How did you learn to read?
September 16, 2005 11:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm curious about what the various MeFites around the world used as their primary reader, or first "learn to read" book in school?

A lot of Americans used the "Dick and Jane" books in the 1950s and 60s, but our school used the "Jack and Janet" series put out by Houghton-Mifflin. I just wondered what the equivalent of "Dick and Jane" would be in, say, Germany? Did you have "Hans and Heidi" books? ;>
posted by Oriole Adams to Education (40 answers total)
Believe it or not, my mom taught me to read with Teaser and the Firecat, by Cat Stevens, which was printed in English with black text, French with blue text and ... spanish, I think, with red text. We just basically read the story over and over and over and over; eventually, I memorized the words and started associating the printed text with the sounds.

What's odd is that I remember this process pretty clearly, but I don't remember ever not knowing how to read (I was pretty young.)

Hey, wow, a rambling anecdote that doesn't even begin to answer the question! I think I'll post anyway, in case anyone out there remembers Teaser and the Firecat, and knows where I can pick up a copy for my kids.

For the record, I'm pretty sure the school I went to in first grade had "See Spot." Who may have belonged to Dick and Jane. But I was six, so my recollection is bound to be faulty.

posted by ZakDaddy at 11:22 PM on September 16, 2005

Hungry Lambs, The Stars in the Sky, The Sweet Porridge (sorry, no pic)... New Zealand, 1972. I was the first kid in my class to read Hungry Lambs and the teacher was so excited she opened up the folding doors that separated our classroom from the next and made everyone clap. So embarrassing.
posted by Pigpen at 11:23 PM on September 16, 2005

After I was taught the alphabet, and was first read to (Dr. Seuss), the first books I remember reading were the Curious George series. My sister got her start on books that were accompanied by audio tapes. She went through a pile of them on her Fischer Price tape player over a six month period, listening to the tape, and following along in the book, looking at pictures and reading the words (I guess). After that, she gave up on audio books, and moved right along to chapter books. To this day, she reads much faster than me, and her editing/grammatical skills are significantly better than mine (I'm 22, she's 16).
posted by ruwan at 11:32 PM on September 16, 2005

I didn't learn to read in school, but at home.

The earliest books I can remember reading are various Dr. Seuss books, various Little Golden books, Go Dog, Go, and Drummer Hoff. And, while it's not a book, Sesame Street.

This was at Spangdahlem AB, Zweibrucken AB, Miami, and Phoenix / Luke AFB. By the time I started kindergarten in Phoenix, I *think* I got put into a reading class with other already-readers, and that we started on collections of stories.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:32 PM on September 16, 2005

In the first grade we learned from these horrible Mabel O'Donnell books about Janet and Mark.

Even someone who didn't already know how to read would have been bored stupid by Janet and Mark, but no one was allowed to read any more quickly than the slowest reader in the class. I'm getting pissed off just thinking about it.

To this day, I wonder how my teachers could stand to teach from it.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:41 PM on September 16, 2005

Here's a pic of a book in same series as Janet and Mark, just to aggravate any went-to-public-school-in-the-early-1970s PTSD.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:46 PM on September 16, 2005

I was lucky to live in a house filled with books with a family that thought a trip to the library was as important as attending daily mass so I learned to read before going to school. Favourite book then was a collection of short stories, including a tale about a little girl and her mother, living in poverty in a forest. The little girl finds or is given a magic purse that contains a never ending supply of shiny silver pennies so her life and that of her mother is transformed. I suspect that help in identifying this book will turn up as an askmetafilter question in the not too distant future :-)

But for first reading books at school it was Janet and John in the UK (some 30 odd years ago), published by Ladybird. I believe there were also Peter and Jane titles in the series. Enid Blyton was also hugely popular among children of my generation.

From this long thread on BookCrossing I see that we have Mimi die Lesemaus (Mimi the reading mouse) in Germany; Coquito in Peru, Rosa & Pepín (plus Lobo the dog and Mota the cat); possibly Wim en Pim in the Netherlands (I don't think that it's a set primary reader in Dutch schools).

I'm looking forward to reading other replies to this question, thanks for posting it Oriole!
posted by ceri richard at 11:52 PM on September 16, 2005

I grew up in British Columbia, Canada. We used a Canadian reader series called Starting Points in Language Arts (1976). It featured Mr. Mugs, a sheepdog. I think it was published by Ginn, since my teachers always called the book-of-the-year the Ginn Reader. However, I mostly learned to read using the Encyclopedia Britannica's children's encyclopedias at home.
posted by acoutu at 12:16 AM on September 17, 2005

My school had the Sullivan readers--Sam, Ann, Walter, Mr. Know-it--All..., but I don't have any memory of learning how to read. My father told me that when I was two, I told my godmother that a sign said "exit".
posted by brujita at 12:20 AM on September 17, 2005

Actually, I now recall using a reader before we started the Ginn Series. It had children named Jill, Bill (he was a pill), Fran and Nan. Any clue as to what book that was?
posted by acoutu at 12:21 AM on September 17, 2005

The How and Why Wonder Book of Oceanography. I still keep it at my desk.
posted by Evstar at 12:25 AM on September 17, 2005

Oh, your'e talking at school. Sorry. In that case, I don't remember.
posted by Evstar at 12:26 AM on September 17, 2005

In England in the early 60s it was Janet and John books.

"This is Janet"
"This is John"
"See the dog"
"See the dog run"

In the 70s they were phased out as being hopelessly sexist and non PC (Janet helped Mummy in the house and John and Daddy were gods).

But they've been brought up to date for the next generation.
posted by essexjan at 1:30 AM on September 17, 2005

I learned at the age of four. I have no recollection of how that happened.

In Kindergarten they got me started on third grade SRA

I learned how to read music at the same time. But like English, I have no recollection of how it actually happened.

I guess I'm no help. As far as I know, the process of learning was so quick and early it may as well have never happened.
posted by sourwookie at 1:30 AM on September 17, 2005

Most probably a story from the Little Golden Book series, the "Three Little Pigs" rings a bell, but I know there were plenty others.
posted by Chimp at 2:42 AM on September 17, 2005

essexjan, they were still using Janet & John in Scotland in the mid-1970s. Except, that is, for the schools that used the disastrous Initial Teaching Alphabet.

We also had SRA, but we were told to ignore the 'funny American spelling'. I remember getting to use the coveted gold pencil to mark the progress sheet.

I don't remember learning to read. My mum made us flashcards pre-school, so Primary One was all about boredom and petty violence at the sandpit for me.
posted by scruss at 4:36 AM on September 17, 2005

Sesame Street.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:15 AM on September 17, 2005

Another one for 'Janet & John' (in Scotland, early 70s).
posted by PurpleJack at 5:42 AM on September 17, 2005

I remember a book featuring a character named Mr. Fig who was shaped like, amazingly, a fig. It was Book 3 of three books, each of a different challenge level and plot. That was first grade, I think, 1987 or so in Florida.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:17 AM on September 17, 2005

i learned from detergent and cereal boxes ... when they threw dick and jane at me in first grade, i got bored and started to read some book about alligators in florida ... they quickly bumped me up to 3rd grade english
posted by pyramid termite at 6:37 AM on September 17, 2005

I am soooo old. Dick and Jane Primary Readers.
posted by Corky at 6:50 AM on September 17, 2005

Everybody wants to brag about sneaking Shakespeare off the shelf at the age of 6 months, but the question is not just how you learned to read, but what primer did you and other children in your country use in school. (By the way, where do you live and how do you pronounce "primer" -- like "primmer" or like "prime" + "er"?)

In Poland, Elementarz was popular for a long time. And here are some older Polish primers -- click the pictures.

> I am soooo old.

Yeah. I was a Dick and Jane kid. I remember when our school got Tip and Mitten, but I was too old by then.
posted by pracowity at 7:03 AM on September 17, 2005

acoutu writes "It featured Mr. Mugs, a sheepdog."

Oh wow. I had completely forgotten about that book series. Thanks for the link.
posted by purephase at 7:05 AM on September 17, 2005

My dad taught me to read before I started school using the McGuffy readers. They were far more effective than the methods the public schools later imposed upon my peers.
posted by cmonkey at 7:09 AM on September 17, 2005

In first grade I believe we had this reading textbook called Footprints. I think it was actually split up into 3 sections and one of the other was called Carnival. I think the 4th grade reader was titled Melody and had a purple cover with horns on it. I've looked all over trying to find references to these books or at least pictures of their covers and cannot. I don't know if the publisher was Houghton Mifflin or HBJ, but when the school upgraded textbooks they did buy from HBJ. The Footprints book is not this one, as it was published in 1986. First grade for me was 1981, so these were probably put out mid 70s.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:26 AM on September 17, 2005

We moved from Chile to the US when I was 3. My mom taught me to read in Spanish before I started grade school using the same book she'd learned to read from. I think it was called simply "Abecedario" (trans.: ABC-ary), and had a pic of a boy and girl on the cover, and they were reading the same book, with a pic of a boy and a girl on the cover, etc., so it was also my introduction to the concept of recursion.
posted by signal at 7:55 AM on September 17, 2005

How did you learn to read?

Fem myror är fler än fyra elefanter
posted by mr.marx at 8:06 AM on September 17, 2005

My mom taught me using Why Johnny Can't Read. I recall not liking it, but I guess it worked. (This was in the US in the seventies.)

There was also a stage during which I refused to go to sleep unless we read either Green Eggs and Ham or Robert the Rose Horse.
posted by mookieproof at 8:21 AM on September 17, 2005

Catholic school, so no Dick & Jane; instead, we had Ann & David. I remember those SRA reading kits. I used to read ahead and get in trouble. Grade school was awful.
posted by theora55 at 8:29 AM on September 17, 2005

At school (US East Coast, early 60s) my first was Tim (from the Dick and Jane series as noted above - Tim was a collie-dog, Mitten, a cat). A huge version of the book was used as a teaching aid, pages maybe three by four feet -- but this was hopeless for me, with my myopia -- I couldn't see the blackboard clearly until I acquired my first spectacles, the following year. And anyway, this was during a phase when Phonics was out, and Whole Language was king, an approach which didn't work for this student. Enlightenment finally came through tediuos sessions at home, where my father taught me to sound out the words in The Little Engine That Could.
posted by Rash at 8:49 AM on September 17, 2005

We had Dick & Jane at least for first grade, and, like small_ruminant, nobody was allowed to read ahead and it was miserably boring. I hated Dick and Jane and even hated Spot and Muffin. The next year we moved and that school had actual stories in a big book which were much better. This was late 60s, early 70s US.

It took me a long time to learn to read until they discovered I needed glasses. Because I'm tall I had to sit in the back of the class, because I'm shy I never said anything and I didn't even know the teacher was writing on the blackboard. I still remember getting my first pair of glasses and being just amazed at how everything leapt into clarity. I read my way through all of the Dick & Jane books that next week and then was bored silly the rest of the year.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:50 AM on September 17, 2005

They didn't introduce any sort of primer to my [parochial Catholic school] kindergarten class until the very end of the year; most of the year was spent on the alphabet. I seem to recall that the first full sentences occurred at the end of the book, and that the first one said "We fly!" and had a picture of an owl sitting in an airplane with some other animal. If anyone else used this, I'd be curious to find out what it was... The Footprints/Carnival/Melody books that pieoverdone were definitely the ones that we used in the next few grades.

I think I don't remember the first book or workbook very well because the kindergarten teacher knew I could already read [I got my first library card sometime around then, and I was making my way through The Hobbit at home], and so she didn't make me go through all the exercises.
posted by ubersturm at 10:12 AM on September 17, 2005

Hey! I found Rockets which I think was the third book in the Footprints/Carnival thing.
posted by pieoverdone at 10:31 AM on September 17, 2005

In kindergarten we had a series of pamphlets featuring a lion (who may have been named Sam), a mouse, and maybe an ostrich? This was in California, public school, in the early 70's. I had learned to read before then, which annoyed my teacher no end. Messed with the lesson plans.
posted by expialidocious at 11:03 AM on September 17, 2005

My school used letter books. I'm not sure who made them, but they were folio-sized, and the front had a large single letter on the front, sometimes it would be covered in glitter, or outlined in glitter.

Anyway, I learned to read at home long before school, but I don't remember what I read. As far as I know, my mom just wrote things on a chalk board.
posted by odinsdream at 1:43 PM on September 17, 2005

In Israel, we used "Bli Sodot", a series of workbooks that accompanied a TV series created by the Ministry of Education. It featured Alfi (presumably after Alef, the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet) a blobish, vaguely androgynous creature that resembled a bottom-heavy potato. Alfi's notorious antic was to remove the Nikud (diacritical vowel marks, which are not used in modern Hebrew prose, without which one has to memorize or make an educated guess at the pronunciation of words) from words, after which several children's voices would chime, in rhyming Hebrew:

"What is he doing? How can you read that!"

After a quick pause, they'd pronounce the word again with a tone of discovery and delight. Pretty much any Israeli knows this whole exchange by heart.

The most popular Bli Sodot persona was "Gashash Balash" ("Detective Sleuth", roughly) who used his literacy to solve mysteries. Recently, the actor who played him was charged with sexual assault and the newspapers had a blast mocking him with his various Bli Sodot catchphrases.

English was taught with "Muzzy", the BBC ESL series.
posted by ori at 4:11 PM on September 17, 2005

I learned from Bod books.

I'm Irish, my mum taught me, and she's a montessori teacher. It worked - I was ahead of my class (especially in reading) for years!
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:39 PM on September 17, 2005

I learned with Frog and Toad in California.
posted by cali at 2:33 AM on September 18, 2005

Thanks, pracowity, for grasping the intent of the original question. :) I, too, could read before I got to school, but I remember our first readers were of the Tip and Mitten, Jack and Janet variety. Althought the VERY first books we had, in kindergarten (I think), were oversized picture books that had a letter, or letter combination at the top of the page, along with a picture that related to the pronunciation of that letter. For example, the CH page had a pair of cherries at the top. Then on the rest of the page were other "CH" pictures. Why I remember this at all is because this was at the height of "The Addams Family" fame (gawd, am I old), and the H page had a haystack. Only by year's end, every one of those haystacks had been doctored up and sported pen-drawn derbies and sunglasses, in order to make them look like Cousin Itt.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:36 PM on September 18, 2005

UK in the mid 1970's we had the red book, the green book and the blue book, (I think that's the right order). They may or may not be the same as the ones by Ian Beck. (Not the same as the red, blue, green etc books which apparently mean something in the US education system currently.)
posted by biffa at 2:39 AM on September 19, 2005

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