Monday, August 15, 2011

COLLECTION #32: Dick & Jane Books!

 If I put all of my collections in order from most favorite to least, today's collection would be right up near the top of the list. These are my "Dick and Jane" books, the elementary school readers that have become synonymous with mid-20th century American childhood. I got my very first vintage reader nearly 30 years ago, when my oldest son was in nursery school.  We were visiting the home of one of his little friends, when I noticed the book "Streets and Roads" in their bookshelf. I hadn't seen that book since I was a very little girl. Although it was a school textbook, our family had this book, and I remember poring through it as a child. Each illustration brought back a flood of memories. Well, that little girl's Mom gave me the book, and I have treasured it ever since.  Many years later, as I began to collect vintage school books, I discovered that these "Dick and Jane Books", published by Scott, Foresman & Co. were very expensive. Sometimes 10 times more expensive than other schoolbooks from the same time period. Although I had a growing collection of vintage schoolbooks, I only owned a couple of from this series. And none of them were the 1950s vintage that I wanted.
One day, about 7 or 8 years ago, I was visiting one of my favorite thrift shops. This shop is run by senior citizens, and  they have a large book section. There is an older gentleman who runs that department, and he keeps everything beautifully organized.  One day, I went over to the children's section, and looked down at the bottom shelf. What I saw was so amazing, that I couldn't quite believe my eyes. There, in beautiful, nearly mint condition, were nine books of the 1950s series. I snatched them up, fearful someone would say that they were there by mistake. When I went to pay, I forked over the enormous sum of $5 for the entire stash. They were beautiful! The only ones missing were "Fun With Dick & Jane", and the 2 sixth grade readers. I soon went on eBay, and bought a near mint Fun With Dick and Jane, it seemed logical that I now needed an almost perfect book, since my others were so nice.

Through the years, I have also acquired a few of the later, 1960s editions, which are called The New Basic Readers. I also have a couple of the pre-primers, and one adorable workbook called "Before We Read". It's full of lovely illustrations, picture games, and items to color.  I have one teacher's edition of the New Basic Readers, and 2 Cathedral editions (Catholic school books). Although not as collectible as the regular editions, it's fun to see the illustrations with the nuns and crucifixes.

Scott, Foresman and Co. was the publisher of the Dick and Jane books. They were originally developed in the early 1930s, as a result of careful research and innovation. It was believed that children would learn to read easier, if they could identify with the stories they were reading. So, the quintessential characters were born: Dick and Jane. 4 letters, No last name. Easy to read. By the 1940s, these basic readers were the most popular readers in the country.In the 1950s, we baby boomers enjoyed reading about the idealized world of Dick and Jane. But by the 1960s, this idealized, white bread world was out-of-date. Although Scott, Foresman introduced muliti-racial characters, and more sophisticated stories, the Dick and Jane books and approach to reading was retired at the end of the decade.

I think their continued popularity is due to the innocence and sweetness of the stories and illustrations. Cute kids, simple lives, happy homes. Many children didn't have such perfect lives, but it was reassuring to know that Dick and Jane did.

 I also have a fun Dick and Jane pop culture book called "Growing Up with Dick and Jane".  It's a fun compendium of fun facts, photos, and interesting insights into those of us who grew up in the Dick and Jane years. 


Rossie said...

Stef, you have taken me back to my childhood with these. We also had them as readers in primary school. I was in a thrift shop once and saw an Enid Blyton novel I used to have so I picked it up and opened the cover to find my cousins name and address written in what was then his eight year old handwriting. Needless to say I bought it because he loved his books and he would have been devastated to know it was sitting in a bookshop. I had tears in my eyes when I did because he passed away in dreadful drowning accident attempting to save his son who was also lost to us. Just sometimes you can find more than a bargain.
Ros135 2ps

Geri said...

I am still looking for the book that has a page showing a man raking leaves onto the street where they were being burned. The kids were all around and it seems potatoes were being baked in the leaves. I have not found the book but at least would love a copy of the page! I don't know the name of the book but that bit made a huge impression on me. Do you think you have it?

Stefanie Eskander said...

Hi Geri:
I probably do have that book, but unfortunately, we are in the middle of moving, and all of my school books are going into storage. I'm already at our new area, and so won't be able to look for your illustration.
If I get a chance, I'll look a little bit when I'm home for Thanksgiving, but I don't have much time for looking. I hope I'm lucky!

Goldielover said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Goldielover said...

Nice to see these. I have a fairly decent collection of Dick and Jane books myself, mainly the Canadian editions published by Wm. Gage. The schools in Vancouver were still using the 40s vintage ones when I started grade one in 1962, although I think they updated soon afterwards as my younger sister had newer ones. I was fortunate enough to find the three paperback pre-primers in really good shape, plus I've got nice copies of Fun with Dick and Jane, Our New Friends, Good Times With Our Friends Friends and Neighbours, More Friends and Neighbours, Streets and Roads, and More Streets and Roads. I am considering getting the later ones just to complete the set, but I think they'd have to be American editions, as I don't think Gage published Canadian editions of the 1940s books for the higher grades, although I know they did for the later 1950s ones.

(Sorry about the deleted post - Blogger wouldn't let me edit.)

ron said...

i have collections of these not for sale,,i loved these early in life and happened upon these in an old school book depository years ago..many still in excellent condition and i still read them once in awhile.. said...

looking for the book name of the airplane ride with dick and jane..i have the book but can't remember which one it is..