America is mourning the loss of Beverly Cleary, one of the best-loved children’s authors of all time. Ms. Cleary left this earth on March 25, 2021.
Beverly Cleary connected with children and helped them sort through daily life problems in a relatable, easy-to-read manner that captivated generations of children. Some of her beloved characters include:
- Ralph S. Mouse, aka Ralph the Motorcycle Mouse
- Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy
- Socks the cat
According to the author’s official website, she based her characters and storylines loosely on her personal experiences growing up in the small town of McMinnville, Oregon.
Although she’s gone, the lessons that we learned from Ms. Cleary’s stories live on in our hearts. Let’s take a look at some of the most valuable final words of wisdom from Beverly Cleary.
10 Life Lessons to Learn from Beverly Cleary
The wisdom of Beverly Cleary gave so many of us a good foundation–kindness, empathy, and a love of learning. We share some valuable takeaways along with corresponding Beverly Cleary quotes that prove each statement.
“If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.” ~Beverly Cleary
This advice echoes the famous “be the change” quote from Mahatma Gandhi. Life is what you make of it. You have the power to shape your outcomes in a very intimate way. Instead of complaining about things not being the way you wish, set a goal and take action.
In a very literal sense, this quote almost certainly inspired many authors to muster up the courage to transfer the words that dance in their brains onto paper.
2 – Reading is fundamental to lifelong learning.
“Children should learn that reading is pleasure, not just something that teachers make you do in school.” ~Beverly Cleary
Children who enjoy reading are more likely to perform better in school and develop better study habits than their peers who don’t perceive reading as pleasurable. That’s not just an opinion. The National Assessment of Educational Progress report agrees.
Year after year, the study concurs that reading is the fundamental basis for developing good learning habits and determines whether a student enjoys academic success.
So how do you make reading more pleasurable for your little ones? Try these things:
- Take your child to the library to choose their own book.
- Read to your children from an early age.
- Cut off electronic devices, gaming systems, and the television. Instead, carve out time for reading.
- Be a reader yourself!
3 – You are your child’s first and most influential role model.
“Children want to do what grownups do.” ~Beverly Cleary
That segues well into the next life lesson. We mentioned above that you should be a reader to inspire your child to form better reading habits.
This concept is important because your children are watching you…always. Even if you think they are engaged in another activity, they still tune in to you from time to time.
When you develop a positive habit, like taking up reading as a hobby, they will want to emulate that behavior.
However, you can also inadvertently influence your child to form negative behaviors, attitudes, or beliefs. For example, Columbia University warns that children of people who use nicotine products are more likely to struggle with nicotine addiction when they grow up.
So remember always–their little eyes are watching, and little ears are listening. They want to do everything that you do.
4 – Take time “offline” to experience an authentic life.
“We didn’t have television in those days, and many people didn’t even have radios. My mother would read aloud to my father and me in the evening.” ~Beverly Cleary
Beverly Cleary came into the world on April 12, 1916. Her childhood was far different than the world our children explore today.
In a broad context, this quote represents Cleary’s reflection to a simpler time, family togetherness, and treasured evening spent with her parents in a wistful, poignant memory.
But how does this relate to raising happy children in our fast-paced society?
“Unplug” your life. Release those you love from the stress of keeping up with friends on social media and online peer pressure. Plan activities with your friends, family, neighbors, and village. Let them experience their senses through the real world, not a virtual wasteland. You and your loved ones will grow from the opportunity to forge authentic connections.
5 – Develop empathy to grow your relationships
“What interests me is what children go through while growing up.” ~Beverly Cleary
Perhaps the reason that we all loved reading one of Ms. Cleary’s stories was that it felt like she wrote it just for us. Each individual learned to navigate life during our formative years with her guidance every step of the way.
The remarkable empathy and care that Ms. Cleary used as she shaped each story are evident as we look back.
Imagine how you could grow your own relationships if you applied that same empathy in your life! If you really understand how another person perceives the world and understands their thoughts, you can build a stronger bond. So put yourself into someone else’s shoes and dig in deep. Then watch how your relationship with that person can flourish.
“Problem solving, and I don’t mean algebra, seems to be my life’s work. Maybe it’s everyone’s life’s work.” ~Beverly Cleary
Everyone needs to develop a way of solving the everyday problems we encounter throughout a lifetime.
Every person has a unique set of circumstances and struggles. You never know what someone is going through. Some people might be caring for ailing parents while someone else has financial distress. Life will always throw curveballs. But you can reclaim your power over those unexpected (and sometimes unwelcome) problems by learning to take them in stride and solve them one by one.
Learn how to play to their strengths and find a support system to help them when they need an assist. Because asking for help in resolving a problem is definitely an okay strategy, as well!
7 – Spare no expense in sharing love with other people.
“Love isn’t like a cup of sugar that gets used up.” Quote from Ramona the Brave
When you love someone, you might find it hard to express how deep the love is for that person. This love can be romantic in nature or “agape” love for a friend or neighbor.
You pour out your love to people in both large and small ways every day. Whether it’s doing a big favor for a friend who asks you to help them move across a state or a little act of kindness like tucking a sweet note into your partner’s lunchbox, you show love through action.
But just because you do these things, you don’t run out of love! Continuing to demonstrate how much you treasure someone does not deplete the reserves of love in your heart.
So continue to be kind and loving to those around you, knowing that this emotion is immeasurable — pour some out, and it will replenish itself in your soul.
8 – People will misunderstand you sometimes.
“Nobody understood. She wanted to behave herself. Except when banging her heels on the bedroom wall, she had always wanted to behave herself. Why couldn’t people understand how she felt?” ~Quote from Ramona the Pest
The quote above expresses Ramona’s feeling of frustration. She feels misunderstood and all alone, so she rails at the unfairness she feels at that moment.
But the truth is, we all feel that way many times during life. It’s up to each of us to check our emotions and rectify these situations. Only by dealing with these misunderstandings can we flip from a negative place and back into positivity.
The key to doing this is through honest, open, and clear communication. Don’t avoid those difficult discussions. Set some ground rules for a safe conversation, hash out the misunderstanding, admit your fault in it, and move forward.
9 – It is normal to change your mind.
“I wanted to be a ballerina. I changed my mind.” ~Beverly Cleary
We all change our minds about things; this change is a normal part of life. Some call it change, while others call it growth or progress. Regardless, feel free to evolve without worrying about being judged by other people. This path is yours to walk.
10 – Make time for yourself.
“That was the trouble with this house. A girl couldn’t even carry on a telephone conversation with any privacy.” ~Quote from Fifteen
Ms. Cleary wrote these sentences through the eyes of Jane Purdy, the teenager in her coming-of-age novel, Fifteen.
But does this not sound familiar to you still today? It might feel like you can’t take ten minutes of me-time to chat with a friend, grab an extra-long shower, or take an evening walk to enjoy some fresh air.
You need these moments for self-care both to physically distance yourself from the rigor of daily living and as a mental break to prevent feeling overwhelmed.
A study published by the National Institutes of Health agrees that people who embrace the concept of self-care enjoy a more positive life. So don’t apologize for it. Instead, explain to your loved ones that you must set a boundary. Please start taking care of yourself!
Beverly Cleary taught us life lessons that we carry with us today in adulthood. She helped us walk through childhood, and many of us are blessed to have children who are now learning the same things from this incredible author.