Berenstain Bears books come in three main types:
- Easy readers (AR reading level 0.5-2.0; very short books mostly in the “I Can Read!” series. )
- Picture books (AR reading level 2.5-4.0, 1200-1500 words)
- Chapter books (AR reading level 3.5-5.0 ; about 7,000-12,000 words or 100 illustrated pages)
My students just love these books, and reading the collection raises the reading level of both individual students and the class as a whole.
My family used to have all the Berenstain Bear books, but we gave them away when my younger brother and sister grew up. This was before I became a teacher. I had to buy our childhoods back on eBay. It wasn’t too expensive; I got most books for $1 each or less. I bought lots of Berenstain Bear picture books and chapter books. Some of the easy readers were mixed in, but I didn’t seek them out.
I started a Berenstain Bears challenge in my classroom. I gave the class two weeks for everyone to read 10 points of Berenstain Bears books. For most kids, this involved 20 picture books. Some of the higher kids read a mix of picture books and chapter books. For many third graders, the Berenstain Bears picture books are a stretch. (This is because many third graders read below the third grade reading level.) We paired our struggling readers with higher readers for read-aloud sessions.
At the end, we celebrated with a Berenstain Bears teddy bear tea party. The pictures are adorable, but they’re of other peoples’ kids, so you’ll just have to imagine how cute it was to have a classroom of third graders and their teddy bears.
Berenstain Bears books can be a little didactic, which I think would make them difficult to publish in today’s climate. Preachy books are out. However, kids love them. Berenstain Bears books make it easy to broach a variety of topics. Here are some sample titles, all available at Amazon.com:
The Berenstain Bears and the Truth
The Berenstain Bears: Kindness Counts
The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers
The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners
The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room
The Berenstain Bears Show Some Respect
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV
The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Chores
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Teasing