This week iconic children’s book author Beverly Cleary turns 100. For the uninitiated, 91 million copies of her books have been sold since 1950. One of her most famous characters is Ramona Quimby, a feisty child whose upbringing was nothing short of “free range” by today’s standards.
In a Washington Post article recognizing the milestone, Cleary said, “I don’t think I joined this century. I think children today have a tough time, because they don’t have the freedom to run around as I did — and they have so many scheduled activities.”
Cleary points to the idea that when she was growing up, the majority of mothers worked inside of the home and that all mothers kept their eyes on all children in the neighborhood. She cites this as one of the reasons for the characters in her books being out and about without adult chaperones.
In her books, Ramona isn’t overscheduled or coddled. She has fun by stretching her imagination and taking initiative. But Ramona isn’t just having a good time in the books. When things go awry along the way, we witness her learning from her various missteps.
In 2016, Ramona’s parents would likely be reported to the authorities for letting her wander the neighborhood on her own. I don’t remember once reading about her parents scheduling a play date, hovering at the playground or carting her from music lesson to sports practice. Instead, I recall an adventurous, free spirited girl who inspired me to think for myself, question authority and be comfortable with not always fitting in.
Do you remember reading books in the Ramona series? Which of Ramona’s free range adventures do you remember most fondly?