I have always had a love of reading and books, even as a child. Some of the early books that I had were an eleven part junior encyclopaedia, a book called ‘Picture Stories From The Bible’ and a collection of children’s Ladybird books. Ladybird Books closed on 30th November 1998 and this memory has prompted to think about learning to read.
Until I was five we lived in a variety of houses in Leicester and in 1958 we had moved home from Ledwell Drive in Glenfield to Chislehurst Avenue in Braunstone and in September 1959 it was time in life to go to school. The Ravenhurst Primary School was about a five hundred-metre stroll across rough land waiting for houses to be built on it and I used to walk there with my friends John and Michael Sparks who lived on the other side of the road. The teacher’s name was Miss Bird and her classroom had alphabet pictures on the wall, ‘A’ for alcohol, ‘B’ for beer, ‘C’ for cider and so on and it was here that I started to learn to read using the ‘Dick and Dora books’.
In the 1950s, Dick and Dora were supposed to be average kids, living a typical English life with their parents and their pets, Nip the dog and Fluff the cat. (I have written on this blog about my dislike of dogs and you will notice here that even in a children’s book the dog has a name that implies that it will bite you.) Their unexceptional and almost idyllic middle-class existence of playing in the garden and once a year going to the seaside was the basis of a series of books designed to teach children to read.
I liked Dick and Dora but I didn’t get long at Ravenhurst School because after only a couple of terms we moved to Hinckley where I went to the Grove Road Church of England Primary School and very soon after that moved to Rugby and went to the Hillmorton County Junior and Infants school where they had ‘Janet and John’ books instead which were very similar and taught four to seven year old children how to read by progressively incorporating and repeating key words in the development of reading skills.
With three schools in the first year I wasn’t get a good chance to settle in and I blame this for holding me back and making me a disappointing pupil for the first ten years or so of school.