Sharing Early Literacy Learning Journeys

It’s dull and cloudy as I drive to school on Saturday morning to help prepare for the fete.  I arrive at the Book Stall and find the convener already arranging boxes of books on long trestle tables in the under cover area – just as well it’s under cover because light rain begins to fall. Several people haul  in more boxes of books and dump them on the tables. We read the labels on the boxes and place them in order: Prep – 4, 2 for 50c; Prep – 4, fiction; Prep – 4, non-fiction, and so on. Quickly I flip through to see that the appropriate coloured dot stickers are on all the books: blue dot (2 for 50c), black dot (50c), yellow ($1.00).

After the children’s tables are done we move to more boxes of books on more trestle tables:  adult authors in alphabetical order, interest categories in alphabetical order: Animals, Biography, Business, Cooking, Crafts, Gardening, Games and so on down to Self-help and Sports (where last year I got Andre Agassi’s Open for $2).

Later, I go through the children’s boxes more slowly to find books I could use in my classroom. I find familiar books like The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, I’ll Teach My Dog 100 Words, Put Me in the Zoo, Crunch the Crocodile, Alfie Gets in First, several versions of The Little Red Hen and a quality hardcover of  A. A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six.

I also find some unfamiliar, but appealing books like a starkly simple book of Opposites, an easy to read Cat and Dog, a read it yourself Quick Chick, Kate Greenaway’s Book of Rhymes, a colourful picture book, Splodges and a timely Tale of Two Honey Possums (for a child who is studying honey possums in our Australian Animals unit of work this term).

One pile of books from the school fete

An old 'Noddy' book, dated 1957

An old school ‘reader’, first published in 1939. This revised Third Impression is from 1975

Here are two excerpts from the ‘reader’ with Dick and Dora as the main characters and Jack and May as their friends:

“Jack, will you play with me , please?” said Dick.
“Yes,” said Jack. “What can you do?”
“Bow-wow-wow!” said Dick. “What am I?”
Jack said, “You are a dog. A dog can go ‘bow-wow-wow’.”
Dick said, “What can you throw?”
“I can throw a ball,” said Jack.
(Schonell and Serjeant, p. 2).

In the Park
Dick, Dora, Jack and May went to the park.
By the big tree in the park they will have fun.
Dora has her doll, Jane. May will play with Dora and her doll.
Jack and Dick can play with the dog.
They can throw the ball and Nip will get it. He is a good dog.
(Schonell and Serjeant, p. 24-25).

What childhood memories do these books ellicit for you?

Comments on: "Used books from the school fete" (8)

  1. Louise said:

    Hi Coral, I think that I particularly remember Big Ears. The name of the character just seemed so funny. I also remember loving the bell on Noddy’s hat. Strange the things that one remembers about childhood.

    I found this website: which says: “When a child wasn’t actually reading it was possible to have a full Noddy day from the moment they rose in the morning and washed with Noddy soap, before cleaning their teeth with a Noddy toothbrush and toothpaste, to bedtime at night, when they slept in a Noddy nightdress or pyjamas, tucked in with Noddy sheets, beside a Noddy bedside light, which if turned on would reveal both Noddy wallpaper and curtains.”

    It is interesting that the mass marketing around popular children’s’ characters was happening back then as I thought it was a more recent trend.

    • Hi Louise,
      It is interesting to note the things that appeal to children and the things we remember – like Big ears and Noddy’s bell, for you.
      Thanks for the link – I thought mass marketing of books and characters was more recent too!

  2. Those old readers almost give me nightmares. I grew up with similar ones about David, Sue and Wendy in NSW, but my older children (now in their 40s) grew up with Dick and Dora as they learned by Distance Education. They were all avid readers and found these most uninteresting. The only part they liked was when someone fell in the mud. I do agree, however that they do have some value and the simplicity and repetitve nature of them really suits some children’s taste.
    The Christopher Robin books were special favourites, as my Dad loved them and would read them to me when I was little. I’m sure I can still recite some of them now.
    “In the corner of the bedroon is a great big curtain.
    Someone lives behind it but I don’t know who.
    I think it is a brownie, but I’m not quite certain.
    Nanny isn’t certain too…”
    Love buying second hand books!

    • Thanks for the comments Bron about buying second hand books and the Dick and Dora ‘readers’. With distance education did you have to listen to your children read the ‘readers’? Why couldn’t they just read anything in the family home?
      On a happier note, some of the A.A.Milne poems and rhymes are easy to remember and recite- even more so when the poems bring back special memories like having your dad read them to you.
      Interesting that Louise’s comment (below) also mentioned her dad reading to her – but in that case it was Noddy.
      I wonder what today’s children will remember their dads reading to them??

      Bron, do read Christopher Robin to children these days?

      • I read Christopher Robin to my kids, who are adults now, and when the opportunity has arisen, to my some of my grandkids, but due to distance I don’t see them often. I don’t think I’ve read them to anyone for a few years now. Maybe I should take them to school. Lots of kids there who love to be read to, and I love reading to them. I wonder if they will still resonate with them, and will they be disappointed if it’s not the Disney version. Something to investigate.

        They are the only books I remember my dad reading to me, probably because he loved them so much, and the first copies I had, had belonged to his mother, so they were very old.

        Yes, I listened to my kids read Dick and Dora, because I was a bit of a stickler for them doing what they were asked to do for school, but they read many many other more interesting books as well. By the time my younger children did Distance Ed the whole program had changed and we got a fortnightly parcel of wonderful and varied books which were integrated into the units they studied!

      • Thanks for the reply Bron. I understand about the children reading their ‘readers’!
        It would be interesting to see if the children in current classes would enjoy hearing some A.A.Milne. I have a few favourites I read to my class – but there is so much variety out there now Milne often goes to the bottom of the pile. The huge increase in Australian books with an Australian ‘feel’ has made a difference because the children often bring along these books and they readily identify with the animals and environment – unlike Buckingham Palace! However, ‘the sea was galloping grey and white…’ still resonates.
        If you read some Milne, please share the children’s reactions with us. Thanks,

  3. Louise said:

    Wow! I wish I had come to your fete. You got some great books there. I love Shirley Hughes books, wonderful illustrations. I have a few of those ‘Dick and Dora’ readers. I find the old style readers are very popular with some children, they seem to like the very repetitive format – something very safe about them. I have my daughters old ‘out of print’ Ladybird ‘Read with Me’ readers in my classroom library and they are very popular. The old Noddy book brought back some memories (having been born in 1959!). I remember very well my father reading me Noddy and Big Ears. Picking up good books from a book stall is my idea of having fun. Thanks Coral.

    • Hi Louise,
      It was fun to see so many books on the bookstall – and the ‘oldies’ certainly brought back memories.
      I agree about repetitive text suiting some children – and ‘Ladybird’ books suit this purpose.
      Yesterday I shared all the ‘new’ books with the children and many were snapped up for home reading!

      Louise, did you have any favourite Noddy stories?? Did some Noddy books stand out more than others? Did some characters stand out for you?

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