Did You Know Beverly Cleary Didn’t Like to Read?

In the town of McMinnville, Oregon, a young Beverly Cleary faced a challenge that would set the course of her life. The future beloved author wasn’t always fond of books; in fact, at the age of six, she found herself on academic probation because she struggled with the basics of reading.

Beverly Cleary later shared that the books her school offered were dull tales of overly polite children or had monotonous sentences. However, thanks to the encouragement from a school librarian Beverly was introduced her to stories that captivated her imagination. This pivotal moment didn’t just change her academic performance; it altered her relationship with literature.

Despite her early aversions, Beverly’s literary journey took a more definitive turn during her years at Chaffey College in Ontario, California, and later at the University of California, Berkeley, where she majored in English. It was here that she started to see the power of storytelling. But it wasn’t until she earned her degree in library science from the University of Washington and worked as a children’s librarian and at a book store that her thoughts turned decisively toward writing.

Stationed among the stacks, Beverly often met children who sought stories about kids just like them—kids who were messy, troublesome, and vibrantly alive. She recalled her own childhood reading experiences, filled with lifeless narratives from the likes of the “Dick and Jane” series. Fueled by a desire to fill this void, Beverly set out to write books that were mirrors of everyday life, reflections that children could recognize and embrace.

Her literary debut, Henry Huggins in 1950, featured the story of a young boy and his scrappy, lovable dog Ribsy. This book struck a cord with it’s readers, in fact, the characters who would become household names. Henry Huggins, and his dog Ribsy, also became central figures in many of her subsequent books.The introduction of spunky Ramona Quimby and her series further cemented Beverly’s status as a cornerstone of children’s literature.

Beverly Cleary’s books, from The Mouse and the Motorcycle to Ramona the Pest, have transcended generations, selling more than 90 million copies and garnering countless awards. Throughout her career, she wrote more than 40 books and her contributions to children’s literature have been recognized with numerous awards, including the National Book Award and the Newbery Medal.

Not bad for a little girl from Oregon who once didn’t like to read.

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