Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Reading for Meaning

While the Janet and John and Dick and Jane books are probably the primers most of us remember, there were several other, widely used school books that taught thousands of us to read.  One such series was the 'reading for meaning' books written by Paul McKee.

Dr. Paul McKee (October 1898 - November 1974) was a university professor, an author of children's books, and was regarded as one of the most eminent scholars in his field.  McKee earned a doctorate at the University of Iowa before joining the faculty at the University of Northern Colorado.
Wikipedia

Pictured are four books from the Reading for Meaning series, Book 1 Tip, Book 2 Tip and Mitten,   Book 3 With Peter and Susan and Book 4 Up and Away.  The ribbon tied books are from The Beacon Reading Series.


I wonder how many of you remember your first day at primary school or kindergarten. I have vivid memories of mine. There were no pre-schools or nurseries in the 1950s so my first day was also the first time I’d spent any time away from home. This was going to be a big day! I knew that because dad took the morning off work even though it was the busiest time of the year for a farmer.  Mum dressed up in her Sunday best, and made sure I was wearing clean socks and knickers!  When we arrived at the school dad declined to get out of the car even though he was wearing his ‘good’ suit. So it was left to mum to half drag, half carry me through the double doors of a terrifyingly large building.


Once inside we were met by a scary looking woman who quickly ushered mum out with the words “come along mother time to leave".  I decided there and then that this thing called school wasn't for me, but a firm grip on my shoulder prevented my escape!  I don’t think I've ever felt quite as lost as I did in those first few hours, but it wasn't long before I was into the swing of things. I loved sitting at my desk pencil in hand busy ‘doing sums’ or sitting on the floor with the other children listening to the teacher reading stories.  I soon began to recognise the simple words in the Janet and John books and the Beacon Readers, but I don’t have any recollection of actually learning to read.  Do you remember your first day at school or the first book you read?



The Beacon Reading Series background design courtesy of our little granddaughter Lilly.


Lilly will be three in May so no school just yet, 

but her big sister Zoe started at kindy (nursery school) earlier this year. Just two days a week at the moment, here she is on her first morning happy and excited to be going.  


 This photo makes me smile, the Frozen backpack is almost as big as Zoe.

Just to round things off, this is me with my dad and my older brother and sister.  I’m not sure of the date, but I would guess September 1953 just before the start of the new school year and my first term. My brother and sister are quite a bit older than me so by the time I started at primary school they had already moved on to seniors.  



Thanks for looking.


***All the books featured here are now sold, thanks for your interest.

46 comments:

  1. Nice to see your childhood photo, you look so cute , your granddaughters are cute too :)

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    1. Thanks Aunt Mary I appreciate your kind words.

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  2. HeHe! My Goodness!
    Infant School...Yes! I started at the age of five.
    Mia Mama...She put me in clean socks and knickers
    too! Off we went up the hill to the little prison half way
    up....There were other children there as well....AND....
    Girls..!!! After a while...mai Mama she hugged me, and
    cried...Then! Then! She walked away and left me....Left
    me! HeHe! A few minutes later, l was off down the hill
    after her...! That happened three mornings running!
    But! But! I was'nt the only one....So, once all of us
    were in the classroom...They locked the door.
    I~HATED~IT....I hated school from the day l started
    until the day l finished! At 16, l thought, l really ought
    to get an education...So, l took and passed an entrance
    exam to Poole Tech. College. I took and passed four
    o'levels and three 'A' levels over two years! Job done!

    Books...Always been a shame with me, even back then,
    l did'nt read books, still don't, just don't have the patience!
    I envy someone who can sit down, open a classic and read!
    HeHe! As my therapist used to say...'Willie, l'll get down off
    that ceiling'....And, l used to say..'Don't bother, come up and
    join me'. :).

    So,school days were not for me...Always thought of them as
    a prison sentence....And, being Sicilian...That's not good! :>).
    But..I do have loads of B/W photos from the old days...Now!
    they are well worth looking at and remembering!

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    1. I’ve said this before Willie, and I’m sure I will say it again – you should write a book, you have so many fantastic tales to tell, and you tell them so well. I would be your number-one fan.

      I felt for you when you talked about your mum leaving you at the school, it’s so sad. I remember doing the same thing with my own son. What he didn’t know was that every time I left him I went home and cried my eyes out! Good on you for passing those exams it just shows you had it in you all along.

      Now to the knickers – they were the bane of my life! Every time I left the house mum would ask, “have you got clean knickers on?” me “yes but why does it matter?” mum “what if you get run down by a bus?” me “If I get run down by a bus clean knickers will be the last of my problems!” But then guess what? I walked out into the road one day and ended up in hospital, having been run down by a car. Can you guess mum's first words when she arrived at the hospital? “I hope your underwear was clean!” You can’t win with mothers but in the end they are always proved right.

      Thanks for making my morning x

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  3. As always a good post, a treasure of memories, hi Babs Agman

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    1. Hello Agman, how love to hear from you. I trust you are well? Barbara x

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  4. I absolutely adore the black and white photograph of yourself and your family.

    Your granddaughters are beautiful little ladies and look so happy.

    I remember my first day of school, I arrived late and my mother ushered me into the classroom as the whole class were learning a new song. I don't remember what it was called, but one of the lines went > "Here comes Yvonne with a lollipop in her hand". At the time, I was so embarrassed, I cried, as I thought they were singing about me, but it turned out that our lollipop lady (who helps children across the road) shared my name.

    I've never seen or heard of those gorgeous books, you always share the most gorgeous things! (I love your little ornaments, by the way) x

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    1. Hello Yvonne, that is such a lovely memory, but I almost cried when I read about you being upset by the song. The lollipop lady must have been very popular. I wonder if she knew there was a song about her. We had a lollipop man, and what a grump he was! I’m quite sure nobody sang a song about him.

      Thank you for the kind words about the photos and the ornaments. I’m a bit of a collector of anything, including ornaments and have lots of bits and bobs around the house. We think our granddaughters are absolutely beautiful, but then I think most grandparents do. As for the black-and-white photo – does it make me vintage??? 

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  5. My dear friend, funny thing about my school days; I read well, but I don't even remember how I learned to read! I just don't remember! In my days (1960s), we did not use Dick and Jane, that I know....now I'm curious to find out just what was used to teach us. But these beauties here are iconic of an era that was and still is so special to all of us. The sweet illustrations and repetitive sounds are deeply embedded into our hearts, for we humans hear the music of language. LOVELY COLLECTION! And I wish you a happy spring day my friend! Anita

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    1. Dear Anita, I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t read, but on the other hand, I do remember struggling with the Janet and John books when I first started school. It’s odd how time plays tricks with our memories.

      I have a feeling the Dick and Jane books were phased out in the 60s to be replaced with the Open Highways series. They were a similar kind of thing but concentrated more on poems and classic children’s stories such as the Gingerbread boy.

      Thank you for the spring wishes, I wish the same to you dear friend. xxx

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  6. Hi Barbara, Delightful pictures of your granddaughters and your family group.
    Afraid I do not recall learning to read but I am glad that I did learn. It enables me to read your fascinating posts. Like you I was tad traumatised by those first school days but I persevered........

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    1. Hello John, well now you’ve made me blush! You do say the nicest things. I’m very glad you learnt to read and more importantly to write, catching up on your life story is such a joy. Your ‘latest instalment’ will be published next week I wanted to slot the wedding one in first as it went with the Sepia Saturday theme. Thanks very much for visiting, enjoy the sunshine. Barbara x

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  7. This is a great post. These books remind me of the readers that I learned to read with. Love the family photos. I see kids at school with those backpacks that are almost as big as they are - so cute. As to knickers, I can always remember being asked if I had clean undies on. It must be a universal question. I found myself asking my Kiddo the same thing when she went to school.

    And your grands are lovely.

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    1. Oh Alex how could you… I trained myself not to ask my son that question but couldn't resist putting a clean pair out for him each morning! I was obviously doing exactly the same thing just in a more underhand manner. :-)

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  8. I can't remember by first day at school, but I do remember being in class 1 and wanting to read the next level of books (we had some colour coded books), but the teacher said I wasn't old enough or ready. I'd been reading at home for some time at that point and was bored with the level of books they were providing!

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    1. Hi Nikki-ann, I’m sure being able to read when starting school must be a bonus but what a shame you were held back. It’s difficult for the teachers when classes are so large but there should be a way of allowing children to develop at their own pace. It was lucky you had some nice books at home to read after school. Thanks for calling in, Barbara.

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  9. Fabulous post Barbara! I'm sad that you had such a terrifying experience! Since I went to such a small school, I already knew most of the kids and the teacher, so it was fun for me! I loved school... also don't remember not being able to read. It seems to have always been a part of me. I have always loved reading and guess that is why I have such an attachment to books to this day! Thanks for sharing this wonderful post with us!

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    1. Hi Diane, I was incredibly lucky to live on a farm, but the downside was I didn’t get to meet many (if any) children. It would have been nice to have a friend to start school with, but it didn’t take long to make some, and I felt very much at home once the first day was over. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the post. Thanks for calling in and leaving a comment, Barbara.

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  10. I was very excited to go to school as I was bored on the farm. I loved being in town with lots of other kids. Your picture with you and your siblings is adorable. I love the grandchildren pictures too. So cute!

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    1. Hello Darlene, I was the exact opposite. I loved the farm and had no desire to go to school, but I loved it once I found my feet. I’m afraid I was a bit of a meek and mild child not a bit brave or adventurous. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.

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  11. Lovely to see the "generations apart" photos, but I bet a lot of the feelings and emotions involved in the first day at school are the same, whether you had a 50s leather satchel or a 2015 Frozen backpack!

    I was lucky in that my mum was a teacher in those days, so she taught me to read and write. I tagged along with her although I was a year too young to the local Primary School and my mum always says her heart almost stopped when the school inspector came and chose me of all the children to read aloud. But I did her proud, apparently ;)
    I don't suppose that would be allowed today with all the rules and regulations.

    We had Janet & John but I also remember books (Ladybird, I think) with Peter & Jane. I loved books from an early age (again, I can thank my mum) and as she comes from Canada, we had lots of the gorgeous Golden Books - my particular favourite was callled something like "Home for a Bunny".

    The little dog is a cutie - like Monty in my stories!

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    1. Hello Sue, I had forgotten the leather satchel, but now I can see it all over again, right down to the two buckles on the front which matched the buckles on my shoes! I used to organise my satchel each evening before going to bed, pens and pencils in one part, exercise books in another. Good heavens you’ve just transported me back to my childhood bedroom!

      I don’t remember Ladybird books at school, but I did have some at home, Cinderella was always a favourite. I don’t think the Golden Books were available in the UK back in the 1950s, or at least I didn’t become aware of them until much later. It could be they were around in the large libraries and shops but living where we did we didn’t get to see them. I’ve just looked up Home for a bunny on Google it's so sweet!

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  12. Boy, I remember how very much I did NOT want to go to school that first day ...

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  13. Oh my goodness, Janet and John. Already quite an avid reader by the same I got to school whilst I enjoyed these books at the same time I found them a bit tame.

    Loving the photos from your family album, thank you for sharing them.

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    1. Hi Tracy, I obviously spent far too much time outdoors and not enough time with my books. I spent hours looking at the pictures and making up stories about them, but I don’t think I was reading the words until I went to school. However, it’s a long time ago and my memory does play tricks on me these days.

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  14. Darling friend, GOOD MORNING! I just saw that you visited my blog. I will follow you til the end! Big hugs on this day, my birthday! I believe it's Shakespeare's birthday as well?

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    1. Happy Birthday Anita! I hope you have a wonderful day. Yes, it is Shakespeare’s birthday, although to be truthful I had to look it up. Hugs Barbara x

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  15. Love the family pictures and books, Barbara. I hope Zoe is having a good time in school. Olive started playgroup this year, too, and at first there was quite a bit of crying. She's okay now, enjoys it sometimes. I can imagine how terrified you must have been when your mom was ushered off by the teacher, leaving you alone there! I was nervous during my first day in kindergarten, though my Dad was surprised I didn't cry out like my elder sister did. (Then I thought I should, so I did ... for a short while.) Have a good weekend ahead! xoxo C.

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    1. Hello Claudine,
      What surprises me is how quickly the time goes past. It’s amazing to think of Zoe at school and Olive at playgroup when they were just babies about five minutes ago. Next thing you know Lilly will be at school too.
      I’m very glad you only cried for a short while, but how funny that you only did it because your sister did!
      It’s Friday already, have a lovely weekend. xxx

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  16. Dear Barbara I don't think I ever came across Janet And John in my part of the world but did you unlocked a few memories of mine with yours. I remember going the very first day with some apprehension and as I got closer my apprehension grew. Finally I cried when I saw this great big door open and a figure all in white stood there waiting for me. In those days all nuns wore the habit which covered everything except their face. I thought mum and dad would come with me inside but I was firmly taken by hand inside and the great big door shut my parents out. I can't remember much else but I am pretty sure by the end of the day I was quiet but it started all over again the next day and for a few days. I think I have never dreaded anything more than the sound of that great big door shutting me in:-) ofcourse later I came to love going there. Loved the activities at he little painted desks and the songs we sang etc.

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  17. Ps. I love the pictures you shared of your grand daughter going to school.

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    1. Dear Shashi, oh how I feel for you. Why do infant schools always have such big doors? It’s absolutely terrifying when they close behind you, and you realise there is no escape. If I were in government I would ensure all infant schools came with small doors and lots of windows!! When our son started school, he was paired up with another slightly older lad. I thought that was such a good idea as it meant Steven had someone to show him what to do and where to go during those first difficult few days.
      I really enjoyed infants school after the first few days, like you, I loved all the activities and the fact that everything was child sized. I was fascinated by the fact that the coat pegs were all at the right height! Isn’t it funny the things that stick in your mind?

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  18. What a lovely post! I enjoyed learning about your first day of school.

    I remember reading my parents' Dick and Jane books when I was learning how to read. I thought it was so cool that I was reading the same books they used (it was my mom's copy). I also remember my first day of school- which was kindergarten (no preschool for me either). I can recall so many details of the first day and how I felt- very excited. The first book I ever remember reading on my own is Make Way for Ducklings. After being a struggling reader for a long time it was a proud moment when I read it to my grandma all by myself.

    Your granddaughters look super cute! Love the Frozen backpack.

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    1. Hello Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing your memories, I really enjoyed reading them and am always thrilled when one of my posts sparks a memory for someone else. Make way for ducklings is a beautiful book I gave a copy away last year and then rather wished I had kept it! I bet your grandma was thrilled to bits when you read to her.

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  19. I wish I could say that I loved school and had a few really inspiring teachers, but the truth is I really didn't. School was a chore to me. I hated it from pre-K on up.

    However, had there been Google and YouTube back when I was in school... (I didn't get my first computer until college, and even then it was s-l-o-w dial up and home computers were only just getting popular for the first time).... I would have looked forward to learning about the things I wished to learn about. Back then I just didn't have the motivation or interest to learn new things because nothing was inspiring me. I didn't even like to read until after high school. (I finally realized it wasn't reading I loathed, but the books they forced us to read in school).

    Speaking of reading, it was my grandmother that taught me to read. She taught me with Little Golden Books. I would kill to have all those books back, but my cousins have them. (I imagine they've been either destroyed or tossed by now). I was so stupid! When my grandmother moved to where my cousins lived, I only took a few of those Little Golden Books. I figured my cousins would enjoy reading them, and I would get them back after they grew up.

    Wrong! I'm still heartbroken over that. Words cannot even begin to describe how heartbroken.

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    1. Hello Kristin, thank you for sharing your memories.

      I’m with you in wishing there had been Google when I was at school, I’m sure I would have learnt far more than I ever did from the teachers. Not that it was their fault, I was just very inattentive, I was fine at primary school but not so at seniors. I’m sure I spent more time looking out of the windows than looking at my books. The one thing I’ve always loved though is reading, so I think myself very lucky.

      I’m sure you could find some of the Little Golden Books at yard sales or flea markets and of course there are lots for sale online. It might end up being a new hobby for you, start of by trying to replace the ones you had when you were young and then see how many you can collect. I did that with the Enid Blyton books and now have a lovely collection.

      I hate to think of you being heartbroken over your books, maybe you should check with your cousins to see if they still have them before going to the expense of replacing them.

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  20. I would guess your father didn't want to give away any emotions. My dad also brought my brother and me to the first day of Kindergarten. I remember the Tip books. Your granddaughters are adorable, and I love that Frozen backpack.

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  21. I would guess your father didn't want to give away any emotions. My dad also brought my brother and me to the first day of Kindergarten. I remember the Tip books. Your granddaughters are adorable, and I love that Frozen backpack.

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    1. Hello Donna, I think you are absolutely right about my dad. I didn't understand it at the time, but I’ve realised it since then. Thanks for coming over and for your kind words, Barbara

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  22. Your granddaughters (and little you) are adorable! I have fond memories of Dick and Jane, except for one day when my tooth was very loose during 1st grade reading circle. I was so afraid I would swallow it when reading aloud to the group!

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    1. Thank you on behalf of my granddaughters and my little self! I remember those wobbly tooth days. I also remember putting teeth under the pillow at night so the fairy could take them away and leave a sixpenny piece in their place. I used to try to stay awake to see the fairy but the only person I ever saw was my dad when he came to tuck me in!

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  23. Zoe and Lily are as cute as you in that B&W photos ... And the books certainly seem wonderful just like the background design :D
    A lovely post Barbara and its so fun catching up here ... we as a family are just recovering from a variety of fevers at our end .
    Glad to be here again :)

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    1. Hello Kokila, I agree with you about Zoe and Lilly but not sure I was ever cute – nice of you to say so though :-)

      I’m glad you are all on the mend, keep well. Love Barbara.

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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