Learning to Read

Fun with Dick and Jane

 

The first street my family lived on in Athens (Ohio) was Grosvenor. The house was on a hillside, and had underneath, where the structure was built to overhang—so the house would sit more or less level—soft loamy dirt, that was always dry and made a place to play.

Since my grandparents had worked in the Mount Vernon, Illinois, public school system, we had a lot of old schoolbooks around the house. By the time I was in first grade, where kids began learning to read, I’d had a head start; and a lot of the reading I did was Dick and Jane. My first grade class had a Dick and Jane workbook; the characters in those days still in use for teaching.

They way we played pretend games, we had to choose who to identify with. I don’t recall if we specifically played Dick and Jane. I know we played Star Trek, a cool show that came on after bedtime, that we had to beg to watch. (My sister liked Chekov, and I had to be Captain Kirk, though I liked Riley, who was barely a character—because we had childish rules that two of us couldn’t like the same actor…but, readers, Mark Goddard all the way on Lost in Space, even though my sister claimed him. She let me have Colonel Foster on UFO. And note, the women on sci-fi shows didn’t get to do much, so it’s unsurprising in imagination we would rather have been the crew members allowed to explore planets.)

At any rate, in this hierarchy, I was the little sister, Sally. One of our cats of those days was named Puff.

And, coming full circle, I can recall marveling that the name pronounced “Grovner” could be spelled the way it was—but I wasn’t school age during the year or two we lived on that street. I think my sister was the one who could read the sign, and that was how I got the information, though I remember looking up at it and seeing the name in letters.

 

 

Page from Piet Worm's children's book Three Little Horses

Here’s a page from one of my favorite books from childhood, Piet Worm’s Three Little Horses, a somewhat odd story about an artist who befriends horses, and takes them into town dressed as women—but a story terrifically illustrated.

 

Books in the Athens Middle School library

 

Favorite books some of you may remember. The first grouping were my own discoveries, and the second, books my sister read first and recommended. They are all look-upable, so I’ve written very brief descriptions of the plots.

 

Why Not Join the Giraffes, Hope Campbell, 1970

Girl tries to impress boy by adopting rebellious look.

The Whirling Shapes, Joan North, 1968

Girl has power to stop mysterious force.

The Apple Stone, Nicholas Stuart Gray, 1965

Siblings find magic object, adventures ensue.

The Power of Stars, Louise Lawrence, 1972

Visit by alien force causes havoc for teenage friends.

The Ghost of Opalina, Peggy Bacon, 1967

Family is aided through generations by cat’s ghost.

 

 

Campion Towers, John and Patricia Beatty, 1965

During English Civil War, girl on Roundhead side has cavalier adventures.

A Candle in Her Room, Ruth M. Arthur, 1966

Haunted doll causes trouble for newly arrived family.

My Darling My Hamburger, Paul Zindel, 1969

Pregnant teen gets abortion.

Knee-Deep in Thunder, Sheila Moon, 1967

Girl travels to tiny world, where her friends are insects.

 

 

 

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