Incorporating classic literature into the classroom can significantly enhance students’ reading and writing skills while fostering a lifelong love of literature. One such timeless novel is Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. This Newbery Medal-winning book is a fantastic choice for educators looking to engage their students with relatable characters, compelling narratives, and valuable life lessons.

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Benefits for Using Dear Mr. Henshaw in Your Classroom:

  • Relatable Characters and Themes: Dear Mr. Henshaw features Leigh Botts, a young boy dealing with common childhood challenges such as parental separation, moving to a new school, and navigating friendships. These themes resonate deeply with students, making it easier for them to connect with the story. By seeing their own experiences reflected in Leigh’s, students are more likely to engage with the material and participate in discussions.
  •  Promotes Emotional Intelligence: The novel delves into Leigh’s emotional journey as he copes with his parents’ divorce and his feelings of isolation. Reading about Leigh’s experiences helps students develop empathy and understanding for others facing similar situations. Teachers can use the book as a springboard for discussions about emotions, encouraging students to express their feelings and support their peers.
  • Enhances Writing Skills: Dear Mr. Henshaw is written in an informal format, comprising letters and diary entries. This unique structure offers an excellent opportunity for teachers to introduce students to different writing styles. Educators can assign letter-writing exercises, encouraging students to express themselves creatively and personally, thereby improving their writing skills. This format also helps students understand the importance of perspective and voice in writing.
  • Teaches Problem-Solving and Resilience: Throughout the novel, Leigh faces various challenges and learns to overcome them. This aspect of the story teaches students valuable lessons about problem-solving and resilience. Teachers can highlight these moments, encouraging students to think critically about how they handle their own difficulties and to develop strategies for overcoming obstacles in their lives.
  • Encourages Critical Thinking: The book provides ample material for critical thinking and discussion. Teachers can ask students to analyze Leigh’s decisions, motivations, and growth throughout the story. Questions like “Why do you think Leigh feels the way he does?” and “How do you think Leigh’s relationship with his father affects his actions?” can prompt deeper analysis and understanding. Such discussions help students to think critically about literature and its connections to real-life situations.
  • Support Curriculum Standards: Dear Mr. Henshaw aligns well with various educational standards, including those focused on reading comprehension, writing, and social-emotional learning. Its rich content provides numerous opportunities for teachers to address these standards through reading assignments, writing projects, and class discussions. The novel’s complexity and depth make it suitable for diverse classroom activities that meet curriculum goals.
  • Holds Timeless Appeal: Beverly Cleary’s engaging storytelling and relatable characters have ensured that Dear Mr. Henshaw remains a beloved book for generations. Its timeless appeal makes it a reliable choice for teachers looking to introduce quality literature that remains relevant and engaging year after year.

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary is an excellent addition to any classroom. Its relatable themes, emotional depth, and unique writing style offer numerous educational benefits. By incorporating this novel into their curriculum, teachers can enhance their students’ reading and writing skills, foster emotional intelligence, and promote critical thinking.

I offer complete novel studies to accompany Dear Mr. Henshaw for use in the classroom or homeschool. Each unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.


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I offer the novel study for Dear Mr. Henshaw and the sequel, Strider bundled together at a 20% discount!

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