Children learning to read for the first time became familiar with the main characters in the Dick and Jane readers: children Dick and Jane, Baby Sally, Spot the dog, Puff the cat and Tim the Teddy Bear. Interestingly, Spot was originally a cat in the 1930s, but the character was changed to a dog in later editions.
The Dick and Jane readers were used to teach reading from Grade Prep. Young children practised their readers, becoming proficient and then progressed to the next book. Children proudly took them home for practise – nestled within a cardboard protector held in place with a piece of string. The method used in these books was to learn by repetition, taking in the whole word, and allowed the new reader to become comfortable with simple phrases such as ‘“Look look,” said Sally’.
William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp were the authors of the popular books and artists Eleanor Campbell and Keith Ward created the illustrations. Robert Childress took over as illustrator in the 1950s and Richard Wiley was the creator of the 1960s images.
Public Record Office Victoria has in their custody a number of the readers in the VPRS 13554 Ministerial Textbook Collection. Within this series you can find teacher curriculum books for use in State Schools. From consignments P1-P27, the units contain text books covering such subjects as: Science, History, Mathematics, Geography, English, Language, Religious, Social Studies, Readers, Spelling and Writing, Story books, Domestic Arts, Nursery Collections and Music.
This series was a former special collection of the Ministerial Library transferred to Public Record Office Victoria upon the closure by the Education History Unit in 1992. The series has a nominal start date of 1980 however it is uncertain when the Ministerial Library Textbook Collection was established. It may have started when the Department of Education was located in Nauru House, 80 Collins Street in the late 1970s. The collection was an initiative of Mr Albert Housden and employee of the Department. The Education History Unit added items to the Collection from various donors including closed schools and individual donors.
Kerry Harding, Access Services Officer
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