June 12, 2013

Having Fun With Vintage Dick and Jane Books

It’s no big secret that I am a collector. I collect all kinds of things--old toys, vintage dolls, rejection slips. I also accumulate things. The difference between collecting and accumulating is when you collect, you actively go out and search for something. When you accumulate, it seems to just happen. Like osmosis, accumulating does not require any input of energy. It took plenty of energy to acquire all my rejection slips, which is the reason I say I collected rather than accumulated them. Granted, I didn’t set out to acquire my rejection collection--I set out to get acceptances, so if you look at it that way, I guess it’s also fair to say I accumulated them--obviously, without meaning to. 

Something else I managed to accumulate was a fairly impressive stash of vintage Dick and Jane type readers. The accumulation started when I happened to find a Dick and Jane book for a mere quarter at a garage sale. How could I not buy it for that price? Then I found another one for cheap at a flea market, then another at a thrift shop, and over time I ended up with a small hoard of vintage children’s school books. I didn’t just limit myself to Dick and Jane books—pretty much any old school reader I stumbled on piqued my interest. If it was inexpensive, I took it home, regardless of the condition. A true book collector would have taken into consideration the condition of the books when purchasing them, which is one reason I don’t call my accumulation a real collection. I didn’t intentionally set out to collect these books--much like I didn’t intend to collect all those rejection slips, but…as you know…stuff happens.

Countless kids grew up reading Dick and Jane so it’s a given that there will be some serious reminiscing going on any time a person leafs through the pages of these books for the first time as an adult. The intrigue of the books isn’t because they are well written, that’s for sure. The text is so cheesy your cholesterol level goes up just reading them. Check out these sample pages:


All I can say is, wow!  It’s not just cholesterol that is rising here. That little Dick was really getting some action back then—with his sisters! And if Jane and Sally weren’t around to help, he was boy enough to just do the job himself.

While I’ll admit the text is hilarious (especially when taken out of context), it’s the nostalgia of these books that is the big draw. Like so many other “vintage” kids, I remember learning to read with repetitive sentences like, “See Spot run. Run, Spot. Run.” I adore the illustrations in the old readers, but again, it is the nostalgia of simpler times that especially draws me to them—Mom in the kitchen cooking dinner or dressed in her two-piece tailored suit, matching hat, and white gloves just to go visit the neighbor up the street. Then there’s Dad in his suit, tie, and of course, wearing his hat, driving the lone family car off to work. Let’s not overlook the little girls wearing pretty pastel-colored dresses and their Mary Jane shoes running around at the playground, fearless of exposing their days-of-the-week ruffled panties when they turned upside down on the monkey bars. Those were the days, right?

There is no denying Dick and Jane helped millions of school children learn to read. Thanks in part to them, many of those readers grew up to become writers--including the person writing this.

Leave a comment if you grew up with Dick and Jane, and even if you didn't, leave a comment anyway.


If you’d like to learn a little about the history behind the Dick and Jane books, check out this site:  http://www.tagnwag.com/dick_jane/