Take Note

March 10, 2004 1 min read

Memory Lane

The days of the nuclear family are alive and well again— at least in the books featuring Dick and Jane.

Baby boomers can take pleasure in once again reading the tales of Mother, Father, Dick, Jane, Sally, and their dog, Spot.

After a 30-year hiatus, reissued editions of the “Dick and Jane” primers appeared in 2002 on the shelves of retail stores, including Wal-Mart. In their first 15 months on the market, the books sold more than 2.5 million copies.

But while the books— and calendars and other memorabilia featuring their characters—may be popular with consumers, some educators note that the books weren’t good tools for teaching reading.

“This is a marketing ploy to capitalize on nostalgia,” said David Bloome, the past president of the National Council of Teachers of English. “When the adults from my generation look back on learning to read and early childhood, we want to remember it fondly.”

The books’ simple sentences and storylines lacked depth, Mr. Bloome complained. In addition, he noted that the books’ concept of the ideal family wasn’t representative of society. He recalls his own feelings of “boredom, stress, and worry” when being called on to read from the books and not being able to use correct pronunciation.

However, the publishers of the new Dick and Jane books see no problem with reverting to one’s childhood.

“Learning to read is a pretty emotional, impactful thing and time, and people are happy to get something associated with that time,” said Paul L. McFall, the president of Scott Foresman, which is owned by Pearson Education, the publisher of the books.

Any fears among teachers that the books will be reincorporated into reading instruction are unwarranted, he says: “People just want to share the stories with their children, and the books have not been used in over 30 years, so it’s not a real issue.”

—Natasha N. Smith