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The world of children’s literature lost a familiar friend with the passing of Jan Berenstain at age 88 this past February 24, 2012. Jan Berenstain created the series The Berenstain Bears with her husband, Stan Berenstain, who passed away in 2005. The duo authored and illustrated hundreds of books for the series which features a humanlike bear family who experiences the day-to-day joys and challenges of everyday life. After her husband’s passing, Jan’s son collaborated with her to continue writing for the series. The family also wrote a number of parenting books.
Children and parents have avidly supported the Berenstain series for fifty years. The Berenstains credited their first editor, Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) with guiding them to success. As with any series, especially such a prolific one, some titles are more popular than others. Most of the stories have teachable moments for both children and parents which strike chords with families. Many of the books have included topics relevant to families with young children such as sibling rivalry, manners, good habits, and much more. In my opinion, the more successful of the storylines show scenarios that families recognize and are peppered with humor, particularly at the expense of Papa Bear. Some titles, as is often the case with stories with a moral to them, can sound a bit didactic. But overall, the familiar illustrations and characters warm the hearts of the child in all of us, young or old.
The Berenstain Bears have been no stranger to LCNV’s Family Learning Program. Some class sites have used the book The Berenstain Bears’ Dollars and Sense during the Finance and Employment session. We also have a partnership WETA’s Ready to Learn which presents a workshop for parents on responsible TV viewing and literacy. During one of these presentations a clip from an TV adaptation of The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food was shown. Two students who were from the same state in Mexico were delighted because they remembered watching the show as children in Mexico. They were also surprised to discover that The Berenstain Bears were not Mexican. I believe this says a great deal about their universal appeal.
The Berenstain Bears have a website which also includes a memorial to Jan https://www.berenstainbears.com/parents/index.htm