Making The Most of Over-Parenting (Our #BusStopBook)

Ready to Read #BusStopBook

Beezus and Ramona Quimby enjoy a level of independence that many young readers today will never experience first-hand during childhood. The fictional Quimby girls walk to the library on their own at only nine and four-years-old, the four-year-old plays at the playground without anyone watching her, and they stay at home by themselves.

Would their parents allow them to do any of that now?

The stars of Beverly Cleary’s beloved Ramona Quimby series made their debut in the 1950s, when the United States was a different place. How we raise our children has changed quite a bit in that time — for better and for worse.

I assume the freedom Ramona and her sister enjoyed in their 1950s fictional world reflects the reality of the time. My own childhood in the 1980s was similar. I can’t say my parents would have left me at the park on my own at the age of four, but I played outside of our house on my own around that age. At five, I walked to the bus stop by myself. I remember dumping the carrot sticks from my lunch bag in our neighbor’s woodpile every morning before boarding the bus (Sorry, Mom and Dad! I acquired a taste for carrots later in life).

These days, before I go to work, I wait at the bus stop with my 8-year-old twins. If they want to dump anything from their lunch boxes, they’ll have to wait until they get to school. 😉

When will they be old enough to wait at the bus stop alone? I have no idea.

For now, we make the most of our time together by reading a book. They’re strong independent readers–yay for independence, whatever the form!–but I think it’s important for them to hear me read from time to time. As I said in Reading Aloud: Ephemeral Entertainment I Wish Would Last Longer:

Reading aloud to my kids — and having them read aloud to me — is one of the most enjoyable parts of parenting… Not only is it an opportunity for me to model literacy for them and assess their reading progress, but it also gives me a chance to talk to my children about topics that wouldn’t come up otherwise.

Hearing the way I pronounce words has been particularly helpful for my girls, who have wondered why so many English words don’t sound the way they should (“It’s not ‘is-land,’ kiddos!”).

Our current “bus stop book” is Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat, a non-fiction work by Kay Frydenborg that teaches us the difference between “cacao” and “cocoa” (another word that isn’t pronounced the way it’s spelled):

So the tree is cacao, and cocoa is the substance that is made from the seeds of the tree. The parts of the cacao tree that are not processed into cocoa, such as the leaves and flowers, remain cacao.  And we shouldn’t confused either of these terms with coca (pronounced ko-ka), the evergreen shrub from which the drug cocaine is made.

chocolate coverThe book is best for young teenagers, but my 8-year-olds have no trouble understanding it with my help. Our foray into the past and present significance of chocolate has broadened my daughters’ vocabulary as well as their understanding of world history, starting with the indigenous tribes in the Americas that learned how to turn bitter seeds into a delicious chocolate.

For Europeans, their interaction with cacao begins with Christopher Columbus, who mistook the seeds for strange-looking almonds.

The book’s modern portrayal of Columbus as a “confused man” who stole treasures from the so-called New World and went to his grave believing he’d been in Asia is quite different from the favorable way Beverly Cleary’s Beezus describes him to her younger sister. Beezus calls him “the man who discovered America,” yet another reminder–along with Beezus and Ramona’s independence–that the Ramona Quimby series comes from another time.

*Thank you to the Clark County Public Library’s blog for the book recommendation!



  1. How lovely to do these reads and what lovely memories that will be building up.

    I walked to primary school with a friend whose house I walked to from about age 8,and got the bus to secondary school or walked there from age 10. I think the perceptions have changed – I’m sure there’s a statistic that dangers and actual happenings have stayed the same in the last 40 years, but stuff is just a lot more talked about now. I mean, look at all the historical child abuse cases … all happening when I was a kid in the 70s.

    Interesting to think about these things – but mainly I LOVE your bus stop reading.

  2. Even in the 80’s, my parents usually waited with me at the bus stop. (I think that was mostly because of the cold though, I walked home from the bus by myself.) Reading while waiting is a great idea! I remember listening to classical music on the radio and playing a guessing game of trying to guess the composer. I’m not sure how I had any idea what to guess. I don’t think I could do that now!

    1. Wow, I’m impressed you knew so much about classical music when you were a kid! If you tried it again, it might come back.

      We love reading together at the bus stop. I’m going to miss it when they outgrow this stage (even though I’m looking forward to their increased independence!).

  3. I enjoyed the comparison of the Beverly Cleary book and the new one. It’s really interesting how perspectives (and child-rearing practices) have changed across the years.

  4. Love how you are making the most of bus stop time! Your current pick sounds great (and what better way to reinforce that science can be fun than a delicious deep dive into CHOCOLATE?!). I have a lot of complicated thoughts about the lack of independence kids have these days – like you, I remember a much freer childhood. The bus stopped right in front of my house, so that wasn’t much of a hike for me, but I recall the days of shouting “I’m going to Rebecca’s house!” up the stairs and then traipsing off without a backward glance. It’s sad that kids don’t get that as much anymore. The world isn’t a very friendly place these days…

    1. I can’t even imagine letting my kids just go to a friend’s house on their own! I definitely did that at their age, though. Times have changed.
      So far, we’re really enjoying the chocolate book. It combines my daughters’ interests (one is interested in history–she’s the one who’s reading The Diary of Anne Frank right now–and the other leans more towards science). I’m learning a lot too!

  5. The current state of child-rearing bugs me quite a lot. Kids need lots of time on their own to explore the world and gauge their reactions to it, without a parent running constant interference. I was born in 1952. I was allowed to run free all over the suburban neighborhood where I grew up, including the woods behind the house and the park half a mile away that offered a stream with tadpoles in it. You guessed it: we often captured them in jars to study them, then released them. To get to school, I walked several blocks to the bus stop, often standing there, freezing, in wind chills well below zero. If I walked another long block, the gas station owner would let me wait inside until the bus arrived. I loved that guy! All the kids did.

    As long as we got home before dark, my parents didn’t worry about us. We literally ran wild, sunrise to twilight. Never once did I feel myself to be in any danger from anyone. Heck, it didn’t occur to me to even think that way! The Culture of Fear was created long after I grew up, and I think it’s done a major disservice to everyone.

    I like how you’ve turned that time with your daughters into something they’ll never forget in a good way. 🙂 Very creative and educational.

    1. Did you read Ramona Quimby when you were a kid? She first appeared in the Henry Huggins books around 1950. The way you’ve described your childhood sounds similar to the way Cleary portrays Ramona’s childhood.

      I agree that children need to be able to explore on their own, but I also worry about the dangers of that type of freedom in our modern society. The likelihood of harm isn’t very high–depending on where you live (sadly, it varies so much from neighborhood to neighborhood)–but we all know the horror stories.

      1. I had a similar conversation with a friend earlier this week. It would be interesting to know whether the actual danger has increased or whether it’s simply the perception of danger that has.

  6. What a fun way to spend bus stop time! Our bus stop has lots of kids and their parents there, so I think I would let D walk there by himself except he has to cross a street. And the intersection is so terrible. I think people only stop at the stop sign 70% of the time. So that being the situation, I might be walking him to the bus stop until high school….

    1. It really is fun. We try to get out there a few minutes early (about 15-20 minutes before the bus comes) just to make sure we’re able to read. I have no idea when my girls will wait at the bus stop on their own. It might be around the time they’re old enough to stay home alone. Is that about 12? The rules are different from when I was a kid!

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