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See Dick and Jane Run Again

September 23, 1996|IRENE LACHER

Once upon a time, when America was another name for Arcadia, Father knew best and Dick and Jane ruled. OK, so that was just an American dream. But since many baby boomers are into flashbacks, HarperCollins has published a nostalgia-fest about the pair who taught them their ABCs: "Growing Up with Dick and Jane: Learning and Living the American Dream." The book includes fun facts about their lives and times, which spanned 1927 to 1970. Herewith, some memories:

On Dick:

"Dick is better than average. He's never, ever afraid, not like other 6-year-olds, who sometimes have fears and bad dreams. Dick works and plays well with his sisters and friends and respects his parents and grandparents. . . . He never bullies, never punches, never kicks. Never cries. In fact, Dick never gets in trouble."

On Jane:

"Jane looks like what every little girl dreams about. Her perky dresses never wrinkle or get dirty . . . . Her blond, wavy hair is not too curly, like Shirley Temple's, not too frizzy, like Little Orphan Annie's. Jane's not too fat or too thin. Jane is a lucky girl, with nothing to cry or sulk about."

On why they became stars:

"Teachers loved Dick and Jane because they did their job so well and gave slow and smart kids alike the sequence of skills that turned them into successful readers. . . . Dick and Jane books were an educational breakthrough, the product of a decade of experimentation that fused the talents of educators, reading specialists, classroom teachers, child psychologists, writers and illustrators."

Some lessons from Dick and Jane Land:

"Respect your parents. Help your siblings. Families have fun when they work together. . . . Don't complain. Be kind to animals. Help others. Be enthusiastic. Take chances."

On the booming market for Dick and Jane books:

"In the late 1940s, excited mothers- and fathers-to-be, millions of them, were buying cribs and carriages and putting up circus wallpaper in nurseries all around the country. . . . Seventy-six million American babies [were] born in less than two decades."

On Dick and Jane's retirement:

"Some educators complained about the stilted way the characters spoke, about their repetitious language, about their goody-goody behavior. . . . Dick and Jane . . . had represented the American Dream understood by the white, middle-class mainstream. But Dick and Jane were now no longer like the majority of kids who were reading about them."

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