Ode to Dick and Jane (and Spot, of course)

dick and jane

Reading has always been a passion of mine, so it seems appropriate that my first blog entry as a children’s picture book author is on “Read Across America Day” this year.

Today, March 1, 2013 is the National Education Association’s “Read Across America Day.” Now in its 16th year, this year-round program focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships, and reading resources.

I learned to read in 1st grade at Queen of All Saints Catholic School in Chicago, IL. No memory of books exists for me prior to my first “reading primers” of the now classic Dick and Jane series (William S. Gray).  These books were used in schools to teach children in America to read between the 1930’s and 1970’s.  (So, if  you are trying to calculate my age, I’m somewhere between 34 and 83 years old. Take your best guess.)

Learning to read through the Dick and Jane series was a “moment of impact” for me. I experienced that exquisite sense of escapism through books at the same time as I was learning to read. I found Dick and Jane’s idyllic life fascinating because it was so different from my own (a loud, Filipino, dual working-parent household). I was transported to another time and place — even though my then 6-year-old brain doubted such a sterilized world existed.

Sadly, Dick and Jane’s childhoods will seem too basic for my daughters’ overstimulated brains. They will wonder why Dick and Jane don’t have video games, iPads or cell phones. Fun with Dick and Jane won’t include a Wii or an Xbox. They might even question why there are no wizard or vampire encounters for Dick and Jane. There is a high probability they will abandon a Dick and Jane book before they get to see Spot run.

I miss my old friends, Dick and Jane. I miss relating to Dick and Jane’s simple childhood pleasures of playing with a ball or wagon. I miss seeing Spot run. I even miss old-school “reading primers.” So on this “Read Across America Day” 2013, I pay tribute to the iconic Dick and Jane series, and its influence on multiple generations of readers.

I wouldn’t be the reader, nor the writer, I am today without Dick, Jane or Spot.

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