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Dick and Jane were the main characters in popular basal readers written by Zerna Sharp and published by Scott Foresman, that were used to teach children to read from the 1930s through to the 1970s. The main characters, Dick and Jane, were a little boy and girl. Supporting characters included Baby (or Sally), Mother, Father, Spot the dog, Puff the cat, Jack the clown, Tim the teddy bear. They first appeared in the Elson-Gray Readers used in the 1930s. The books relied on sight reading (or "whole word reading") and repetition, using phrases like, "Oh, see. Oh, see Jane. Funny, funny Jane," and they ignored phonics. For this reason, they came to be used less and less as studies supported phonics as a more effective method of gaining literacy.
The simple but distinctive illustrations for the books were done by artists Eleanor Campbell and Keith Ward.
Black characters were not introduced until 1965, when Dick and Jane books were already declining in popularity. In 1955 Rudolf Flesch criticized the Dick and Jane series in his book, Why Johnny Can't Read.
Grade levels[edit | edit source]
- Grade 1 - Fun with Dick and Jane AND Our New Friends
- Grade 2 - Friends and Neighbors AND More Friends and Neighbors
- Grade 3 - Streets and Roads AND More Streets and Roads
The 1962 Established edition titles were: We Read Pictures, We Read More Pictures, Before We Read, Sally Dick and Jane, Fun With Our Family, Fun Wherever We Are, Guess Who, Fun With Our Friends, More Fun With Our Friends (All Grade 1), Friends Old and New, More Friends Old and New (grade 2), Roads to Follow, More Roads to Follow (grade 3), Ventures (4), Vistas (5), Cavalcades (6), Dimensions (7), Challenges (8). The 1965 Multi-Ethnic edition changed the title of the 1st and 2nd pre-primers to Now We Read and Fun With the Family to reflect the addition of an African-American family. These three children were Mike, Pam, and Penny. The content of the 1962 edition was somewhat altered to include this new family in the first grade. The other books retained the 1962 titles, yet reflected numerous multi-ethnic groups. The 1965 edition books were available in two covers - characters like in previous books and a child-art edition which had no characters on the cover.
An experimental ITA (phonetic alphabet) version was launched of the multi-ethnic series in the 60's as well.
In 1966 two companion series were launched to provide for individual differences - Wide Horizons for advanced readers and Open Highways for below average readers.
There were also Catholic and Seventh-Day Adventist editions of the 1960s series. Sally, Dick, and Jane was retitled Judy, John, and Jean to reflect the characters who were renamed after Catholic Saints. The Seventh Day Adventist versions used the 1965 multi-ethnic characters, but retitled the books. For example, Now We Read became Friends to Know.
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