Fun with Dick and Jane
We Look and See
Written by William S. Gray, Dorothy Baruch, and Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
Illustrated by Eleanor Campbell
Chicago: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1947
5.8" x 7.8"
Kerlan Collection, Children's Literature Research Collections
University of Minnesota Libraries
For 40 years, school books about Dick and Jane—young suburbanites with sunny dispositions and placid, predictable lives—taught millions of American first-graders to read. Introduced in 1930, the ubiquitous readers were updated every five years. Until the mid-1960s, when the series' popularity was already in decline, both text and illustrations presented an all-white portrait of middle-class American life.
The major role assigned to illustration in the series, as well as its systematic reliance on short words and familiar storylines, demonstrated a greater sensitivity to child-centered learning than had comparable books of the previous century. Nevertheless, by the 1950s, it was clear from national test results that the Dick and Jane books were not doing their job. Writing in Life, journalist John Hersey asked why school texts of such pivotal importance could not have real literary merit, and why they could not be illustrated by an "imaginative genius" like Dr. Seuss.