“Dick and Jane” books - American EducationA series of first readers, almost universally used by American elementary schools during the first half of the 20th century. Written by educator William Scott Gray, the Dick and Jane books were a precursor of programmed instruction in that they were made up of simple, progressive “building blocks” of reading and understanding skills: “This is Jane”; “See Jane run”; “Run, Jane, run”; and so on.
Gray was on the faculty of the University of Chicago from 1914 to 1950 and was dean of the College of Education from 1917 to 1931. An active researcher in reading instruction and author of about 500 books, articles and research reports, he was founder of the International Reading Association and coauthored dozens of basic readers for elementary school children. All, however, fell into disfavor after the 1950s because of the sheer boredom they induced. Responding to children’s need for more action in the stories they read, teachers turned more and more to children’s literature as basic readers, and Dick and Jane have all but passed from the American literary scene.