Happy Cheetah Reading

My Adventures with Dick and Jane

Poor Dick and Jane. Although they helped plenty of people learn to read in the mid-Twentieth Century, they haven’t gotten much good press since.

I recently read a woman’s testimonial that she had bought three used collections of these stories, published in the 1980s or 90s, and taught her children to read with them. This was too intriguing to pass up! I hadn’t realized they were still available.

Our copies arrived last week.

And it was interesting. My fourth son had zero desire to read them. “So repetitive!” He said.

And it’s true. One story goes like this: “See, see. See Jane. Oh, Jane. Look, look, look. Oh, oh, oh. Oh, see. Oh, see Jane. Funny, funny Jane.”

I couldn’t make that up if I tried.

But the thing is: the three pictures that go along with this text are adorable. Jane is roller skating with those old-school skates that fit under a pair of shoes. Jane loses one skate. Then she keeps going with confidence, leaving the skate behind. (Or at least, that’s how I interpret the third panel — the picture is a little ambiguous.)

My fifth son, age five, was enthralled with Storybook Treasury of Dick and Jane and Friends. The illustrations are retro enough to be cool (World War II era clothes: super high waists for men’s pants, and suit with hat for office attire), and the stories fairly quickly increase in word count (though they retain a high amount of repetition throughout).

I read every one of the little stories, and he read most of them after me. We had a great time.

But at the end of this collection, I started the second collection. And it was more of the same: start with the same words, in a slightly different order. This book even told some of the same stories, with almost the same illustrations!

And the third book was still Dick and Jane. But now the children were in the 1960s, and their parents were illustrated in a completely different manner.

My fifth son was not interested in the latter two books, and I’m not sure he’ll enjoy looking at the first one much more.

But here’s what was interesting to me. I am sure that my youngest could learn the limited vocabulary in the Dick and Jane books.

But there isn’t much of a progression. The vocabulary is pretty much the same across all three collections. Cars, go, cookie, oh.

Then what?

This is what Dr. Karen was talking about in her history of reading programs. A good reading program offers a progression, and then continues to provide support!

Thank you, Happy Cheetah Reading, for doing exactly that!

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