"Look, Dick, look. Oh, look, Jane. See Father work. See Mother help." . . . Do you remember these people? How about little sister Sally, their dog, Spot, and Puff the cat . . . and Tim, the teddy bear? Yes, these were characters in the Scott and Foresman basic readers for children from the 1930s to the early 1960s. Some of you may had a similar series of books from the Ginn Company, with characters Tom, Betty, Susan, Flip and Frisky. Both also used Grandfather and Grandmother characters, who lived on the farm. More than 80 percent of the first graders in the 1950s used these books to learn how to read and become more proficient as they progressed through the elementary school grades.
Dick and Jane came from a traditional, secure family. They played and worked. They made friends. They respected others. They had fun in the backyard and on their grandparents' farm. They were kind to strangers, and they were nice to each other. Father worked, and Mother took care of their home. Their dog Spot and their cat Puff sometimes got into trouble, but the family always came to the rescue. And Sally had her little stuffed bear, Tim, to keep her company. The entire family represented the American dream way of life at that time when, not coincidentally, church membership reached its peak here in America. I would guess that most of you "baby boomers," like me, learned to read with these books.
But although the primary goal was to teach reading skills, according to a book entitled "Growing Up with Dick and Jane," they also imparted valuable lessons to live by, such as . . .
1. Mind your manners, be considerate of others and be nice to people
2. Respect your parents, behave, follow the rules and ask permission
3. Be creative, amuse yourself, be curious and take chances
4. Work and play well with others, help your siblings and share things
5. Work hard at your job, take school seriously and read lots of books
6. Be kind to animals and appreciate nature
7. Watch out for the safety of others and clean up after yourself
The books stressed patriotism, responsibility, citizenship, religion, family, having fun and the importance of work. But in the late 1950s, American society was changing. Television had become a major influence, with the average child watching four hours of TV each day. And with these TV shows came hundreds of commercials for new products, aimed to attract both children and adults. Materialism started to replace long held family values. To have these "newer and better" things . . . toys, new appliances, gadgets, a new car, a bigger house, etc., more money was needed. Many times Mother and Father now both worked in town. And the stress experienced from the civil rights movement, changing demographics, politics, the Vietnam War, the on-going Cold War with Russia, an ever increasing divorce rate, school consolidation, the influence of drugs and the dying out of small towns and farms, along with the growth of large cities . . . all of these and more . . . ended the Dick and Jane reading books. Instead of teaching by recognizing the whole word, and using colorful illustrations and stories full of suspense and surprise, the new readers emphasized phonics, multiculturalism and "real life" stories aimed at a "diverse" population.
Dick, Jane, and Sally . . . and Tom, Betty, and Susan . . . helped more than 85 million children learn to read from the 1930s to the mid-1960s. These books also taught important values. I am glad that my teachers used those books to teach me to read. I have loved to read all of my life, and those important lessons and values are still ingrained in me today. The "American dream" is still alive in my mind, and at age 72, I still look forward to each day with optimism. And guess what? We have the Dick and Jane "learn to read" series of books here at my library. In fact, I taught one of my granddaughters how to read with the first book. You should have seen the smile on her face when she realized she could read!
But schools no longer use these books. Goodbye, Dick. Goodbye, Jane. Goodbye, Sally. Goodbye, Spot and Puff and Tim. Goodbye, Father and Mother. Goodbye, Grandfather and Grandmother . . . I miss you.

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history. He writes a general column that appears in The Paper on Fridays and a local sports column on Tuesdays.