Ramona, Matilda, and the Summer Days Ahead by Jill Bryan

In the past week I have put together my summer reading stack for the #bookaday challenge. My stack is towering against my bedroom wall in the order I plan to read the books. I’ve strategically placed all of my must reads carefully throughout the stack in order to help guide me through some of the books that I’m less excited about reading. As I sat on the floor surrounded by books I was completely happy, and at the same time, completely overwhelmed. I stared at some unfamiliar titles, covers that looked like the opposite of what I love, and started to feel a sense of panic that I would never finish my stack and that I might as well give up before I even start. It was at this moment that I saw my childhood copy of Ramona Quimby, Age 8 sitting quietly on my nightstand. I don’t remember how it got there, but it instantly took me from my state of reading panic down a path, to what I’ve come to call my inner reading center.


Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Roald Dahl’s Matilda are, when I sift through my reading past, two characters I can always connect to. Ramona is a feisty young girl, full of creativity and curiosity. Ramona is a character that I wanted to befriend when I was a child. Her vivacious spirit continues to speak to me each time I reread the book.


Matilda, who was famously crafted by Roald Dahl, is my keystone. This book unlocked my passion for reading. I remember summers spent reading this book from cover to cover repeatedly. Matilda’s bravery and unwavering spirit of kindness and warmth is a character that changed me as a reader. She was in the right place at the time in my reading life.


Both Ramona and Matilda have found their way into my summer reading stack. I’ve placed both books right in the center. They are there to help bring me back to my place of calm when the summer stack starts to weigh too heavily. Many new characters that will weave their way in an out of my life over the coming months sit waiting with two familiar characters that I love so dearly. I will read for many reasons this summer.


I will read to relax.


I will read to learn.


I will read to connect to worlds beyond my own.


I will read to meet Sophia Calderwood from Sophia’s War by Avi, the book in my stack that I most highly anticipate.


I will read to broaden my own reading center.


I will read to make my life richer.


Most importantly, this summer I will continue to read for those students who come into my life without an inner reading center. My summer stack will make its way to my classroom next fall and if I can help one more student find their center, find their Ramona or Matilda by offering up great literature, I will be grateful.


Jill Bryan is a 5th grade teacher in Minnesota who is a self-proclaimed book nerd. She enjoys digging in the garden and swinging in hammocks. Her most important work to date is helping her 15 month old, Hazel, write her own story.