Saturday, August 27, 2011

First Grade: Reading about Dick and Jane, Spot and Sally

When I think of first grade at Jefferson Township School, Mrs. Bernheisel comes to mind immediately.  MY first grade teacher.  Are they all as special as her?  Are they all saints in the eyes and minds of the former students?  Or just Mrs. Bernheisel?

Younger readers might wonder about kindergarten.  What kindergarten?  We didn't have kindergarten at Jefferson in the "old days".  (Thankfully).

Reading is a big memory from the first grade.  All Falling Down is the first book I ever read- about leaves which all fall down.  The bookmobile was an exciting experience for young readers to have a small selection from a mobile library that moved around with a regular schedule.  Reading aloud in class was a large part of the experience of learning to read.

Everyone used the classic readers featuring Dick and Jane with their younger sister Sally and their dog Spot.  Growing up with Dick and Jane by Kismaric and Heiferman is a delightful summary of the schoolbooks that showed a child's world.  The book "takes us back to the seductive watercolor world wher we learned how to read.  It's a world where night never comes, knees never scrape, parents never yell and the fun never stops."  Forty years of this family, starting in 1927, shaped the minds and lives of millions of children.

"Dick is an all-American boy.  Master of a little world that stretches from his screen door, across the green lawn, to a white picket fence.  It's a world where winter never comes, and the neighbors are nowhere to be seen.... (he) gets top billing in America's best-selling Dick and Jane readers because he is the best a boy can be.  A role model for generations of boys... It's Dick, not Father who keeps order and resolves problems..." He's never afraid and works and plays well with his sisters and friends and respects his parents.

"Jane is ... pretty, bright ..stable ... smart and down-to-earth.  Every time she walks onto the page, she's wearing something new."  In fact, she wore over two hundred outfits in her forty year career, according to Kismaric and Heiferman.  Dick never teased her and she never cried.

Spot was featured more than Mother and Father combined, because "Spot wears two hats...make everyone laugh"..and.. he "teaches Dick and Jane how to be responsible children."  He started as a black-and-white terrier and became a springer spaniel in 1936.  Puff the kitten and Tim the teddy bear rounded out the family.

Father went to work and Mother stayed home.  They were perfect safe and content.  OH, to live in the first grade reader and be six years old again might be fun -for a few minutes.

I have a bigger memory for Ted and Sally than Dick and Jane.  I remember "Run, Spot, Run!"  Were they the kids in the second grade reader?  Or did we have the Ted and Sally series in 1953-54 instead of Dick and Jane?  Who has the clear memory on this?  What do you remember about first grade?

Pat Jonas

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