Sunday, October 23, 2011

My BFF Dick!

Apparently, we baby boomers still managed to read despite the criticism heaped upon the Dick and Jane readers back in the 1950s and 60s and later. I knew their world was perfect because it sure wasn’t anything close to my family when I started first grade in 1958. In Dick and Jane’s world, daddy always had a job, mom had no need to work, the Russians weren’t aiming their nukes at them and their houses were not being foreclosed on. The myths of the American way of life were continued when we went home at night to TV shows like Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best. At the time, I liked Dick and Jane and all the kids in their two-dimensional fantasy world. And to be truthful, I wanted to live in their world. The Dick and Jane books were one happy little neighborhood on Prozac and I wanted in.

One early critic to the series was Rudolf Flesch, a reading expert during the 50s and 60s. Flesch was the author of numerous books on literacy, but he is probably best known for his book: Why Johnny Can’t Read. It was there that he skewered the Dick and Jane series as “horrible, stupid, emasculated, pointless, tasteless little readers.”

The illustrator of the books was a woman named Eleanor Campbell (1898 - 1986). She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Today, original illustrations by her are rare, as most of the original art was thrown into the trash by Ms. Campbell herself. Oops.

Still, count me in amongst the legions of nostalgic fans of Dick and Jane. We don’t really care that we were being sold a dream back in grade school. We boomers have come to terms with the fact that Jane is on her third marriage, Dick is an alcoholic and did some time for tax evasion, and that Spot was run over long ago by the milk truck.

An AM repost from 12/9/08.


Folk Heart said...

Ha! So funny. Really got a good laugh out of your commentary.

our spirit said...

lets go to peace,,,,,

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