Sunday, September 26, 2010


I’ve written of my learning to read at four, courtesy of Miss Kitty across the street---Bless her Dear, Generous, Patient Heart. She made me free with any and all of the books in her enormous bookcases, and away I went. I gobbled up words like popcorn at the movies, never looking away, never losing track, never paying attention to my greedy fingers cramming the luscious morsels into my mouth.

I’m hoping to instill such a love of reading into all the GrandChildren, and every package contains books of some sort. Our lower shelves, stripped of their Clancy and Koontz, have merry stacks of Seuss and Milne and Potter and Grahame, in those wonderful higgle-piggle piles of mixed sizes and colors which tilt and sway like Technicolor Jengas, requiring a call of “Cleeeeen-Up!” perhaps twice a day.

We read together, Sweetpea and I, and she sees the love her Ganner and I have for our books---we can’t think of anything as important to a child’s educational preparation as the love of Reading.
I recently found an immense edition of the Dick and Jane “readers” of my own first grade days for Our Girl, with a slick, bright yellow cover and the heft of an encyclopedia. The little folks are exactly the same, in their Thirties and Forties little outfits and shoes, their parents’ clothes and expressions the ones I remember, and Father’s hat as natural to the page as the little brown oxfords and the Mary Janes.

Sunny skies all around, except the occasional patter of friendly rain, occasioning the donning of perfectly-matched slickers, hats and boots, for laughing adventures beneath bright umbrellas.

In spite of having read a lot of what today’s kids call “chapter books” provided by Miss Kitty and the local library by the time I started First Grade, I somehow remember the Dick and Jane books as having been much more inviting and interesting.

These things have absolutely NO PLOT, people.

Except maybe for that time Puff was up the tree, with all the suspense of the Lost Kitty Carry-All---there’s no real action, anywhere.

They Look and See, and sometimes GO, but that about wraps it up. Even just-turned-three Sweetpea prefers ANYTHING else---she likes a plot and a conclusion as well as the next person.

The other mystery is that we were forbidden to “read ahead” of the day’s lessons. What on earth was the great denouement---the solution---the climax they were hoping to preserve? Were they going to solve a mystery---take a trip---get a new pet---do ANYTHING besides Look and See?

The colors are still bright, the family cheery and loving, the pages still the depictions of the Perfect Family of the Forties---three happy children living with the same Mother and Father they started out with, in a house with a picket fence, a dog, a cat.

But let’s face it---Fact of Life:

One point to Thomas Wolfe---Dick and Jane ain’t as much fun as they useta be.

Downer. Down, down, downer.


Chesapeake said...

Apparently you said it so eloquently no one wants to comment on Dick & Jane: Down, Down, Downer!

Indy Cookie said...

Isn't it funny how our younger eyes appreciated them more!? I always wanted a dog just like Flip (I believe that was his name)!

racheld said...

Good Morning, Ladies!! It's good to hear from both of you!!

Comments are sparse, most days, Chesapeake---I'd love it if everyone would join in.

And Cookie!!! I've been missing you! Hope all is well in the land of Blue-Eyed Wonder.

And I don't remember a Flip---the dog in these books is named Spot. Cat is Puff. Teddy is Tim. We've just read them all the way through.

Kouign Aman said...

I think when we were very little, that form of conversation was still familiar to us. Dont 2-yr olds talk that way? So it was reading a slice of life. That said, they always bored me. My mom had to pay me a penny a page to read them.

My sister learned to read using the books written by the principal of our elementary school. The little books had plots, and awesome characters like Lots-of-fun and Not-fun, and Pigglepug, and Sat-upon. Even tho we were not to take those books home, she just found an entire set in her stored stuff, in the nick of time for her son to learn to read! Pigglepug is beautiful.

Maggie McArthur said...

My early literary critic self made fun of them as I read them. "See Dick run!" So what, said I.

But like you, I love the illustrations.

Southern Lady said...

You always think of the most interesting subjects, Rachel. I remember picking up a couple of "Dick and Jane" books in Barnes & Noble not long ago, and thinking, "How dumb" ... and to think that's how we learned to read waaaay back then. It's a wonder any of us acquired an interest in reading after being exposed to the boring "adventures" of Dick and Jane.

Thank goodness for the Honey Bunch, Bobbsey Twins, and Miss Piggle Wiggle books that came along later. I can't wait to read some of those to our granddaughter. Great post, Rachel!

Tonja said...

I, too, remember these. And, I preferred anything to them. I always thought they were boring. But, chapter books? Loved them. My love of reading started early. And, like you say,that's the best gift to give a of reading.

Kim Shook said...

I wanted SO to love the Dick and Jane books! I loved the illustations, the sweetness of Sally, Puff, the house. But I think that I was BORN with a more extensive vocabulary! I still love looking at the books, though. And YES, the verboten 'reading ahead'! What was that all about? I laughed and laughed when I read that, Rachel!

Beverly said...

You gifted me another smile with this post. Memories of Dick and Jane and Spot will always be in my heart. Dick, Jane and many other special friends led me to my love of reading. They were closely followed by Trixie, Cherry, Jo, Meg, Beth, Amy, Laura, Mary, etc. Yes, special friends forever.♥

Kouign Aman said...

I think they forbid us to read ahead, just to ensure we did.

Valentina Pshenichkin said...

The Majelix books are only available at the school, as miniatures given one at a time when you "pass" the corresponding full sized books.

I guess Mrs. Johnson could be sure we weren't reciting from memory if she knew there was no way we'd seen or read the stories before, nor had them read aloud to us.

Hi Rosemary said...

I was looking for the chapter where Dick didn't want to pick the flowers and give them away. But Sally did (or was it Jane) and her garden turned out beautiful. I might have it a little wrong but that is how I remember it. I asked my older sister if she remembered that chapter and she didn't remember it at all.

Hi Rosemary said...

I was trying to remember the chapter where Dick wouldn't pick his flowers in his garden and Sally (or maybe it was Jane) kept giving her flowers away. By the end of a few weeks she had a beautiful garden and Dick's garden had all dying flowers in it. I asked my older sister if she remembered that chapter and she had no clue what I was talking about. I liked the books and I liked it because they were so easy to read.