Fred and Polly

Remember Dick and Jane?

Well I would like to introduce you to their grandparents:

Fred and Polly, and Willie and Eva.

Fred and Polly are thinking of stealing eggs from a nest; but cue Fairy “Kind Thought” who saves the day and reminds them how much the mother- bird loves those eggs!

Now meet Willie and Eva, and their charming “Chat about Water”. Not only are they introducing young readers to words like wash-ing, fall-ing and pud-ding, they are also providing a lesson in the importance of water, and the dangerous and naughty habit of boys throwing ice at one another.

This quaint little 1920’s copy of Chambers’s (not a typo) Twentieth Century Reader Book 1 once belonged to a boy called Egbert ( his name is neatly written on the front page), and is chock-a-block full of lessons – but unlike our generation who learned to read with the help of Dick, Jane and Spot’s frivolous running, jumping and catching, Egbert and his friends appear to have had a triple whammy of lessons – literarical*, practical and moral!

My favourite lesson in this little Reader – and there are many – is a story cunningly disguised as a fun quiz, but where words such as por-trait, mis-chief and lis-ten are learnt, and where sleepy boys, mischievous boys and untidy girls are put right – literarical*, practical and moral!

See if you can spot the right answer:

“What kind of boy or girl are you?”

  1. The sleepy boy who is always tired in the lesson – “Do you think he will ever be clever? I think not.”

2. The boy who gets into mischief – “If the teacher sees him, he will be kept in at the end of the lesson.”

3. The little girl who always wants to tie her hair! “I am afraid she will not be a very good reader, if she does not attend to her look better.”


4. The boy and the girl who are clean and tidy, who hold their books nicely, and are wide awake, not sleepy, at school. “They always know what the teacher is saying, because they listen.”

“Work while you work, play while you play, that is the way to be happy and gay!”

Got to love the olden days!

*If ‘literarical’ is not a word – don’t judge me – blame it on Dick and Jane.

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