Four Responsive Reasons to Read Ramona Books Before School Starts

When we opened our first Ramona book, not in any particular order, I read my daughter one chapter and stopped for bedtime.  My little girl was incensed that I would stop “so soon”.  She insisted, “This is the most exciting book ever!”  Ramona Quimby is one of my favorite characters, and I find the Ramona books to include fantastic reminders of Responsive Classroom practices and why we need them.   Ramona is such a true character!  With each book we watch her childish wisdom grow, her thoughts and actions true to her own person always.  Her stories are filled with insights into classroom and life that every teacher should remember.  That is why I believe every elementary teacher should revisite at least one Ramona book (bet you can’t stop at one!) by Beverly Cleary, before the start of school.
We all are familiar with the four main Responsive Classroom practices,
  • ·       Engaging Academics
  • ·       Positive Community
  • ·       Effective Management
  • ·       Developmental Awareness

Ramona and her family teach us a lot about what is engaging and that engagement is highly connected to happiness.  After being harangued by family members for coming home late and soaked. . .
She simply stood there, cold, dripping and feeling good.  She felt good from making a lot of noise, she felt good from the hard work of walking so far on her tin-can stilts, she felt good from calling a grown-up pieface and from the triumph of singing backwards from ninety-nine to one.  She felt good being out after dark with rain on her face and the street lights shining down on her.  (Ramona and Her Father, p134)

. . .and while playing ‘Brick Factory’ with Howie for hours and the importance of physical effort. . .
Each grasped a rock in both hands and with it pounded a brick into pieces and the pieces into smithereens.  The pounding was hard, tiring work.  Pow!  Pow!  Pow!  Then they were reduced to smithereens to dust.  (Ramona the Brave, p47)

. . . and Ramona teaches us what happens when academics are not engaging. . .
“Ramona” Said Mrs. Griggs in a voice that hinted she had caught Ramona napping. 
“Five” answered Ramona.  She was bored, not napping she had learned to think about schoolwork, and at the same time think about other things in a private corner of her mind.  ‘Mrs. Griggs, when do we get to make paper bag owls?’”  (Ramona the Brave, p79)

Ramona and Beezus Quimby teach us the importance of a positive learning community.  Sometimes good isn’t always good enough. . .

“There wasn’t anything really wrong with her, I guess,”  answered Beezus. (Regarding Ramona’s teacher) “She just wasn’t very exciting is all. . .” 
“Was she unfair?” asked Mrs. Quimby. 
Beezus considered the question, “No. But I was the kind of child she liked.”  (Ramona the Brave, p158)

Ramona’s feelings on public apologies. . .
Ramona was horrified.  Now?  In front of the whole class?  (Ramona the Brave p113)

. . .and that the effect a teacher can have on a child, both bad. . .
Ramona dreaded school because she felt Mrs. Griggs did not like her, and she did not enjoy spending the whole day in a room with someone who did not like her, especially when that person was in charge.  (Ramona the Brave p122)

. . .and great!
(Ramona sitting in the hall avoiding going to class was approached by her sister’s teacher.)
“I know you! . . .You are Ramona Quimby. Also known as Ramona Q.”  Ramona was astonished she had expected him to tell her, if he knew who she was at all, that she was Beatrice’s little sister. . . (watching him leave up the stairs). . . She suddenly felt more cheerful, cheerful enough to face Room one once more.
Ramona reminds us praise is not always an effective management technique and must be used cautiously. ..
(When her teacher makes an announcement and Ramona discovers Susan copied her owl.) 
Mrs. Griggs paused between Ramona’s and Susan’s desks.  Ramona bent over her owl because she wanted to surprise Mrs. Griggs when it was finished, “What a wise old owl Susan has made!”  Mrs. Griggs held up Susan’s owl for the class to see, while Susan tried to look modest and pleased at the same time.  Ramona was furious. . . copycat!  (Ramona the Brave, p83-85)

Lucky for Ramona, her family exhibits some effective management techniques. . .
Beezus:  “Maybe if we feed them right away they’ll think the party is over and go home.”  (Beezus and Ramona p121)

Aunt Beatrice:  “Lots of times little children are naughty because they want to attract attention.  I have an idea that saying nothing about her naughtiness will worry Ramona more than a scolding.”  (Beezus and Ramona, p98)

And not so effective. . .
Mother, who had bought The Littlest Steam Shovel at the Supermarket to keep Ramona quiet while she shopped one afternoon, was so tired of Scoopy that she always managed to be too busy to read to Ramona. (Beezus and Ramona, p15)

One aspect that Beverly Cleary brings to each and every book is a sense of where Ramona and Beezus are in their development from the preschool Ramona, breathing in and out of a harmonica, while riding in circles on her trike in the livingroom, to Beezus blushing in preteen emotions as being cast as Mary opposite her school crush, cast as Joseph in the school play.  The adults in the book occasionally tune into the girls developmental stages.

(When Ramona signed her mother up to sew her a sheep costume)
“I know,”. . . “But she is little and these things are so important to her.  I’ll manage somehow.”  (Ramona and her Father, p150)

And sometimes they underestimate the depth of her thinking. . .
Didn’t grown-ups think children worried about anything but jack-o-lanterns?  Didn’t they know children worried about grown-ups?  (Ramona and Her Father, p85)

These are just a few of the many reasons I recommend reading at least one Ramona book before school begins.  Ramona will remind you of the innocence of the children we will be working with, the joy, the frustrations, and that it is all a part of life as a little human and the people responsible for raising them.  Ramona will remind you why we embrace Responsive Classroom practices for creating safe communities with engaging academics, and why we strive to use effective management techniques and knowledge of developmental stages while we teach. 
Feel funny reading to yourself?  Find someone to read to they will appreciate Ramona too!



1 comment:

Bernadette Laganella said...

This is great. I never thought of Ramona as a philosopher.