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Dick and Jane refers to the two main characters, "Dick" and "Jane", created by Zerna Sharp for a series of basal readers that William S. Gray wrote to teach children to read. The characters first appeared in the Elson-Gray Readers in and continued in a subsequent series of books through the final version that Scott Foresman published in These readers were used in classroom in the United States and in other English-speaking countries for nearly four decades, reaching the height of their popularity in the s, when 80 percent of first-grade students in the United States were learning to read through these stories.
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Titled "Dick and Jane: Illustrations of an American Education," this is billed as the first public showing of original artwork and page proofs from the first schoolbooks of an estimated 85 million American children who learned to read from the s through the s. McGovern, whose specialty is children of the Cold War era, recently spoke at an exhibition of Dick and Jane readers at the public library in Richmond, Va. The revived interest in the old school books is surprising, in part, because Dick, Jane and friends were all but burned at the stake in the mid-'60s for being politically incorrect, racist, sexist and outdated, McGovern said. Keeline, an authority on collectible children's books. Book dealers were among the first to pick up on, and profit from, the yearnings of aging Boomers looking for not only loose-fitting jeans but also their first school readers. Although tens of millions of books were printed in the year life of the Dick and Jane series one edition alone sold more than 6 million copies , good clean copies of old school texts are difficult to find.
The exhibition is organized by Lakeview Museum, Peoria, Illinois. Included in the exhibition are original editors' first drafts of storylines, coupled with dozens of never-before-seen working illustrations and sketches, vintage photographs of the children used as models and many of the original iilustrations published in the "Dick and Jane" series. The exhibition also includes revealing examples of changes in the series over the years.