Entertaining and Teaching Children With the Berenstain Bear Book Series
Well Written Books That Entertain Reader and Child
June 5, 2011
Since I haven’t seen anyone else mentioning the Berenstain Bearsseries of children’s books by husband and wife team Stan and Jan Berenstain, I thought I would write about this series.
My children enjoyed being read to from these books and I found them interesting to read to my children when they were young. Aimed mostly at ages 4 - 8, the books were beautifully illustrated and each had a very good story line.
The stories not only held the reader’s and listener’s attention, they were also believable and easy to relate to despite the fact that all of the characters in the books were bears acting like humans.
Actually, I think that if the authors had simply substituted human characters rather than human-like bears, while utilizing the same story line and same high quality illustrations, the books would have come off as dull and preachy.
The Bear family consists of Papa Bear who makes a living as a woodworker,Mama Bear who is basically a homemaker (however, I have heard, but don’t recall reading any, that in a some books she tries her hand as a small business owner), Brother Bear and his younger sister, Sister Bear.
The series apparently started with just three bears as Brother Bear was the only child, but that was apparently before my children came along or, at least before we discovered these books.
A third child,Honey Bear, was introduced in 2000 but that was just before my youngest was about to start high school and had outgrown theBerenstain Bears series.
Series Remains Relevant as Stories and Moral Messages are Timeless
In addition to using bear, rather than human, characters, the stories are set in what appears to be a small to mid-sized town rather than a modern city and their clothing tends to be somewhat old fashioned.
However, we are dealing with a community of bears, so readers almost expect some differences. The focus is on the stories and the clothing and surrounding community are ambiguous enough to give them a certain timelessness.
Other than the make up of the family, with Sister Bear joining shortly after and Honey Bear considerably after the start of the series, there is a certain timelessness about the bears that makes each book, regardless of when it was written, seem fresh and relevant.
The values in the book are traditional ones that most people can relate to and the situations the Bear family encounters and deals with are common to those faced by most families regardless of era.
Some of My More Memorable Ones
Among the stories I remember are The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentistin which Sister Bear experiences the loosening of her first tooth.
Upon learning this, Brother Bear, like many older siblings tend to do, attempts to scare with a story about her having to visit the dentist where he will have to cruelly yank the tooth out for her. This, of course scares her.
However, when she accompanies her mother and brother to the dentist for Brother Bear’s check up, Sister Bear mentions the loose tooth to the dentist and he gently removes it with a piece of gauze.
In The Messy Room, Mama Bear works hard to keep the house neat and clean. Brother and Sister Bear’s rooms remain a mess forcing a frustrated Mama Bear to threaten to throw everything out.
Papa Bear intervenes and explains to the younger Bears the need to clean their room.
They do clean their rooms and discover the benefits of not living amidst clutter.
In The Berestain Bears Forget Their Manners, Papa Bear and the two cubs get too relaxed at the dinner table and forget their manners.
Mama Bear eventually puts her foot down forcing Papa and the cubs to re-think the importance of manners when interacting with others in society.
It can be difficult trying to juggle, work, preparing meals and raising young children, especially as a single parent, to teach the importance of good manners.
This is especially true when children dining with others usually consists of dining with friends who are just as casual or dining out at fast food restaurants where manners are often not modeled very well.
When my children were young I remember reading an article about how the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business found itself including a required course in table manners when they discovered that many of their graduates were clueless when it came to knowing how to conduct themselves at business social functions.
All of the books have the same general pattern of an interesting story built around a theme involving a common situation in a child’s life that requires a choice or decision by the child.
Brother and Sister Bear encounter one of these situations in each story and, with guidance from their parents, discover the benefits of making the right choice.
The books are thus a great learning tool for a child’s moral development as well as entertaining.
My Father Introduced Me to the Series When My Wife and I Adopted Our First Son
I first became acquainted with the Berenstain Bearsbooks after my wife and I adopted our first son and my parents sent him one of these books as a present.
My Father, always a great reader, had discovered the series earlier when he was looking for storybooks for my nieces.
While new to me at the time, in researching this Hub I discovered that Stan and Jan Berenstain actually their first Berenstain Bear book, The Big Honey Hunt, in 1962.
Previous to this, the couple had had a successful career as cartoonists with their cartoons appearing in major magazines and numerous paperback adult cartoon books popular in the 1950s.
Stan & Jan Berenstain Were Successful Illustrators and Cartoonists Before Writing the Bear Books
Stan and Jan Berenstain met in art school in Philadelphia in 1941. Following Stan’s service in World War II they married in 1946 and began their careers as cartoonists and illustrators working from their home in Philadelphia.
In 1956 they launched their It's All in the Family cartoon series which appeared in major magazines and then in books they wrote.
Their first book, The Berenstains' Baby Book was actually published in 1951 and dealt with their experiences as new parents following the birth of their two sons.
Based upon their previous success, one of the editors suggested that they try their hand at writing children’s books and this is how the Berenstain Bears series came about.
However, it took two years of work and struggle with the editor at Random House Publishing, Theodor Geisel, better known as the famous Dr. Seuss, felt their first book, The Big Honey Hunt, was ready.
Dr. Seuss edited the first 17 Berenstain Bear books. The series was established by then and the couple went to to produce over 300 books, often producing as many as 10 books per year, centered on their family of bears, by the time Stan Berenstain died in 2005.
The Berenstain Bear Publishing Empire Continues
Today the Berenstain Bears empire of books, video, web and more, continues under the direction of Jan Berenstain and one of the couple’s two sons, Michael, who is also an artist.