Dick and Jane

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Dick and Jane were the main characters in popular basal readers written by Zerna Sharp that were used to teach children to read during the 1930s through the 1960s. 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, and Tim the teddy bear. They first appeared in the Elson-Gray Readers used in the 1930s. In the 1950s, 80% of first graders were using Dick and Jane in the classroom. 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.

Many people objected to the idealized, white-picket-fence family on which the stories centered. Black characters were not introduced until 1965, when Dick and Jane books were already declining in popularity. In 1955 Rudolph Flesch criticized the Dick and Jane series in his book, Why Johnny Can't Read.

First editions of the books are now worth as much as two hundred dollars. The books were reissued in 2003 and over 2.5 million copies were sold, but this time the publishers had warned against using them to teach reading to children. Related merchandise, such as shirts and magnets, also gained wide popularity, particularly among people who had never been exposed to the original series but were familiar with catch phrases like "See Spot run!"

The title of one of the books, Fun with Dick and Jane, inspired a 1977 film of the same title, and its 2005 remake.

Grade Levels

  • 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

See Also

Sources and External Links

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