The Peter and Jane books – the Key Words to Reading scheme books – were first published in 1964. The reading scheme was the practical application of research done by educationalists William Murray and Jim McNally. These two men were particular interested in findings which showed that the majority of the English language was made up of a surprisingly small number of ‘key words’. They theorised that this finding could be used to break down the process of learning to read but introducing these key words one by one, building an active reading vocabulary through lots of repetition and gradual extension. Ladybird’s editorial director Douglas Keen met William Murray at a conference and convinced him to put his ideas into practice via the medium of Ladybird books. Producing 36 new books based on a new approach to reading was a huge financial commitment for the company – but one that proved spectacularly successful. The books stayed in print for 50 years. Two artists, Harry Wingfield and Martin Aitchison were asked to create the illustrations to bring the readers to life. This put a particular burden on to the shoulders of the illustrators since the text was necessaily so heavily controlled by the approach to reading. But the two men were more than equal to the task. With a little help from Robert Ayton, John Berry and Frank Hampson, the characters of Peter, Jane and Pat the Dog were born.
But after just a few years it was felt that the illustrations, colourful and engaging though they undoubtedly were, were rather old-fashioned and did not reflect society as it was in the early 1970s – in terms of clothese, hair styles and social diversity etc. Most of the books were, at great expense, reillustrated to bring them more ‘up to date’.
Then in the mid-1970s, after the sale of the company and the retirement of Douglas Keen, it was decided to revamp the format of the books – and the cover style and layout were changed quite dramatically.
Details of the books on sale
These books (36 in total) are all the original format books and most of them have the origianal 1960s artwork – just one, book 3c, has 1970s artwork. They don’t have any major faults that I’m aware of (no missing pages or serious damage). One books (7b) has been covered in clear plastic. 10c has a pen mark on the cover. There will be the odd blemish, rubbed edges, name on endpaper, grubby mark on some. A few of them have marks on the cover (see photos) but the text pages and reading pages should all be in pretty good condition. The ‘c’ books in the early levels were intended for writing practice – so some of these will have the blanks completed.
This set would suit someone who would like to revisity their childhood or to use with a child learning to read today. If you are a collector, be advised that, although some of the books are in great condition, you might want to ‘upgrade’ others over time.
They cost the equivalent of just over £2.00 each. To keep postage costs down, I’ve kept the p&p price at £3.10 although there are 36 books.