Dick and Jane School Books

Most all school children from the 1930s to mid-1960s had the popular ‘Dick and Jane’ books as their early readers. About 4 out of 5 schools in America used these books. There are some interesting early aspects of the books that changed over the years.

Popular pet animal started off first as ‘Spot’ a cat. It was changed to a dog in 1940 and the cat was renamed Puff. A younger sister, named Sally was added.

The books did vary based on grade level with just so many words in was a book. For a 1st grade book, there were just 300 words per book. By 3rd grade, the number of words was 1,000. In 6th grade, there were 4,000 words.

These new books were simple, they were illustrated in color and filled with characters that modern children could relate to.

For the parochial school, there was a Catholic edition called ‘Cathedral’ series. Their main characters were named Jean, John and Judy.

Another similar children’s reader was done by a different publisher as The “Alice and Jerry” books which followed a sister and brother, Alice and Jerry, as well as their dog Jip, through a series of simple events in relatively plain settings.

There were those who were critical of the books, that they only depicted white, middle-class Americans using the whole-word method (sight reading) of teaching reading.

The ‘Dick and Jane’ and ‘Alice and Jerry’ books lost favor several years after the publication of Dr. Seuss’ ‘The Cat in the Hat’ in March 1957. Other Seuss books followed. Each providing about a mischievous, irrepressible soul who always seemed kind of ageless.

The ‘Dick and Jane’ series was retired in 1965.

This would be good to include in the family history if you learn that an ancestor did read ‘Dick and Jane’.

Photo: Page from ‘Dick and Jane’ – Sally showing Spot a treat.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

School Life

Your Ancestors in School

School Yearbooks

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