Friday, December 9, 2011

Memories of Dick and Jane

Do YOU remember?

A question in Reminisce, October/November 2011, was:  “How many remember Dick and Jane books from first grade?” 

This question was posed by a reader and received a huge response.  Most responses were phrased along the same lines.
“I still remember sitting in a circle reading Dick and Jane in first grade with Mrs. Everette, 1956-’57.”
“Yes.  I remember they did a lot of running!”
“This brings back the thrill of learning to read in my first-grade class in 1962…”

Dick, Jane, Spot, Puff, and Tim…they were like neighborhood friends who dressed nicely and did the same running as we did.  Reading involved phonics and lots of repetition.

It was an exciting, distinctive era.  It begs another question:  How would that series be translated into the current era?

For that matter, what readers (primers) came first?
Not much running here...

It boggles my mind, as it runs rampant through all the possibilities.  The neighborhoods are now so altered; children playing outside are at risk. 

The mother is definitely not wearing pearls and a shirt-waist dress with a crisp apron. 

 The father is probably working on the computer at all hours; heck, he may even work from home.  That is, if there is a father in the home. 

The grandparents may be the ‘primary caregivers’ for a number of reasons. 
My father talked about McGuffey as if he were a friend.

Would today’s children be running with their dog and playing a game outside?  Or, perhaps the children would be plugged into an MP3, playing a video game, or watching “My Babysitter is a Vampire”. 

Junie is quite a character...
It is a world poles apart from that of Dick and Jane.  Children learn to read from different readers, which are probably politically correct and use a contemporary approach to reading.

What will today’s children remember fondly from their first learning-to-read books?  We will have to wait and see.


  1. Yes, the world has changed, and the way our children learn is different. No, they are not being taught how and what we were those many years ago, but more for getting ready to live in a global society. I do mourn the loss of the more liberal arts education, but I am sometimes in awe of what they know and how they seek out knowledge. Because it is at their fingertips, there is nothing that their minds cannot explore. However, there is good and bad in everything and who knows where all this will lead. I can only hope for the best.

  2. I do indeed remember Dick and jane. Both myself and the husband were exposed to these readers. He reminisced so often and so fondly of those readers that I found him a copy on EBay and bought it for him last year...either for his birthday or for Christmas, I can't remember now but I did do a post on it.
    Today it would read, "text Jane, text".

  3. Dick and Jane are still in print (or reprint). When my grandchildren lived with me Emily was 3 going on 4 and enrolled in head start. Every bone in her body ached to read. We got her Dick and Jane and off she went. She read to the children at head start.

  4. Arleen--you are so right about this is now a global world in which our children/grandchildren live. Their learning will be built around dealing with that world. computers have altered the way we all view life. Bless their hearts--they will know things we never even dreamed about!
    Delores--good response about texting. My fingers refuse to do that.
    Joanne--Dick and Jane made reading so gentle, non-threatening. The plot was non-existent, the characters were simple, and the repetition reinforced. Now, reading books are asking students to also look at the bigger view of the story at an earlier age. The standardized testing has "upped the game", and taken the lag time away from children.

  5. I really don't mind how children learn to read - so long as they acquire the habit. I cannot imagine a life without reading and as a great-aunt at every celebration books are my preferred gifts. Dinosaur? Perhaps, but I hope not.

  6. I, too, have fond memories of Dick and Jane. I actually bought a bunch at a garage sale from a retiring teacher many years ago (for 25 cents each!) and so my girls were given the opportunity to have fun with them. I also read to the kids from babyhood, and so neither of them really recall when they learned to read, it just seemed to happen magically.

    As a teacher now, I agree with the last comment in that, I don't care how they learn to read, just that they do learn. It's scaring me lately, as more and more kids come to school with no stories being told to them, or read to them, and no understanding of what fabulous mysteries are discovered in books. It is rare for kids to know fairy tales or nursery rhymes these days. It makes me sad.

    My mission in life is to find what interests my fifth graders, and get them excited about reading. For many, it's non-fiction that grabs them, and that's ok with me! I have thousands of books in my room and I expose them to every genre.

    I also read aloud to them every single day, and most of them sit with rapt attention. I do what I can do, one year at a time, to make readers out of them!

  7. Dear Susan,
    The comments to your posting today all made me stop and think new thoughts. What wonderful readers you have. Like Sandi, my desire is just that children learn to read and that someone reads to them when they are young so that they can hear the lyrical cadence of language.

    I do wonder if perhaps texting is not changing the brains of youth today are if they are, because of it, developing an abbreviated attention span. Are the synapses the same? The dendrites? The ability to move along the thread of a philosophical inquiry? The delight in a character's development in a series of books?

    I don't know. I hope only that I live long enough to see my great-great nieces and nephews become teenagers. Then perhaps I'll have some answers to my questions.

  8. Dee, those are also my concerns. In this age of instant computer access, are students being denied the process of 'think time'? Do students pass over historical and cultural classics, simply because they are 'outdated'?

    Sandi, I would love to peruse your library! Your students are blessed to have you!

  9. I remember Dick and Jane. That was some great reading. I remember feeling such pride while I was actually reading that. Between that, the Little Golden Book series, and the old blue Webster's College Dictionary that my father had, I honed my reading chops and cultivated a love for reading that never went away.

    Wrote By Rote

  10. Daniel Webster Elementary School, Mrs. Honkowski first grade - Fun with Dick and Jane. Grabbed a copy on Ebay years ago. just loved those first stories! That would be, 58 since I was born in 52. Kathy Jones. Gary, Indiana, now of Fort Gratiot, Michigan. Miss Gary. Miss innocent childhood. Can mom come pick me up now?


Go won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!