Fun with Dick & Jane

As I write this post on the 20th anniversary of 9/11/01 I think how important it truly is to provide a good and secure country for the upbringing of our nation’s greatest asset- our children. Maybe Dick & Jane books give us a window into what that might look like.

Childhood, for every child, should be as close as possible to the ideal world of Dick and Jane. Foster imagination, provide security, feed the mind of the child as well as the body, show your love as well as declaring it. You will be building self-confidence…and our children will turn out like Dick and Jane. I’ll let you in on a secret. The Dicks and Janes of this world grow into happy human beings.

-Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo)

Once I finally decided to become an elementary school teacher I started to really notice books and ephemera from past eras of American schooling history. One of my favorite things were Dick & Jane collectibles. Now, many years later, reflecting on education, I’m not sure this was the best way to learn to read, but these books sure are beautiful. (I actually prefer to teach phonics-based reading, and have had much better success with it.)

The books were optimistic, lovely, including a world of childhood that we should strive for every child to have. The biggest worries are where Spot has put Tim the teddy bear instead of will my mom’s new boyfriend of the month hurt me, will I have anything to eat tonight, will my cousin be shot while riding to school, will I kill grandma with corona virus I got from going to that school?

It is refreshing to immerse yourself in a world where those worries were never around because responsible adults would not let them happen in the first place. This world is how it should be. Children living out the arc of their childhood in joy and grace, away from social media and their parents poor choices. It is my wish that all children grow up with stable, loving familes. Here, in Dick, Jane, and Baby Sally’s books they do.

So, ultimately who is responsible for showing us this beautiful place of early childhood? It was Eleanor Campbell “the artist who defined the characters’ looks and personalities and made them so convincing that first graders counted them as friends.” (Kismaric & Heiferman, Growing Up with Dick & Jane) She photgraphed children all around her acting out the parts of the stories and then beautifully illustrated them in watercolors.

So now, when I need a break from our current generation’s extremely stressful chilhood, I just immerse myself (and my own children) into a different time and dream in American history. Thank you, Dick & Jane.

With childhood happiness to you from Kansas Street,

-Jaime

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