorised by heart.
It's because of this memory that I feel connected to these books. I've probably read a hundred of them, but I only remember one. The Bike Lesson. It's such a strange thing. A small, inconsequential thing. And yet, it's important. To me.
Jan and Stan Berenstain provided countless hours of entertainment for children the world over. I hope you can find the time to search out one of their books. Or at least hop over to Wikipedia to take a gander at the rather unique story of how they came to be and the books started.